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2016 - Assembly & association rights take centre stage despite shrinking civic space, reports UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of association

Author: Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association , Published on: 9 February 2017

...Despite its myriad troubles, 2016 was also a year where people came out in nearly unprecedented numbers in an attempt to address our problems – through organizing in their communities, through protest, through political engagement, through labor unions and more. It was, in other words, a year where assembly and association rights took center stage as a tool for fixing what appeared to be a crumbling world order. And the fact that people exercised these rights in such large numbers was no small feat. The long-lamented phenomenon of “closing space” for civic engagement is certainly real, and it spread dramatically in 2016...examples abounded in 2016, with the footprint of oppression covering most of the world, from Turkey to France to the United States to Malaysia to Burundi and beyond.Yet people’s courage in the face of this repression was unflappable...Environmental rights defenders in Honduras persisted, despite the shocking murder of their compatriot Berta Cáceres in March...civil society in countries such as Thailand, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo endured, despite an environment that essentially outlawed their work...in some places, progress was palpable, illustrating just how powerful assembly and association rights can be in motivating change – and why people fight so hard to exercise these rights...

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