(Last Updated: Feb. 7, 2021)
In recent years, the situation surrounding non-governmental organizations engaged in international cooperation.（NGOs） are becoming increasingly restrictive. The primary role of NGOs is to work on global challenges to realize peaceful and just society. In order to do so, civil society must be able to act freely, independent from government or businesses. With the introduction of a series of security-related legislation in Japan, such as 2013 Secrecy Law, 2015 Security Bill, and 2017 Conspiracy Bill, however, there is a risk that the freedom of civil society organizations (CSOs) will be directly and/or indirectly restricted, as well as a risk that CSOs will voluntarily restrict themselves from acting freely. In addition, xenophobic trend that does not accept diverse culture or values is beginning to pervade our society, as seen in frequent incidents of hate speech. The government policies, together with the general atmosphere of Japanese society, is creating a trend that increasingly limits “civil society space”, the sphere where civil society can operate freely.
In opposition of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which passed in December 2013, we, Japanese NGOs engaged in international cooperation, launched Japan NGO Action Network on the Secrecy Law (NANSL) in April 2014, and have been working to avoid negative impacts on NGOs from the Act. In order to defend and promote the freedom of activity of NGOs, NANSL has vocally opposed to not only the Secrecy Law but also any attempts that may undermine civil society space. For example, in collaboration with NGO NO WAR NETWORK, a network of NGOs opposed to the Security Bill, we published a statement denouncing the Conspiracy Bill, under which civic activities may be subject to monitoring, investigation, and punishment. We have also taken action about the growing number of incidents throughout the country, where NGO activities face pressure from the government, which are taking forms of cancellation of contracts and sponsorships to NGOs working on peace issues, denying NGO’s use of public facilities, and warnings to NGOs criticizing government policies, such as the Conspiracy Law.
While working on global challenges, moreover, we became aware and deeply concerned that CSOs abroad are also facing threats to their civil society space. Monitoring and regulating civic activities in the name of anti-terrorism measures, growing disparity between the rich and the poor and environmental destruction accelerated by excessive free trade, human rights repression, land grabbing, and crackdown on civil society organizations tackling these problems are critically jeopardizing civil society space. Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which assert the urgent need for transformation to avert the crisis that the humanity and the earth face, clearly state that free activities of civil society are indispensable to solving global challenges. Today, securing civil society space is a global issue. To defend civil society space and ensure that free and effective activities of NGOs are guaranteed in Japan, while cooperating with CSOs around the world, we call for the establishment of Civil Society Space NGO Action Network (NANCiS). In addition to taking over the activities of NANSL, NANCiS will work to address the overall issues surrounding civil society space.
The network is named “Japan NGO Action Network for Civic Space (NANCiS)”.
1) Promotion and advocacy of civil society space
In order to solve various social, political, and economic challenges both in Japan and abroad, we believe that space for free expression and activities of civil society (civil society space) must be guaranteed and ceaselessly expanded. Towards guaranteeing and expanding civil society space, NANCiS will work to raise concerns, increase awareness, disseminate information, and conduct advocacy, among others, to various sectors, including government, NGOs, and other civil society actors. In the context of human rights treaties and international human rights provisions, furthermore, the network will carry out activities, such as monitoring, policy advocacy, and protests, as necessary to put an end to any attempts that would have adverse impacts on civil society space.
2) Learning and information exchange on civil society spaces and supporting NGOs
NANCiS will carry out learning and exchange of information on legal systems, policies, social situation, and challenges related to civil society space, and prepare ourselves so that NGO activities will not be hindered. Furthermore, when the activities of specific NGOs are interfered by laws that could lead to oppression of civil society space (such as Secrecy Law and Conspiracy Bill), etc. we will cooperate in support of the NGOs, and endeavor to eliminate the interference.
3) Coordination between NGOs engaged in international cooperation and CSOs in other fields
In order to effectively carry out the above activities, NANCiS will work to raise awareness of individual NGOs who are members of the network NGOs constituting NANCiS, as well as NGOs that are not part of the network NGOs, among others. We will also work to serve as the hub and the facilitator of collaboration between the NGOs engaged in international cooperation and civil society organizations in other various fields.
1) Activities to expand and promote understanding of “civil society space”, a space for free expression and activities of civil society
2) Monitoring, policy advocacy, and protest activities on legal systems, policies, social conditions, and challenges concerning civil society space
3) Information gathering and sharing, and learning activities for strengthening NGO response capabilities
4) Activities in support of affected NGO
5) Collaboration with civil society organizations in other fields
5. Structure / Representative / Secretariat
NANCiS is constituted by network organizations of NGOs involved in international cooperation. In addition, Supporting Organization system will be established for individual NGO that agrees with the intent of NANCiS and wishes to join NANCiS. (Supporting organizations can choose to either disclose or not disclose their names.)
In order to oversee the activities and make decisions of NANCiS, facilitators will be selected from each of the constituent organization, and form a facilitators committee. Also, by mutual vote among the facilitators, several co-representatives will be elected to represent of NANCiS. The facilitators committee also has a few coordinators and advisors with specialized knowledge and experience. Depending on the activities, the secretarial affairs of NANCiS will be shared and carried out by the facilitators committee and the constituent organizations.
NANCiS Constituent Organizations
Hokkaido NGO Network Association
Yokohama NGO Network
Hiroshima NGO Network
Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation
Nagoya NGO Center
Fukuoka NGO Network
Okinawa NGO Center
Japan NGO Action Network for Civic Space (NANCiS)
c/o Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)
5th Floor Avaco Building , 2-3-18 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0051 JAPAN
Tel +81-3-5292-2911 / Fax +81-3-5292-2912 / E-mail is Here