South Africa-based organization CIVICUS defines a protest movement as “a continuous public and physical gathering of a group of individuals committed to using nonviolent tactics to effect some political, social, cultural or economic change that diverges from mainstream or extant political positions or practices”.
Their newly published Protest Resilience Toolkit reveals main findings on protest movements around the world. This resource highlights the activist experience within movements and shares practical recommendations for human rights defenders (HRD’s) and other global movements.
Through an intuitive online platform, CIVICUS categorizes the toolkit into seven core facets that bolster the sustainability of protest in social movements and provides strategic advice to address potential threats to HRD’s. Below is an overview of what to expect from the resource:
1. Right to protest: what does it entail as a human right?
The toolkit describes your right to protest by explaining 10 principles recognized by international law. These constitute useful guidance on how to exercise your right and what to demand from authorities. For example, it analyzes the principle of non-discrimination, as well as the limitations to the role of the State in the context of social protest.
2. Tactics for overcoming challenges
Informed by the protester’s experiences, this section shares specific tactics intended to increase effectiveness when addressing challenges. They explain how to open closed protest spaces in contexts where civil society action is highly restricted or even banned. Outlined are some helpful strategies like mass action and the use of innovative technologies that may help a movement reach its goal.
The toolkit also analyzes how to deal with internal disagreement over approaches, how to educate and protect inexperienced protesters, and methods to prevent and confront police brutality.
3. Strategies for sustainable protest
Since the right to protest serves as a tool to demand or access other human rights, its purposes might extend well beyond a single event. It is essential for protest to follow general timelines in order to guarantee more equitable remedies for resistance movements. The CIVICUS toolkit explains, for instance, the importance of developing a multifaceted strategy -through the diversification of campaigns, the establishment of strategic partnerships, and the decentralization of leadership-, as well as the role of choosing strategic locations for protests.
The resource addresses the relevance of winning hearts and minds by employing messages that diversely unite different sectors to build common ground. According to research cited by the toolkit, historically it has taken even a mere 3.5 percent of a country’s population to organize for their government to be shaken to its foundation!
4. Protest personality
The toolkit explains how civil society is composed by multiple actors with different methods and frameworks of action. Identifying what characteristics to give your protest is a useful step towards consolidating your goals. Are you a reformer interested in pursuing your objectives through official mechanisms? Are you a revolutionary that seeks to act outside of pre-established channels? Are you an activist researcher? Whatever your protest personality may be, it is important that you understand the approach and methodology you want to utilize in order to produce optimal results.
5. Best practices and recommendations
CIVICUS provides recommendations that will definitely be a bonus to your work as a human rights defender. These are helpfully divided into best practices for protest movements, protest leaders, domestic, regional, and international civil society organizations, law enforcement agencies, States, and funders. Human rights are a collaborative affair that demand strategic action from various actors. The toolkit recognizes the complexity of the network of actors involved and provides great insight on how to tailor each one’s role.