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Civil Society Organizations Withdraw from Open Government Partnership in Sri Lanka, Denounce Repressive Legislation

In a bold move, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) actively engaged in the co-creation of Sri Lanka’s third National Action Plan have collectively decided to withdraw from the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This withdrawal serves as a powerful expression of opposition to recent actions taken by the Sri Lankan Government, notably the passage of the controversial Online Safety Act and attempts to introduce an allegedly draconian anti-terrorism law. The CSOs argue that these measures, in the face of significant public resistance, undermine civic space and fundamental freedoms, directly contradicting the core principles of the OGP.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) and Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, acting as the co-convenors of the CSOs in the OGP process in Sri Lanka, formally conveyed this collective decision to the President in a letter sent today. The letter, available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil, elucidates the concerns and motivations behind this significant step.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international initiative dedicated to enhancing government transparency, facilitating citizen participation in public affairs, and reinforcing mechanisms for public accountability. With over 70 member countries, an increasing number of local governments, and thousands of civil society organizations participating, the OGP operates as a multi-stakeholder platform.

Sri Lanka, having committed itself to the OGP since 2015, has prepared two National Action Plans, aiming to implement governance initiatives in prioritized sectors through a collaborative, multi-stakeholder process with civil society. However, the implementation of these plans faced numerous challenges.

The CSOs’ decision to withdraw from the OGP underscores the severity of their concerns regarding the government’s actions. The contentious Online Safety Act and the proposed anti-terrorism law have sparked fears that the authorities are attempting to stifle civic space and curtail essential freedoms. This move by the CSOs not only draws attention to the questionable legislative initiatives but also emphasizes the importance of upholding democratic principles and safeguarding the rights of citizens.

As the news of the CSOs’ withdrawal reverberates globally, it raises questions about the future of Sri Lanka’s participation in the OGP and the potential consequences for the country’s international standing. The government now faces heightened scrutiny and pressure to address the grievances put forth by the withdrawing CSOs, fostering a renewed focus on the delicate balance between security concerns and the preservation of democratic values.

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