The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are among the most important human rights we possess, protecting peoples’ ability to come together and work for the common good. They are a vehicle for the exercise of many other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, allowing people to express their political opinions, engage in artistic pursuits, engage in religious observances, join trade unions, elect leaders and hold them accountable.
And in 2016, the international treaties enshrining these fundamental rights are turning 50 years old. We think this is something worth celebrating – and we’d like you to join the party.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were both adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 16, 1966. The ICCPR, of course, enshrines the international rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in articles 21 and 22, respectively. The ICESCR, protects the right to form trade unions and to strike. Together, these instruments create the legal backbone of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.
It was a long road to adoption and ratification, and we’re still not there yet (as United Nations data shows, 29 states are still not party to the ICCPR, while 33 are not party to the ICESCR). Implementation has also been imperfect, no doubt. But the ICCPR and ICESCR – together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – represent the most ambitious and collaborative attempts at defining and upholding human rights in human history. And however flawed this endeavor has been thus far, the rights enshrined in the ICCPR and ICESCR have undoubtedly inspired hundreds of millions of people.
The 50th birthday of these covenants is pretty momentous, so we’ve launched a campaign to help mark the occasion. We’ve dubbing it #FOAAat50, and we’d like you to take part by doing three simple things: Creating, celebrating and sharing.
Create: The concept is simple – make something that expresses what the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association mean to you.
The mandate will be doing the same thing throughout 2016, and you can check out some of our work via the links on this page: The first series of posters we created to kick off the campaign (marking 50 years of Article 21 of the ICCPR, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly); country themed posters; various thematic posters; our #99problems series (which give 99 reminders that human rights are the solution to the problems facing our work, not the problem); and more.
If you like our posters, download and share them on Facebook or Twitter. If you really like them, then download the full-size versions and do some large-format prints to stick on your wall or give to your friends.
We’ll be continuing this project through the end of 2016, but we can’t do it alone. So get out there and make your own posters, photographs or artwork – anything really. And it’s no excuse to say you lack artistic skills: Send us your ideas instead, and we’ll try to put them into action. Send us your translations of posters we’ve already done. Or tell a friend. We’ll add everything we receive on this page.
Celebrate: What better way to mark this anniversary than to use your rights? Get out there and join a demonstration, convene a discussion group, form an association, join a labor union or throw a party (yes, parties are indeed a form of peaceful assembly). Rights are like muscles – they tend to waste away if they’re not exercised.
Share: Last but not least, we’re asking you to let the world know what you’re up to. We’ve inaugurated a series of hashtags for the anniversary, which you can use on social media to share your art, photos, and opinions: #ICCPRat50, #ICESCRat50 and #FOAAat50. Use them. Tag us as well – or drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d be happy to help get the word out.
Fifty years is a big number, but it’s only a start. Let’s join forces to tell the world that this anniversary matters, and that the best is yet to come for the promotion and protection of human rights.
Happy 50th anniversary to everyone,
Maina Kiai and the UNSR mandate team