Safeguarding Assembly Rights Worldwide


Nearly every country’s constitution recognizes the right to peaceful assembly. But since 2020, more than 150 governments have restricted this right while responding to COVID-19. Some countries have militarized the policing of protests or maintained COVID-related bans as the pandemic winds down. ICNL works alongside partners to create a more enabling environment for peaceful assembly by promoting international norms, improving legal frameworks, and monitoring violations of assembly rights at protests.

Our contribution to international norms for peaceful assembly includes landmark guidance adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2020. We recently supported a guide on digital assembly developed by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), our affiliate. The guide outlines considerations for assembling online and describes creative new practices, such as a holographic protest in Spain.

We help partners assess and reform the legal environment for peaceful assembly at both the regional and national levels. Our 2022 assessment of women’s right to peaceful assembly in the Middle East and North Africa discusses its importance to the feminist movement and recommends ways to protect it. Our study of peaceful assembly in India highlights threats to assembly rights in the legal framework and proposes steps to align laws and practices with international standards and the country’s constitution.

Countries where we help organizations monitoring violations of assembly rights include Iraq, where in 2021, a partner created a network of civil society activists. Using ICNL’s reference guide on the right to peaceful assembly, the network documents the policing of protests and shares information about protestors’ treatment with international organizations and other stakeholders. A major impact has been to focus public and government attention on assembly rights and change the narrative around peaceful assemblies. We are now working with our partners to safeguard this right through reform of the legal framework.

Man wearing a blue turban is weaving rugs on a large traditional loom in Aswan, Egypt; safeguarding assembly rights worldwide. (Photo: Rawan Yasser/Unsplash)

This story is from our 2021-2022 Annual Report. Each story in the report demonstrates how ICNL and our partners have strengthened the threads of resilience in civil societies worldwide.