Coronavirus & Civic Space

The coronavirus is a significant threat to public health; it does not need to be a significant threat to civic freedom.

Governments can use a crisis as a pretext to infringe rights. As UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aoláin explains, “states and security sector institutions will find emergency powers attractive because they offer shortcuts,” and that such powers will, therefore, tend to “persist and become permanent.”

In recent weeks, governments around the world have acted with significant implications for fundamental freedoms and civic space. During this time, we must remember that responses to public health threats are stronger and more effective when they respect human rights. This page presents key resources and information on how international law provides a framework to uphold human rights during crisis response.

Key Resources

Preserving Human Rights During a Pandemic

Published in Just Security, this article by ICNL provides guidance on how states can respond to the coronavirus pandemic in an effective, rights-respecting manner.

Keeping Civic Space Healthy: Saving Lives and Human Rights

This joint ECNL and ICNL briefer provides tips to help policymakers safeguard public health while upholding human rights and protecting human dignity.

Why We Need to Protect the Human Right to Assemble and Act Online

This ECNL blog, by Senior Legal Advisor Marta Achler, discusses why the internet and the online spaces are a ‘lifeline’ for expression and assembly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus and Civic Space

This ICNL report discusses how governmental responses to COVID-19, especially emergency measures, affect civic space and provides recommendations for a rights-respecting rapid response to coronavirus pandemic.

Misinformation and the Coronavirus

This ARTICLE 19 briefing discusses how states, media, and social media companies can help to combat the coronavirus by committing to transparency, tackling misinformation, and promoting authoritative health advice. It is available in English, Arabic, Farsi, and French.

COVID-19, Information Problems, and Digital Surveillance

In this piece for the Center for Global Development, ICNL Advisory Council Member Michael Pisa discusses how to limit the risk that digital tools to monitor the spread of coronavirus could be used for other surveillance purposes after the health crisis subsides.

Supporting the Civil Society Sector during the Coronavirus Crisis

Florian Irminger, Executive Director of Penal Reform International and an ICNL Advisory Council Member, writes that the coronavirus must trigger substantial, simple, and swift support to civil society in the face of growing challenges.

Protecting Civil Liberties During a Public Health Crisis

This Electronic Frontier Foundation piece outlines basic principles that should be taken into consideration while conducting any data collection and digital monitoring of potential carriers of COVID-19.

All Coronavirus Response Related Resources

U.S. Current Trend: COVID-19 and Civic Freedom

A close up picture of the coronavirus (Photo: CDC/Unsplash)
The United States is in the midst of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. All 50 states, ... Read More

Keeping Civic Space Healthy

Keeping Civic Space Healthy
The COVID-19 response is currently an all-consuming effort for governments and people in countries around ... Read More

COVID-19, Information Problems, and Digital Surveillance

COVID-19, Information Problems, and Digital Surveillance
In this piece for the Center for Global Development, ICNL Alliance Advisory Council Member Michael ... Read More

CIVICUS COVID-19 Resource Page

CIVICUS COVID-19 Resource Page
This page, set up by CIVICUS, aims to connect and inform the CIVICUS alliance and ... Read More

Pandemics and Human Rights

Pandemics and Human Rights
In an article for Just Security, ICNL President Douglas Rutzen and Legal Advisor Nikhil Dutta ... Read More

ECNL Blog: COVID-19 Responses

ECNL Blog: COVID-19 Responses
ECNL Senior Legal Advisor Marta Achler's piece discusses why the internet and the online spaces ... Read More
Explore our full resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.