All society benefits when civil society plays its full role: UN Secretary-General

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Ban Ki-moon (top right, on screen) speaks at the opening ceremony of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual international conference dedicated to economic and business issues held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Restrictive laws that infringe on civil society across the world also threaten sustainable development, the UN Secretary-General said on Thursday.

Ban Ki-moon's comments came in an address to the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia.

Dianne Penn reports.

Mr Ban told the gathering that he was deeply concerned about escalating pressures faced by civil society around the world.

He said restrictive laws are infringing on the rights of the media and on freedom of expression.

Human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations are also encountering what he described as "strong, very illegal, unlawful restrictions."

These include security crackdowns, arbitrary arrests and harsh prison sentences.

"This shrinking political space for civil society, that really hampers the smooth and sustainable development of our societies.  The silencing of the media only quiets the voices we need to hold leaders accountable. When civil society can play its full role, all of society benefits."

Mr Ban is in Russia where he is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'02"

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