Connecting your rights: Internet rights are economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs)

A rights-based approach to internet policy and governance advances economic, social and cultural rights

Discussions on internet rights are often limited to arguments around “internet freedom”. APC believes that advancing internet rights is also a way to advance economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). Some of these rights include: the right to education, the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to health. In this three-year project, APC will explore how, ultimately, internet policy and regulation can help achieve greater social inclusion.

How will this be achieved?

We will encourage developing countries to adopt a rights-based approach to internet policy and support ESCR activists to include internet issues in their advocacy.

Through research, training and influencing policy, we will produce evidence and tools to advance internet policy making, particularly in developing countries that have typically resisted a human rights approach to internet policy and regulation.

Who will we work with?

  • Human rights defenders, women human rights defenders, civil society organisations, human rights organisations, researchers, practitioners, academic institutions from developing countries who are involved in ESCRs 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.

Specific 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.
  • Conduct an analysis to better understand the perspectives and positions of actors involved in internet and ECSR-related policy processes.
  • Develop a monitoring framework to assess the positive or negative impact of internet use and policy at national and sectoral levels. At a national level, the monitoring framework will be applied in over 50 countries. At a sectoral level, the framework will be applied to three in-depth case studies on: (1) access to educational materials, (2) access to publicly funded research, and (3) cultural rights and the internet domain name system (DNS). All case studies will consider gender dimensions of ECSRs.


  • Develop a new module for the Internet Rights Are Human Rights (IRHR) training curriculum in order to urge rights advocates to advance ESCRs through internet policy and governance at national and global levels.
  • Work with 50 APC partners and specialised organisations around the world in applying and improving the monitoring framework by testing it in their own reality.

Policy influence

  • Build advocacy tools and tactics to respond to challenges that arise while applying 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 South in order to advance internet rights as human rights.

By the end of 2016, we will also publish 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.

Project wiki

Photo by Belinda Lawley via Flickr, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.