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Human Rights 15 June 2015

Dive With Us Into The 29th Human Rights Council Happening This Week

Nicolas Seidler
By Nicolas SeidlerFormer Senior Policy Advisor

Today marked the beginning of the 29th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. The HRC is the principal U.N. body responsible to strengthen the protection and promotion of of human rights around the globe.  The 29th session starts today and occurs over the next three weeks, ending on 3 July.

For the past few years, the attention of the Council has evolved to also focus on how the Internet can impact some of our fundamental rights, in particular free expression and privacy. This intersection between the Internet and rights has similarly become a central topic of discussion in the space of Internet governance, ever since the World Summit on the Information Society (2003/2005) and to this day. 

For the Internet Society, the enjoyment of fundamental rights online is integral to our vision of an “Internet for Everyone”. We believe that everyone should have access, and that this access should be a tool used for empowerment, and not repression. 

In line with this vision, there are a set of events this week that we think are of particular importance and that merit particular attention from the community: 

Encryption & anonymity 

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, will present his new report on encryption and anonymity online.  

This is an important report that encourages broad deployment of encryption generally qualifies bans or weakening of encryption as disproportional measures. 

The Internet Society contributed to this report and met with the Special Rapporteur in the past. We will meet again with Mr. Kaye during the Council along with leading civil society organisations.  We are also very happy that Mr. Ted Hardie, Executive Director at the Internet Architecture Board, will come specifically to Geneva to share a view from the Internet engineering community on these important issues. 

This Council session will also see the appointment of a new Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy in the digital age. This nomination comes as a result of strong political push in the the UN General Assembly in the past two years and growing interest from the Human Rights community, in the context of disclosures on pervasive surveillance. The first report from this independent expert should be published at the next HRC session in September/October 2015.

Discussing women and empowerment with 2015 Internet freedom fellows

The Internet Society is also partnering this week with the 2015 Internet freedom fellows, a program hosted by the U.S. Mission in Geneva. 

On June 18, remarkable bloggers from Zambia, Palestine, Brunei, Kenya and Belarus will share personal stories at the intersection of the Internet and women empowerment issues. The main theme of our discussion will be “Does the Internet empower women, or do women empower the Internet?”. Kathleen Moriarty (IETF Security Area Director) and Dorcas Muthoni (CEO of Open World Ltd Kenya, founder of AfCHIX) will also join us as remote discussants. 

“HR in IG”

The HRC this week is one piece of a bigger broader consideration of Human Rights as part of the Internet governance space, including the WSIS review process and the Internet Governance Forum. 

As part of this broader ecosystem, it is worth mentioning the just-released UNESCO Internet study, which addresses among other aspects good practices in order to address security and privacy concerns on the Internet and in accordance with international human rights obligations. The study was built on a year-long multistakeholder consultation process, which culminated in UNESCO’s Connecting the Dots conference in March 2015. 

The Internet Society will continue to engage and offer trusted spaces for dialogue among all stakeholders as we continue to address further challenges and opportunities at the intersection of the Internet and Human Rights. 

Related Information

Photo credit: US Geneva Mission on Flickr

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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