Access Now statement on civil society exclusion from WTO meeting in Argentina

The eleventh World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference is being hosted by the Argentine government in Buenos Aires next week. The WTO provided for a process through which civil society organizations could apply to attend the conference; several organizations did so, including Access Now.

We got approval from the WTO Secretariat, but then the Argentine government decided to withdraw our accreditation and deny registration and visas to scores of other Argentinian civil society groups and representatives of global NGOs.

In an official press release, the Ministry of External Relations and Worship of Argentina explained that the groups and activists whose accreditation was revoked had expressed a “vocation of generating schemes of intimidation and chaos” in social network publications.

We reject those claims.

“Access Now is a digital rights organization with a strong commitment to democratic values and has always engaged in peaceful action and respectful dialogue with the widest variety of stakeholders,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now.

The members of our team also reflect our values. We are deeply concerned about the withdrawal of the accreditation of Javier Pallero, who was registered to attend the event on our behalf. We have not been presented with any information from the Argentine authorities to explain how the process works or why they took the step of revoking our accreditation and that of other representatives from non-profit organizations that seek to advance the cause of human rights.

Access Now has engaged with Argentine government officials and policymakers on a range of issues over numerous years, and we are perplexed as to why the organization has now been classified as disruptive or violent, or indeed on what basis this decision was made.

We call for the reversal of the decision and for greater transparency in the process of evaluating and deciding upon accreditation for civil society members to participate in international fora.

Working under United Nations mechanisms, the Special rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression has deemed it necessary to have “broader and simpler accreditation of organizations to participate in and monitor” inter-governmental and international institutions.

The World Trade Organization must do further work to ensure that the host countries for its ministerial meetings provide more information about why accreditation is revoked, and a process for reply and remedy.

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