UNHRC must adopt resolution on internet and Human Rights by consensus

UNHRC must adopt resolution on internet and Human Rights by consensus - Digital

Customers in an internet cafe.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to adopt a draft resolution (A/HRC/26.L.24 ) on the internet and human rights at the closing of its 26th Session by consensus, and to resist any last minute attempts to dilute its content.

The draft resolution, tabled by a core-group of Brazil, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Nigeria and the United States, and co-sponsored by more than 70 other UN Member states, is an important step forward in addressing the growing challenges for protecting human rights online.

What does the resolution say?

The draft resolution advances protections for human rights online, building upon the landmark 2012 resolution which affirmed “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression” (HRC Res 20/8).

Retaining its focus on the role of the internet in advancing development, it also reacts to recent developments on internet governance and debates on the right to privacy online. The following advances are particularly welcome:

  • Development: the draft resolution recognises that the global and open nature of the internet is a driving force in accelerating progress towards development, including for the right to education. It also calls upon states to address the digital divide and to promote digital literacy and access to information on the internet.
  • Internet governance: the draft resolution takes note of the need for human rights to underpin internet governance, and affirms the importance of the global, open and interoperable nature of the internet. It calls on states to formulate through transparent and inclusive processes national internet-related public policies have universal access and enjoyment of human rights must be central to those policies. 
  • National security and human rights online: the draft resolution recognises that respect for the rights to freedom of expression and privacy is key to building confidence and trust in the internet, and that any attempt by States to address security concerns on the internet must be in accordance with international human rights obligations. Critically, the resolution states this must be done through democratic, transparent institutions, based on the rule of law. 

What must the HRC do?

Last week, ARTICLE 19 and 62 other organisations called on the HRC to robustly defend the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, privacy, and other rights online.

We are concerned that during informal negotiations, a small number of states proposed language to suggest that ‘duties and responsibilities’ are a precondition to the exercise of human rights on the internet. We welcome that the core group held extensive negotiations on these points, but ultimately declined their inclusion and arrived at a final text that complies with international human rights standards.

The understanding that the same human rights that apply offline, also apply online, must be consolidated, and any last minute attempts by some states to dilute the resolution must be resisted. It is crucial that the draft resolution it is adopted by consensus.