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Sierra Leone News: UN Rapporteur calls on gov’t to review NGO Policy

The Sierra Leone Government should review a new NGO policy which civil rights campaigners say has the tendency to restrict civic space, an a senior UN official has urged. Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, was quoted calling on the government to review the policy in line with international legal instruments Sierra Leone is a signatory to. The NGO Policy, dubbed Development Cooperation Framework (DCF), is a revised version of a previous policy, and the government said it is  geared towards making development partners more accountable and  transparent in their activities. But critics, particularly civil society organizations and NGOs, say provisions in the document had the effect of curtailing their independence and delivery capacity, among other limitations. The new policy has been in the making since under the previous administration of Ernest Bai Koroma. Recently, the civil society community reignited the debate after it emerged that cabinet had approved the document. Freetown is hosting the first ever National Conference on the policy, organized by the NGO Policy Working Group. The UN Rapporteur made his appeal in an address to the conference via Skype. The Conference, which began on Tuesday, brought together over 250 activists with the goal of creating a platform to further engage on the new policy, and to build synergy around the proposed regulatory framework that civil society would want to see in Sierra Leone.   Voule’s appeal via this conference was preceded by a letter earlier addressed to President Julius Mada Bio on the matter. In that letter, President Bio was reminded by the UN official of Sierra Leone’s commitment to international legal instruments relating to civil liberties. “The DCF contains a number of provisions interfering with the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression,” part of the letter reads.

AT/28/2/19

Friday March 01, 2019.

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