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The Right of Association and Peaceful Assembly

Myanmar Buddhist monks display anti-OIC banners during a rally in Yangon

"Civil society can only serve the common good when the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are protected."

The right of individuals to assemble peacefully, and to choose with whom they associate, is a basic tenet of democracy. It is essential for the exercise of other human rights such as the freedom of expression, and is guaranteed by major human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and dozens of national and regional constitutions.

Protecting the right of citizens to mobilize themselves is crucial for creating a tolerant society in which groups with different beliefs, practices, or policies can peacefully coexist.

“Progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals and organizations to come together around shared goals; harness the power of their convictions; and make societies more productive, transparent and accountable,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a written statement. “Over the last 18 months, however, we have seen governments constrict civil society activism and increase their attacks against civic-minded organizations and individuals. These crackdowns mark a disturbing trend that requires global leadership.”

That is why, in late September, a group of member countries, comprising the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Mexico, and Nigeria and the United States, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council a resolution on the rights of freedom of association and assembly.

The resolution, which calls upon States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, passed by consensus with more than 60 co-sponsors.

“The UN Human Rights Council recognized the critical importance of the freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” wrote Secretary Clinton. “This U.S. sponsored resolution reaffirms a basic truth: civil society plays a central role in promoting and protecting the enjoyment of human rights, but civil society can only serve the common good when the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are protected.

“The United States was proud to work with fellow Core Group members . . . . to advance this important and timely resolution, and we thank them for their leadership and unflagging effort.”