ICNL supports national and regional communities of practice by deepening their knowledge of key issues related to civil society law. We also strengthen linkages among experts across countries, facilitate the sharing of best practices and successful strategies, and foster peer learning about key issues. We work closely with communities of practice to develop practical resources, such as manuals and tools, which can be used for capacity building and to advance legal reform initiatives.
Communities of Practice
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
ICNL is a member of the support group that helps ACHPR’s special rapporteur on human rights defenders monitor states’ implementation of and compliance with ACHPR’s Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa. We also work with regional civil society networks to implement initiatives aimed at strengthening the rights of association and assembly in the region.
Civil Society and the Financial Action Task Force
ICNL’s Africa program collaborates with civil society networks to consider the impact on civic space of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws. In particular, our partnerships foster learning about the challenges that legal, regulatory, and administrative measures pose for civil society. We work with our partner networks to engage on these issues with national financial intelligence authorities as well as the Financial Action Task Force and its regional bodies.
Digital Space & Civic Freedoms in Africa
In February 2019, ICNL and its partners convened a meeting of representatives of more than thirty countries to identify key issues affecting freedoms of association and assembly online. The group discussed strategies for dealing with challenges ranging from the proliferation of restrictive laws, policies, and practices to internet shutdowns and online disinformation campaigns. ICNL continues to support initiatives arising from this meeting that seek to protect freedom of association and assembly in the digital age.
In 2018, ICNL helped convene civil society organizations and media practitioners from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to discuss experiences and formulate strategies for navigating increased government-imposed restrictions. Participants identified priority areas and developed recommendations to ensure that media, CSOs, and other stakeholders reclaim and expand civic space in East Africa. Among the initiatives emerging from the meeting is an innovative online platform that allows civil society and media organizations to share information, best practices, and case studies.
The Organized Legal Profession & Protection of Civic Space
Civil society organizations and media stakeholders are increasingly concerned with constraints on civic space. While individual lawyers, organizations, and networks are already helping protect civic space, government targeting of national and regional law associations highlights the critical role these bodies play in resisting violations of civic space. This ICNL-supported community of practice seeks to build understanding of the role that professional associations can and should play in protecting and promoting civil society.
Protection of Civic Space in East Africa Online Platform and Consultation on COVID-19
In September 2019, ICNL, in collaboration with the East Africa Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (EACSOF), launched the Protection of Civic Space in East Africa online Platform that facilitates learning and information-sharing on current and emerging civic space trends in the region among civil society actors and media practitioners, as they seek to navigate restrictions and capitalize on opportunities to influence positive legal reform. The platform has become a crucial tool for the growing regional community of over 70 CSO members in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, to strategically advocate on civic space issues at national and regional levels. During the COVID-19 pandemic, members organized a digital convening to discuss how government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are being used to restrict civic space in East Africa and undertook collective advocacy through a joint communique to the East African Community member states addressing prevailing socio-economic and civic space concerns.
Advancing Civic Space Across East Africa
ICNL supports various communities of practice that seek to strengthen collaboration among CSO, media and marginalized groups to advance civic space across East Africa. The Kenya Correspondents Association convened CSO-Media forums in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania that generated collective advocacy campaigns and awareness creation on civic space trends through the media. It also created a special blog (on Twitter: @AfricaCivic and Facebook: Civic Space Africa) that provides credible information on civic space protection issues across the region and facilitates broader advocacy within the CSO-media alliance. The African Youth Development Link in Uganda implemented the “Speaking Together” project, empowering youth in Uganda to use innovative and new tactics for human rights advocacy on civic space. This led to social media campaigns by youth demanding their rights using art, cartoons, and short musical videos and birthed the Ghetto Youth Parliament – a community space to foster civic participation for youth groups in Uganda.
ACHPR Support Group
ICNL is a member of the Support Group which was created by the African Commission in Resolution ACHPR/Res. 406 (LXIII) 2018, to promote and monitor the effective implementation of the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, chaired by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa. ICNL has worked with other Support Group members and the ACHPR Special Rapporteur to advance the mandate through providing technical and other support focused on promoting advocacy, research and capacity building interventions in all subregions on the continent.
Supporting Civic Space Working Group and the CSO-Media Advocacy Coalition on Civic Space
In Tanzania, ICNL supports local partners to coordinate interventions of the existing Civic Space Working Group and the CSO-Media Advocacy Coalition on Civic Space to spearhead advocacy in support of freedom of Association, Assembly and expression through media campaigns, roundtable discussions and public dialogues with government actors to address emerging civic space challenges.
Digital space has become a major forum for civil society, which has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some governments have reacted by instituting legal barriers that have affected fundamental freedoms online, many times due to lack of knowledge regarding emerging technologies. To address this issue, in March 2021, ICNL in collaboration with the Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) and Article 19 Eastern Africa, hosted a digital forum on the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms of Kenyan civil society online. Experts and participants, successfully outlined five key topics related to digital space in Kenya were outlined. Learn more here.