20.07.2017 - News

“The new Hungarian law will affect the rights of children”

A new law within Hungary, which discriminates NGOs who receive funding from outside the country, could have a devastating effect on civil society. Terre des hommes (Tdh) has, together with the many other affected organisations, lodged a recourse. Sendrine Constant, our head of the Eastern European Zone, explains the dangerous effects the Hungarian new law could have on children’s rights.

How is the new law being proposed in Hungary affecting NGOs?

The new law, supposedly to increase transparency, means any civil society organisation receiving over 7.2 million HUF (CHF 26,000) per year from outside the country has to register with the Hungarian court and is forced to label all materials published within Hungary with ‘Organisation supported from abroad’. This includes reports, websites and press material. Terre des hommes is completely funded by organisations outside Hungary, and so will be subject to this new legislation.

The law discriminates against NGOs receiving funding from outside the country. By making these organisations visibly label themselves, the government wants the general public to become suspicious of organisations carrying out important civil society work.

How is Terre des hommes reacting to this law coming into force?

We have decided to comply with the law by registering with the court and abiding by the measures stipulated by the legislation, but will fight to have this stigmatising law overturned. Tdh has joined the large civil society movement opposed to these laws, and has jointly lodged a recourse with the constitutional court with the many organisations affected by them.

What damage could shrinking society space do to Hungary and Eastern Europe?

This law is a deliberate attempt to undermine democratic values within Hungary, by attempting to ‘name and shame’ organisations carrying out work which could contradict the government’s official narrative. Worryingly, the Hungarian law is very similar to legislation in Russia which classifies organisations receiving foreign funding as ‘foreign agents’. There is every possibility these laws will become stricter over time, to a point where Terre des hommes would not be able to fulfil its role to fight for the rights of children.

What effect could the NGO law have on the children that Tdh helps – both in Hungary and further afield?

In Hungary, this new law will affect the rights of children on the move, who will have more difficulty accessing essential services such as legal support. Children will also be at increased risk of being detained purely because of their migration status.

Across the region, a domino effect of similar laws, which are also being contemplated in Romania, could have even more chilling consequences. In Moldova, new legislation is proposing to target any organisation which could influence government policies. This would destroy many organisations’ ability to promote child rights within Moldova, and could lead to the government not bothering to honour children’s rights in their future work.

 

Sendrine Constant, head of the Eastern European Zone, Terre des hommes

Photo credit: © Peter Käser