The significance of Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be wholly realised without appreciating the benefits of recognising and defending freedom of assembly and association (FoAA) online. When people freely assemble and associate online, they are able to discuss and exchange ideas, resulting in free flow of information thus helping build stronger and more just societies.
There are many examples of like-minded citizens rallying for a cause, whether in a geographical location or across borders, utilising growing access to the internet. The widespread use of ICTs during the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement has prompted global discussions. Discourse around FoAA is well developed, however, rhetoric surrounding its online application is in its nascence.
The Internet has enhanced human freedoms to come together around common interests to build associations and networks. Online spaces free of restrictions, would result in a vibrant and democratic enclave where information, ideas, expressions and discourse on social, political and economic issues adhere to recognizably democratic norms and procedures.
Thus, addressing the ability to freely associate and assemble are central to goals relating to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Particularly to,
16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
- Ritu Srivastava (Digital Empowerment Foundation)
- Haroon Baloch (Bytes for All, Pakistan)
- Serene Lim (EMPOWER Malaysia)
- Sheen Handoo (Facebook)
- Deji Olukotun (Access Now)