Civil society is invaluable to building and maintaining a free, stable and functional society capable of striving to fulfill its potential. Civil society is comprised of organizations and institutions which operate independently of the government. We refer to non-political, non-profit civil society organizations that act for the common good as non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.
“Civil society is the conscience of our countries. It’s the catalyst of change. It’s why strong nations don’t fear active citizens,” said President Barack Obama at the Civil Society Forum in Panama. “Strong nations embrace and support and empower active citizens.”
Unfortunately, all over the world, the forum in which civil society operates is narrowing. Some voices are stifled; others never even get the chance to be heard. “Discrimination still locks too many out of our societies. Around the world, there are still too many places where laws are passed to stifle civil society, where governments cut off funding for groups that they don’t agree with,” said President Obama:
Human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world."
“Whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime -- human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world. And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out.”
“Increasingly, civil society is a source of ideas -- about everything from promoting transparency and free expression, to reversing inequality and rescuing our environment. And that’s why, as part of our Stand with Civil Society Initiative, we’ve joined with people around the world to push back on those who deny your right to be heard,” said President Obama.
“When the United States sees space closing for civil society, we will work to open it. When efforts are made to wall you off from the world, we’ll try to connect you with each other. When you are silenced, we’ll try to speak out alongside you. And when you’re suppressed, we want to help strengthen you. As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way.”