Article originally published on European Greens website, 27 February 2020 – accessible here

The 27th February 2020 marks the sixth time that World NGO Day is celebrated globally. This day is dedicated to those in our society who carry out the invaluable work that governments neglect or ignore. It is about celebrating those, who relentlessly and tirelessly work for the ones in need, for those whose voices are rarely heard, for a sustainable future in harmony with nature, for inclusive societies, for holding governments accountable and for the respect of inalienable human rights and democracy. Their often voluntary work in an increasingly narrow civic space in Europe makes our countries better places, which is something we should all cherish and hold in high regard.

The European Green family has a long history working hand in hand with civil society organisations – Heidi Hautala, then Minister for International Development of Finland from our Finnish member party, Vihreät – De Gröna was among the firsts to support the recognition of World NGO Day in 2012. In 2014 her fellow party member, Pekka Haavisto, then Minister for International Development opened the first World NGO Day celebration in Helsinki. Furthermore, many of our sitting elected representatives had their start in civil society organisations, from Germany to France and from Sweden to Hungary.

That is why today it is more important than ever that besides raising our glasses to cheer for their achievements, we must also raise our voices in warning of the shrinking civic space in Europe. In an era when sea rescuers saving human lives in the Mediterrean are regularly prosecuted, when NGOs are labelled “foreign agents” for receiving donations from abroad, when Sakharov Prize laureates cannot personally receive their awards due to political prison sentences, and when civil society activists are jailed on fabricated charges, we cannot stay silent and ignore the threats posed on fundamental rights.

Elected Green representatives in the European Parliament, and all over Europe are working hard to ensure that such violations of rights become only bitter memories, and that civil society organisations can continue their valued work without deliberate obstacles raised in front of them by forces who aim to limit democracy.

European Green Party