from The Internationalist and International Institutions and Global Governance Program

Should There Be a "Right to Assist" Campaigns of Civil Resistance?

Anti-government protesters gather at the start of a protest march in Hong Kong's tourism district of Tsim Sha Tsui, China, on October 20, 2019. Tyrone Siu/Reuters

A "Right to Assist" could help prevent violent conflict and ease democratic transitions. But several important questions remain unanswered. 

October 21, 2019

Anti-government protesters gather at the start of a protest march in Hong Kong's tourism district of Tsim Sha Tsui, China, on October 20, 2019. Tyrone Siu/Reuters
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In my weekly column for World Politics ReviewI examine a proposed norm, the "Right to Assist," and its implications for national sovereignty and international law.

Despite the much-lamented global democratic recession, recent protests in Hong Kong, Russia, and elsewhere testify to the innate human desire for freedom and dignity. The question of when and how to support such movements can create excruciating dilemmas for external actors, state and nonstate alike. In a provocative new report, “Preventing Mass Atrocities: From a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) to a Right to Assist (RtoA) Campaigns of Civil Resistance,” Peter Ackerman and Hardy Merriman of the Washington-based International Center on Non-Violent Conflict, or ICNC, set out the dos and don’ts for those who would assist local struggles against authoritarian rule. The centerpiece of their argument is a proposed new international norm, the Right to Assist, or RtoA, which would legitimate outside aid for nonviolent civil resistance movements that are committed to democratic goals. There is much to commend in the document, but it leaves several important questions unanswered.

More on:

Civil Society

Authoritarianism

Sovereignty

International Law

Demonstrations and Protests

Read the full World Politics Review article here.

More on:

Civil Society

Authoritarianism

Sovereignty

International Law

Demonstrations and Protests

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