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Join Statement: ‘Reverse NGO ban’, Pakistan told by international civil society groups

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(New Delhi, 16 December 2017) – Condemning the Government of Pakistan’s closure of over 20 international aid agencies “without any verifiable cause”, a group of international civil society organisations have described the decision as part of a growing and worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society and repression of human rights across South Asia.

Condemning the arbitrary banning of these agencies and reiterating the importance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in assisting development projects, the groups, which included CHRI, International Federation for Human Rights, the National Foundation of India and Katiba Institute of Kenya, called for an “immediate reversal of  this  decision”.

In recent years, Pakistan has restricted the operations of international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) and their local partners by refusing visas, introducing obstructive registration requirements, and demanding layered approvals for new projects.

In 2015, a committee comprising of several ministries sealed Save the  Children’s  offices  and  instructed  expatriate staff to leave the country. The committee also temporarily rejected the registrations of 15 other NGOs, including Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and Mercy Corps.

Many of the organisations which have now been banned, including Open Society Foundation (OSF) and Action Aid, have worked in Pakistan for decades. Their involvement has enabled access to education, health, food, and emergency relief, to hundreds and thousands of ordinary people, including empowerment of women and children.

The Commonwealth Charter commits Pakistan with an obligation to respect and uphold the role of civil society and “the right to development for all without discrimination on any grounds”. Such action also goes  against  its international legal commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); which are integral to the basis of a peaceful, just and stable society.


  • Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative  (CHRI)
  • Rita Payne, President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association
  • Yash  Ghai,  Katiba  Institute, Nairobi,  Kenya
  • Richard Bourne, Secretary, the Ramphal Institute; Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies
  • Amitabh Behar,  Executive Director,  National Foundation for India
  • Pralab Barua, Member, Executive Committee, CHRI, UK
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • Commonwealth  Human  Rights  Initiative  UK


For a PDF version of this statement, click here.

For further information, contact:

Niyati Singh, Research Officer, Director’s Office (CHRI) [email protected]