National human rights institutions in digital spaces

Gayatri Khandhadai with contributions from Mallory Knodel and Furhan Hussain (Editor: Deborah Brown) for APC
Asia Centre

ICTs and more specifically, the internet create new and promising spaces where national human rights institutions (NHRIs) can improve the way they function and reach out to stakeholders in previously unimaginable ways. Digitalisation has fundamentally changed the way we work. NHRIs can develop practices that systematically help them record and store information about their work in digital form. Similarly, digital tools, like email, chat applications and video conferencing, help NHRIs function more efficiently and save on precious resources spent on physical infrastructure. 

However, it should be emphasised that NHRIs must not completely move away from existing offline platforms and mechanisms. This is to ensure that the people who are not able to meaningfully access and use the internet, for reasons of infrastructure, cost, skills, or social and cultural barriers, are not left behind and thus further marginalised. Segments within society who need the attention and protection of NHRIs often experience digital exclusion.

The paper "National human rights institutions in digital spaces" was developed by APC in response to the call for submissions on the role of NHRIs in Southeast Asia in protecting human rights by the Asia Centre. It addresses the ways ICTs and the internet create new and promising spaces where NHRIs can improve the way they function and reach out to stakeholders in previously unimaginable ways. It also makes a call to NHRIs to remind governments that their obligation to protect, promote and fulfil all human rights includes providing meaningful access to the internet to all people.

Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. NHRIs and digital tools

3. Security: What is at risk for NHRIs operating online

  • Digital security: Unpacking the term and basic practices

  • Internal risks and mitigation for individuals

  • Information systems and risks

  • Understanding risks and consequences

  • Policies and procedures

4. Human rights online

  • Freedom of expression

  • Freedom of religion or belief

  • Privacy

  • Freedom of assembly and association

  • Gender, discrimination and violence

  • Economic, social and cultural rights

  • Laws regulating the internet

5. Recommendations

  • Digital tools

  • Digital security

  • Human rights online: Internet rights promotion and internet rights protection.

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