ICNL is committed to supporting continental and international human rights mechanisms that build progressive norms and foster meaningful oversight and implementation of state obligations. ICNL helps civil society organizations exchange information and opinions with international experts and influential policymakers at the regional and global levels. Our activities include developing research tools and background materials, supporting the work of special mechanisms of the United Nations and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and convening high-level meetings.
Enhancing International Norms
Guidelines on Association & Assembly Rights in Africa
The guidelines of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides practical advice on protecting the rights of association and assembly. The guidelines are in the form of a regional legal instrument based on international law and best practices.
65th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR and NGO Forum
During the 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the preceding NGO Forum, held in Banjul, The Gambia from October 16-23, 2019, ICNL engaged with diverse CSOs across the region and contributed to resolutions addressing the AU member states on civic space situations in countries including Tanzania and Zimbabwe. During the session, ICNL collaborated with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, Clement Voule, to convene a discussion of his thematic report on Freedom of Association and Assembly in the digital age reflecting on perspectives from Africa. ICNL moderated the panel which comprised distinguished speakers including UN Special Rapporteur Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, the ACHPR’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and CSO representatives from the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. The panel provided insights on emerging threats in the digital space impacting the work of civil society and human rights defenders on the continent. The AU-UN Joint framework on Human Rights and the AU 10-year Action Plan on Human Rights were noted among key frameworks to address threats to civic space at the policy level and potential avenues for further engagement for civil society.
66th Session of the ACHPR and NGO Forum (Virtual)
From July 9-10 ICNL participated in the first virtual NGO Forum for NGOs preceding the 66th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). ACHPR commissioners joined around 120 participants remotely for discussions under the theme “The Impact of Covid-19 on Human Rights and Governance in Africa.” ICNL contributed to drafting the Resolution on the Protection of Human Rights in Africa during the COVID-19 Pandemic, which the Forum submitted to the ACHPR during its 66th Ordinary Session. ICNL also participated in the virtual ACHPR Session, where we provided information to the Commission on legislative developments and trends in Africa using information that we have been compiling for the ICNL Covid-19 Civic Freedom Tracker.
Human Rights Institute of South Africa
In Southern Africa partners, led by the Human Rights Institute of South Africa, used the Guidelines to develop tools to standardize monitoring and reporting on the state of association and assembly rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Vice Chairperson of the ACHPR publicly launched the tools (available in English, French and Portuguese) in a virtual event on the sidelines of the SADC Summit on August 18. The tool will assist researchers to collect data and report on freedom of association and assembly developments in an evidence-based and standardized manner. Pilot research is currently underway in DRC, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa.
A Checklist to assess whether COVID-19 legal measures comply with international legal guidance to protect association and assembly rights issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Human Rights Based Effective Response to Covid-19 in Africa) and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (Ten Key Principles to ensure measures respect human rights to association and peaceful assembly).
A Briefer on the international legal framework governing public health emergencies. It covers existing international human rights treaties that set out the parameters for protecting fundamental rights in times of emergency to assist states in ensuring a rights-respecting response.
A Briefer outlining the Open Government Partnership system and how this approach can help protect civic space during the pandemic. It provides examples that enable individuals and organizations to review new measures, share concerns directly with law and policymakers, and continue to protect fundamental human rights while controlling the pandemic.
An overview that outlines measures introduced by the Kenyan government to address the coronavirus pandemic, noting instances where a measure has restricted or may restrict civic space.
An overview that outlines measures introduced by the Malawian government to address the coronavirus pandemic, noting instances where a measure has restricted or may restrict civic space.
Human Rights in times of Public Emergency
ICNL participated in the first virtual ACHPR Ordinary Session in July 2020, where we provided information to the Commission on legislative developments and trends in Africa using information from ICNL’s Covid-19 Civic Freedom Tracker. ICNL also was honored to submit information about emergencies and disasters introduced and implemented in Africa as a result of Covid-19 to the ACHPR’s Focal Point on Human Rights in Conflict Situations. This information took the form of two submissions – one in November 2020 and the other in March 2021. The Focal Point’s preliminary report recommended that the ACHPR develop Guidelines on compliance with human rights in situations of states of emergency or disaster in Africa. ICNL will continue to engage the ACHPR as it develops the Guidelines.
In February 2019, ICNL organized a consultation in Nairobi, Kenya, that brought together African civil society organizations and the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The discussion focused on ways in which those freedoms are affected online and contributed to the special rapporteur’s report on the issue to the UN Human Rights Council.
Input to SR FOAA report on internet shutdowns
On April 13, 2021 ICNL’s Africa team participated in a regional consultation for Sub-Saharan Africa with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to peaceful assembly and association. The meeting focused on the harmful effects of internet shutdowns during peaceful protests and demonstrations and brought together civil society actors and activists to share their perspectives on the rise of internet shutdowns during peaceful protests, including key emerging issues, new opportunities, and threats, and recommendations that should be included in the SR’s upcoming report.
The Financial Action Task Force
ICNL works with civil society organizations throughout Africa to address the impact on civic space of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws. We build knowledge and share expertise, so that local CSOs can engage effectively with the Financial Action Task Force and its regional mechanisms. We convene trainings and provide information about the cooperation between the task force and states to counter money laundering, violent extremism, and terrorist financing, as well as the challenges that their approaches pose for civil society.
East and Southern Africa
ICNL works with Defenders Protection Initiative to provide a platform for civil society actors to engage, exchange and learn more about Financial Action Task Force (FATF) processes so as to collectively and effectively respond to growing civic space restrictions arising from FATF-inspired government over-regulation. The project aims to capacitate civil society to better understand FATF processes and the role of civil society; generate knowledge through thematic research on FATF processes and their impact on civic space; and promote constructive dialogue amongst civil society actors, financial intelligence authorities and other relevant national institutions, and FATF, particularly through the regional FATF body.
ICNL works with the West Africa Civil Society Institute to strengthen the capacity of civil society actors to understand and collectively and effectively respond to growing civic space restrictions arising from AML/CTF-inspired government over-regulation with the ultimate goal of engendering an enabling environment for civil society’s operation in West Africa. WACSI is developing a handbook on AML/CTF and FATF for CSOs and equipping a pool of trainers from 11 anglophone and francophone West African countries (Cote D’Ivoire, Benin Republic, Senegal, Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone) with in-depth knowledge on AML/CTF and FATF issues.
Zambia National Project
ICNL provides support to two civil society partners in Zambia to build capacity of local CSOs to engage in FATF processes and develop strategies to counter civic space restrictions. Partners have undertaken desk research assessing the impact of the AML/CFT and FATF processes in Zambia, which has enabled targeted advocacy with government; trained CSOs at national and provincial levels, which has led to the formation of a national working group on AML/CFT to spearhead civil society involvement in FATF processes; and sustained media engagements that promote broader public awareness and understanding of AML/CTF frameworks and their impact on civic space.