University of Notre Dame
Kroc Institutde for International Peace Studies

Around the world, civil society groups have expressed international solidarity in marches and social media campaigns to call for peace, ceasefire, and protection of civilians in armed conflict in the context of the war in Gaza. The recent significant engagement of men, women, and children in the expression of international solidarity is a powerful affirmation of the value of human rights as a narrative of emancipation in response to violence, oppression, and marginalization. It is imperative that civil society actors not be subject to reprisals for their expression of international solidarity for peace, including loss of funding, loss of employment, incarceration, censorship, or other forms of penalization. Actions and expressions that promote transnational unity, empathy, tolerance, and cooperation are the elements of a strong culture of international solidarity in support of peace and social progress.

The most striking impact of the contemporary expressions of international solidarity for peace is their embrace of the principle of humanity—the demand to protect life and alleviate human suffering. The combination of the two universal principles underscores the salience of the articulation of an obligatory sequence of exhaustion of peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms before the use of force, in accordance with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter.

It may be argued that an International Solidarity for Peace Policy would include procedural and substantive components that relate to the right to enjoy peace, recognized in the Declaration on the Right to Peace, Article 1: “Everyone has the right to enjoy peace such that all human rights are promoted and protected and development is fully realized.” A component of peace is the right to peaceful assembly which in turn enables individuals to act in solidarity with others and articulate group solidarity or identity. According to the UN Human Rights Committee, peaceful assembly is to be interpreted in relation to an aim of peace and non-discrimination: “In accordance with article 20 of the Covenant, peaceful assemblies may not be used for propaganda for war (art. 20 (1)), or for advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (art. 20 (2)). . . . Participation in assemblies whose dominant message falls within the scope of article 20 must be addressed in conformity with the requirements for restrictions set out in articles 19 and 21.”

Repression of international solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists is often based on mischaracterization of their expressions against occupation, apartheid, calls for accountability of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights (including genocide), and/or anti-Zionism as promoting terrorism and/or antisemitism. Solidarity marches and platforms were banned in Germany, France, and Austria, and solidarity activists have been subject to surveillance, silencing via intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention, loss of employment or participation in educational institutions, violence, harassment, and prosecution in Europe and the United States. The NGO Monitor announced that it had successfully lobbied the European Union to cut 22 million Euros in funding to NGOs (including Palestinian NGOs) that the NGO Monitor accused of being antisemitic and/or pro-terror. This campaign has severely weakened civil society and promoted a narrative of fear among solidarity activists. There is an urgent need to articulate a protection framework to support International Solidarity for Peace initiatives based on the pillars of non- discrimination, equality, and remedy. State, social media corporations, and universities should receive guidelines on identification of hate speech, disinformation, discrimination, and incitement against international solidarity activists.

International Solidarity may be considered an enabling right supporting peace. Indeed, the revised Draft Declaration on International Solidarity, Article 1, sets forth “International solidarity is an expression of unity by which peoples and individuals enjoy the benefits of a peaceful, just and equitable international order, secure their human rights and ensure sustainable development.” Civil society has demonstrated that International Solidarity is constructed from below and disseminated across borders to acknowledge the right of all people to have rights. There is a clear need for the international community to espouse a Global Policy supporting International Solidarity for Peace expressions and manifestations now by providing legal support, new funding, and reinstated funding.

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Written by Cecilia M. Bailliet, professor and director of the Masters Program in Public International Law at the University of Oslo.