Technology evolves and the ways in which society assembles and interacts has also continued to take several forms and this is often accompanied by convenience and lower costs of communication which have so far reached implications on how people acquire knowledge, do business, participate in governance processes and seek social, economic and political change.
However, it has also introduced new dangers and challenges for users. There is a need to clearly describe what
promoting, protecting, respecting, and fulfilling rights to freedom of association and assembly (FoAA) entails in the digital era.
In a new paper submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on The Right To Peaceful Assembly and of Association, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) alongside the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL) and the Civil Society Reference Group (CSRG) hosted 35 civil society organizations drawn from 18 African countries to identify challenges to protecting the right to freedom of association and assembly in the digital age and develop recommendations and strategies to counter such threats.
In the paper, their recommendations to States include:
- Consider the adequacy or otherwise of existing laws and international conventions or declarations and strengthen their application in protecting FoAA in the digital era.
- Commit to domesticate, uphold and fulfill international obligations.
- Cooperate with international mechanisms for the protection of fundamental freedoms, including voluntary follow-up and reporting on processes like the
Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.
- Consider expanding or applying laws for the protection of vulnerable groups in the online sphere.
- Promote research on the impact of digital technologies (both enabling and restrictive) on the exercise of FoAA.