15 April 2020 –
All over the world, governments have introduced new legal measures as an emergency response to the current COVID-19 crisis. Irrespective of the question of whether these changes are proportionate, they often limit fundamental freedoms, weaken government transparency and accountability, and decrease civic space. This, in turn, is likely to increase risks of corruption and abuse of power.
Civil society actors have set up various initiatives in order to track new government regulations and to highlight the risks these pose on fundamental rights and civic space. These efforts can help gauge if and to what extent new laws and policies implemented during the COVID-19 crisis affect civil society’s ability to participate in anti-corruption efforts (UNCAC Article 13) and limit public access to information on the work of governments and administrations (UNCAC Article 10).
This initiative of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) monitors government responses that have an impact on civic freedoms and human rights, specifically focusing on emergency laws. The most recent results show that 71 countries have declared a state of emergency, 78 countries have implemented measures that affect assembly, and 11 countries measures that affect expression.
The data is regularly updated and can be filtered by country, issues (e.g. access to information, assembly, association, disinformation, elections etc.), type (law, order, regulation, policy, practice) and date.
The COVID-19 Tracker of the Right to Information (RTI) Rating, an initiative of the UNCAC Coalition members Center for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe evaluates national-level access to information legislation and showcases legal measures that alter or suspend right to information obligations. The website provides a list of countries that have adopted such formal measures, as well as a brief description of their content. Furthermore, it also highlights formal measures that have been proposed or are under discussion but have not been implemented yet.
The Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) has created an interactive world map showing which countries have declared a state of emergency and whether the UN has been notified about this. It provides further information on the specific measures taken by each country with regard to borders, schools, public gatherings, restaurants and cafes, places of worship and asylum claims.
UNCAC Coalition member Article 19 documents the impact of government responses and emergency measures on freedom of expression, urging governments and other actors to ensure that human rights, including the right to free expression, are fully protected. The webpage contains articles and updates about the current situation in various countries, as well as in-depth analysis of the far-reaching consequences new legal measures and regulations can have.