America’s ambassador to the United Nations says nongovernmental organizations are under threat throughout the world, and it needs to stop.
Ambassador Samantha Power’s remarks came during a reception in India last month, where she met with government officials and attended the 2015 Women in the World Summit.
“My boss,” Power noted, “began his own career as a community organizer in Chicago. And in that capacity, a young Barack Obama worked to help marginalized citizens press their local government for changes that would improve their lives – things like summer jobs for teenagers, or improvements to a public housing project.”
“And whether it’s in Chicago or Chennai,” she continued, “this kind of civic participation is not new to either of our nations – we have these traditions in common. This kind of activism is in our DNA, it’s in our very foundations. Both of our constitutions begin with the words ‘we the people,’ and I think that reflects the shared conviction that our governments’ legitimacy derives not from divine right or military might, but from the public’s support and from the steady stream of engagement.”
Civil society activists have been critical of the current atmosphere in India, and Power’s remarks drew applause.
“Unfortunately, around the world, we are witnessing a dramatic crackdown by governments on civil society; accusing them of everything from serving foreign interests to jeopardizing national security. Vital organizations and institutions have been harassed or shuttered; journalists, human rights defenders, and other activists have been targeted. And of course the most egregious cases of this kind of action against civil society are occurring under the thumb of autocratic regimes – but we’ve also seen some democracies taking steps to shrink the space that civil society enjoys,” she said.
“It is critical that Indian civil society continue to thrive and to live up to these proud traditions, even in the face of some who might want to dial civil society back. While you have been building “Incredible India,” you have been inspiring the world, and we have every expectation that that is going to continue,” Power said.
See Ambassador Power’s full remarks here.