Singapore: Civil society should have key role in follow-up to rights review


At the adoption of recommendations made during Singapore's UPR, ISHR reiterated its call for the government to enact legal and policy changes to support and facilitate the important contributions of civil society and human rights defenders. 

(Geneva, 24 June) - Although Singapore leads the Asian region in innovation, economic growth and other indicators, ISHR today raised concerns that they are lagging on human rights.

Singapore announced earlier this week that they would accept roughly half of the recommendations made to them by other governments in their human rights review in January. The Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, is an important tool for laying out successes, gaps and solutions in the fulfillment of human rights obligations by a State. The UPR is also a process that enables national organisations to come together, share experiences and interact with their government.

'For some in Singapore, this process has opened avenues for discussion, and we urge the government to continue in this open and constructive manner,' says Sarah M Brooks, ISHR Asia programme manager. 'But to see recommendations become actions, civil society must be recognised, resourced, informed and protected.'

Freedoms of expression, association and assembly are still limited, and often sanctioned, for many who work on issues of human rights. The  Government failed to accept recommendations, in line with suggestions made by ISHR in its briefing paper, that would have improved the environment for defenders.

'We are concerned at continued harassment of  activists who question the government and who seek to express their own, sometimes dissenting, views on policies in the country. This robust and healthy debate can and does strengthen Singapore's efforts to meet its commitment on human rights - not threaten them.'  

ISHR's statement to the Human Rights Council, which can be read in its entirety here, highlighted two significant barriers to civil society that will need to be removed if human rights recommendations are to become a reality. These included: 

  • Improving access to funding. As they work in a developed economy, Singaporean organisations cannot benefit from development assistance funding. However, the infrastructure for domestic support, in particular for those working on 'sensitive' or 'political' issues, is dramatically underdeveloped.  
  • Improving access to information. According to local groups, little if any information is available on the actions of executive agencies - whether budgets, social planning or judicial proceedings. This not only raised concerns about accountability and transparency of public spending, but also makes effective advocacy to advance social and economic issues a big challenge. 

For more information, please contact Sarah M Brooks at s.brooks[at] or follow her on Twitter @sarahmcneer.

View ISHR statement to Human Rights Council here



  • Asia
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • NGOs
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Universal Periodic Review
  • Singapore