Connecting your rights: Economic, cultural and social rights and the internet

APC on advancing economic, social and cultural rights by applying a rights-based approach to internet policy and governance

In this three-year project, we will explore how internet policy and regulation can advance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs) and enable use of the internet to achieve greater social inclusion. These rights include the right to education, the right to housing, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to health. Building on the concept that the internet is an enabler of human rights online and offline, we will explore how it enables economic, social and cultural rights. By broadening discourse on human rights on the internet to include ESCRs, APC seeks to move beyond the oft-cited civil liberties arguments for “internet freedom” to a position that encompasses the full range of human rights.

Our goal is to influence internet policy debates and actors by expanding the current discourse on human rights on the internet, as part of our commitment to secure and defend human rights online. We aim at making developing country governments more receptive to adopting a rights-based approach to internet policy and encouraging ESCR activists to include internet issues in their advocacy.

We believe that a broader approach will contribute to filling many of the current gaps and divisions in the discourse on human rights and the internet and will produce evidence and tools that can be used to support evidence-informed internet policy making, particularly in developing countries that have resisted a human rights-centric approach to internet policy and regulation.

Stakeholders that will be covered by the analysis include: human rights defenders, women human rights defenders,civil society organisations, human rights organisations, researchers, practitioners, and academic institutions from developing countries who are involved in economic, social and cultural rights and development, particularly those working on health, education and open science and culture; groups and individuals who work to defend and protect human rights on the internet (often referred to as “internet freedom” advocates); governments; and policy makers/public sector institutions involved in the internet and economic, social and cultural development.

Our objectives are:

Research objectives

  • Gather information on economic, social and cultural rights instruments, how they relate to the internet, and what internet policy frameworks apply to these rights at global, regional and national levels.
  • Analyse this information and then develop a monitoring framework that can be used to assess the extent to which internet use and policy impacts negatively or positively on ESCRs at national and sectoral level.
  • Conduct a stakeholder analysis to better understand perspectives and positions, and the configuration of power and influence among actors involved in internet and ECSR-related policy processes.
  • Apply the monitoring framework: (1) at national level in over 50 countries and (2) at sectoral level in three areas. At the national level the framework will be used to analyse ESCRs through our Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) project. At the sectoral level we will develop in-depth case studies including studies on access to educational materials, access to publicly funded research, and cultural rights and the internet domain name system (DNS). All case studies will consider gender dimensions of the ECSR which the case study explores and relevant research outcomes will be presented in a special edition of GenderIT.

Capacity development objectives

  • Build the capacity of target groups to use the stakeholder analysis, monitoring framework and advocacy tools to extend their advocacy for ESCRs to include advancing these rights through internet policy and governance at national and global levels. To do so, we will develop a new module for the Internet Rights Are Human Rights (IRHR) training curriculum).
  • Build the capacity of over 50 APC partners and specialised organisations all over the world in applying and improving the framework by testing it in their own reality.

Policy influence objectives

  • Drawing on the stakeholder analysis, build concrete advocacy tools and tactics to respond to specific challenges identified through application of the monitoring framework.
  • Facilitate networking and the exchange of ideas, experience, research and policy advocacy strategies among academics, researchers and rights advocates from the global North and the global South with the goal of broadening efforts to secure human rights on the internet by including ESCRs as well as civil and political rights.

We will also draw on the results of this research to support achieving our 2013-2016 Strategic Plan, which aims to develop, by the end of 2016, a revised APC Internet Rights Charter that encompasses economic, social and cultural rights.

This work is being carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

Image via Flickr, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.

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