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Call for Internet and Human Rights Concerns to be reflected in the Fortaleza Declaration of Sixth BRICS Summit, Fortaleza, 14-16 July 2014

Dear Excellencies,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations believe that the internet is a global resource and a critical enabler of human rights and development which should be managed in the public interest. We therefore call upon BRICS governments, individually and collectively, to ensure that the Fortaleza Declaration addresses the following issues:

1) Promotion of universal access to the internet;
2) Promotion and protection of human rights online;
3) Mobilising the internet for social, human and economic development;
4) Inclusion of civil society and other affected stakeholders in internet policy processes.

1. Promotion of affordable access to the internet

We urge BRICS countries to commit to putting in place policies that guarantee affordable and high quality internet access.

The NETmundial, held in Sao Paulo in April 2014, agreed that internet governance should promote universal, equal opportunity, affordable and high quality internet access so it can be an effective tool for enabling human development and social inclusion. There should be no unreasonable or discriminatory barriers to entry for new users. This echoes the declaration of UN member states made in Geneva in 2003 during the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) affirming a “commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society … enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential … premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The recent WSIS+10 High Level Event identified priority areas to be addressed post-2015. These included: “expanding access to and use of ICTs to all, including broadband and mobile services, particularly to vulnerable and marginalised people” and “ensuring universal access to information and knowledge and the capacity to use ICTs for all people, including by offering services and ICTs that are inclusive of, accessible and affordable for persons with disabilities”.

In this regard, we ask that BRICS address not only the importance of ensuring sufficient and affordable internet infrastructure; they should also consider the importance of public access to the Internet (for example, access in libraries and community centres) as a powerful tool for providing access to the internet, particularly for disadvantaged users and communities.

BRICS governments can advance this goal through: a) the BRICS development bank, which can target support for internet and other information and communications development, and b) through the post-2015 sustainable development goals.

*The Fortaleza declaration should reaffirm commitments from BRICS countries to put into place policies that guarantee and promote affordable access at the global level.

2. Promotion and protection of human rights online

We urge BRICS countries to reaffirm their commitments to the protection of human rights online.

We support the call from CIVICUS and other civil society organisations for BRICS to include a “collective commitment to promote and protect human rights worldwide” in the Fortaleza declaration. With particular reference to human rights and the internet, we urge BRICS to note the following important international agreements which all BRICS countries participated in:

2.1 The recent resolution (A/HRC/RES/26/) passed by the Human Rights Council on 26 June on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet. The resolution reinforced the fundamental principle that the same rights people have offline must also be protected online, in particular rights to education, privacy, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly and association.

The resolution called upon all States to address security concerns on the internet in line with states’ international human rights obligations, including through national democratic, transparent institutions, based on the rule of law. It also called on all States to consider formulating national internet-related public policies with the objective of universal access and enjoyment of human rights at their core, through transparent and inclusive processes with all stakeholders.

2.2 The outcome document of the WSIS+10 High Level Event, endorsed on 11 June, which identified as a priority “[t]he need to protect and reinforce all human rights, and to recognize their importance to realize economic and social development, ensuring equal respect for and enforcement of all human rights online and offline”.

2.3 The NETMundial, hosted by Brazil with India and South Africa as co-organizers, governments and other stakeholders recognized that human rights “should underpin Internet governance” and that the rights “that people have offline must also be protected online, in accordance with international human rights legal obligations…”

At NETMundial, States committed to take the findings and outcomes into other processes and forums, such as the post-2015 development agenda process, WSIS+10, Internet Governance Forums, and all internet governance discussions held in different organizations and bodies at all levels.

2.4 The UN General Assembly resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age (A/RES/68/167), which condemns unlawful or arbitrary surveillance, interception of communications, and collection of personal data as highly intrusive acts that violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and may undercut democracy.

*The Fortaleza Declaration should reaffirm the commitment of BRICS countries to promote and protect human rights online and to the implement their obligations from international agreements.

3) Mobilising the internet for social, human and economic development

We urge BRICS countries to commit resources to mobilising the internet for sustainable social, human and economic development.

The use of the internet and ICTs are widely recognised as accelerating social and economic growth, sustainable development. While there has been considerable progress in the adoption of new technologies in both the developing and developed world, the potential of the internet for social, human and economic development, in particular for youth, women, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, has still not been realised.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs), appropriately tailored to meet the needs of a country’s citizens, can be a catalyst for the full realisation of the potential benefits of ICTs. But conversely and too often, when IPR regimes are developed using a “one size fits all” model, they instead inhibit those potential benefits. BRICS leaders should cooperate to promote a balanced international intellectual property regime that strikes a fair balance between rewarding creativity, providing knowledge resources, and meeting the cultural, civic and educational rights of consumers and their needs for economic and social development such as access to knowledge, health care and culture.

The recent WSIS+10 HLE identified “maximising opportunities to leverage the ICTs, and transformative technology more generally, as enablers for social and economic development by creating appropriate national strategies and policies for the advancement of WSIS /ICT for development goals” as a priority issue to address post-2015.

*BRICS countries should reaffirm their commitment to mobilise the internet for sustainable social, human and economic development in the Fortaleza Declaration.

4. Inclusion of civil society in internet policy processes

We strongly emphasize the role civil society in internet policy at the national, regional, and global level.

4.1 As NETMundial recognized: Internet governance should be built on democratic, multistakeholder processes, ensuring the meaningful and accountable participation of all parties, including governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, the academic community, and users.

4.2 The HRC resolution (A/HRC/RES/26/L.24) noted above stresses that States commit to transparent and inclusive national internet-related public policies processes, involving all stakeholders.

4.3 Involving civil society is particularly important as they have expertise in developing Internet-related policy in the public interest.

4.4 We welcome the adoption of the Marco Civil in Brazil and urge all BRICS states to develop national internet frameworks that, as was the case with the Marco Civil, make use of an inclusive and transparent policy development process.

*The Fortaleza Declaration should affirm the inclusion of civil society in democratic, inclusive, transparent, and multistakeholder processes on internet-related public policy at a national, regional and global level.

This statement is endorsed by following civil society organizations:

Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade – Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV-CTS), Brazil
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), India
Internet Democracy Project, India
Media Monitoring Africa, South Africa
Núcleo de Pesquisas, Estudos e Formação (NUPEF), Brazil