A Workshop in Nairobi on the Digital Space and the Protection of Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly in Africa

Participants in the workshop Participants in the workshop

26 February 2019

Our Research Fellow Dr Jonathan Andrew represented the Geneva Academy at a two-day workshop on digital space and the protection of freedom of association and peaceful assembly in Africa organized by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) .

This workshop provided an opportunity for civil society organizations, trade unions, NGOs and human rights defenders from more than 20 countries in Africa to share their expertise and experiences of freedom of peaceful assembly and association (FoAA) online with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Voule.

Dr Andrew facilitated the discussions in the different sessions of the workshop and documented information pertinent to the UN Special Rapporteur’s upcoming report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on the right to FoAA in the digital era.

Discussing the Situation and Challenges in Africa

Participants notably examined key definitional issues relating to assemblies and association online and discussed new features and practices brought about by mobilization in the digital sphere. The discussion also focused on the impacts of new online platforms on civil society, human rights defenders, media and other groups and movements in Africa.

They also discussed their experiences of specific threats and challenges faced when exercising these rights in the digital age, including the emergence of restrictive laws, state surveillance, criminal defamation suits, and the role played by the private sector in promoting the right to FoAA in the digital era.

Participants provided examples of good and bad practices across the continent and discussed how the private sector can effectively respond to the challenges facing civil society to meet and associate online.

Freedom of Association and Assembly in the Digiutal Space Nairobi

Inputs into the Upcoming Report of the UN Special Rapporteur

Participants presented recommendations to relevant stakeholders including African states, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur, the private sector/industry, and civil society.

These inputs will inform the preparation of the UN Special Rapporteur's upcoming thematic report to the HRC on the right to FoAA in the digital era.

‘The workshop proved particularly insightful with regard to documenting testimony relating to specific regional concerns of citizens’ access to Internet resources, and the subsequence hindrance of their ability to mobilize and assemble peacefully to raise concerns within communities in Africa’ underlines Dr Andrew.

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