Internet rights at the 13th session of the Universal Periodic Review: responses and follow-up
By Shawna for APCNews
Canada, 27 July 2012
In partnership with members and networks, APC’s Internet Rights project is working to engage States and relevant non-state actors through a variety of UN processes, including participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of member states, advocating on a variety of internet-related human rights issues.
The Universal Periodic Review is a process where members of the Human Rights Council examine the human rights record of each UN member state, holding governments accountable for the actions taken to meet international human rights obligations. The review process runs through a 4 year cycle which includes monitoring and assessment, recommendations for improvement and specific action, implementation in-country, monitoring, and a review of progress.
In May 2012, APC supported participation in the 13th session of the UPR by members and networks from Ecuador, India, Brazil, South Africa and the Philippines, following stakeholder report submissions made in late 2011. Several governments expressed interest in internet-related issues, including a statement by Brazil in its country report on State efforts to enable access to public information, including the development of a Transparency Portal of the federal government. The Indian government also focused on the right to information, having recently supported a national consultation workshop that included discussion on how the internet could leverage the country’s RTI act.
Freedom of expression and cybersecurity were major internet-related issues discussed in the review of some States, including drafting new legislation to regulate global internet governance in South Africa. A number of recommendations were made for legislation to combat incitement to racial and religious discrimination on the internet. The review also provided an opportunity for APC participants to connect with their own government representatives as well as national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society from their countries, building awareness and developing collaborative advocacy networks.
At the same time, not all actors were open to a focus in internet-related rights; some States and NGOs expressed surprise at their inclusion in the UPR, perceiving these as ‘extra’ rights, less important than issues such as health, education and housing. These observations suggest that more work is needed to explain and justify the importance of the internet in facilitating basic human rights, as well as its potential to reinforce existing inequalities. APC is developing a new Human Rights and the Internet curriculum, which will help human rights advocates gain better understanding of specific challenges related to securing human rights on the internet, and aid internet freedom activists to engage in human rights mechanisms at global, regional and national levels.
Looking forward, APC will continue to work with networks from Brazil, India, Ecuador, South Africa and the Philippines in their national advocacy work, following up on the implementation of recommendations. Governments will adopt recommendations later in the year, and more advocacy work is needed to follow up and make sure that internet related human rights issues are taken up. Additionally, at the 14th session of the UPR in October 2012, APC will support participation in the review of Pakistan by BytesforAll Pakistan, which developed a submission focused on internet freedoms. APC is also supporting submissions by civil society for the reviews of Colombia and Azerbaijan.