IRIS Actions / SMSI / Droits de l'homme - Human Rights

Towards an Information and Communication Society Respectful of Civil and Political Rights, as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Citizens

Human Rights in the Information Society (HRIS) Caucus
May 31, 2003

Input Document to the intersessional meeting of July 15-18, 2003, Paris, France

Introduction

This document contains the comments and contributions of the members of the Human Rights in the Information Society (HRIS) Caucus, formed by the end of WSIS PrepCom1 by civil society organizations. It is intended as providing first recommendations as inputs to the intersessional meeting of July 15-18 in Paris, France. The HRIS caucus pursues its work towards a consistent interpretation and translation of relevant rights guaranteed by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as outlined in this document.

Guidelines for a Human Rights Approach

The development of an information and communication society has to build on a core set of principles that are fundamental for democratic societies. International human rights (HR) standards represent such principles and should serve as the international framework guiding regional and national policies and actions. A human rights approach would imply:

Need for a consistent articulation of rights

The HRIS caucus believes that it is not sufficient to assert that "the essential requirements for the development of an equitable Information Society" should be "in accordance" with Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, the document should declare once and for all that Article 19 must be enforced. In addition, the principles of a better balanced flow of information, free circulation of ideas, press freedom, participation in the communication process, and knowledge sharing will become truly meaningful only when they are viewed as being supported by a consistent articulation of rights, not just Article 19.

Recognition of information and communications as public common goods

Moreover, the HRIS caucus considers that an information and communication society should be developed in order to guarantee democratic and equitable access and participation. This implies to acknowledge and declare information and its means of production, management and circulation as common goods towards which each social actor have rights and responsibilities, in order to ensure the minimal equitable conditions for the overall development of intellectual creativity, technological innovation, effective technology use and successful participation in the information and communication society.

Democratic governance and human rights enforcement

Finally, the HRIS caucus reaffirms that an information and communication society good governance must be based on the values of participation, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. This implies in particular the democratic management of international bodies dealing with ICTs. Given the borderless characteristics of ICTs, an appropriate framework for establishing the competence of jurisdictions should also be elaborated, so as to ensure the respect of principles of democracy, legality and sovereignty.

Relevant rights from the UN International CCPR and CESCR

To these ends, the HRIS caucus recommends that the international human rights, adopted in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) should be precisely translated within the specific framework of information and communication, into precise guarantees defined in the WSIS Declaration of principles and Action plan, following three main axes: the need for a consistent articulation of rights, the recognition of information and communication as public common goods, and the development of mechanisms ensuring democratic governance human rights enforcement in concert. Of particular relevance to the development of an information and communication society are translations of the following rights:

Example of translation of rights in the WSIS context

Right to education and knowledge implies:

About the Human Rights in the Information Society Caucus

The Human Rights in the Information Society (HRIS) Caucus has been formed by the end of PrepCom1 by civil society organizations in order to ensure that human rights are duly taken into account in the WSIS process by governments as well as by NGOs. Its objectives are:
  1. Putting human rights on the agenda of the WSIS. Human rights are intended, as defined in the UNDH, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as civil and political rights of citizens, as well as their economic, cultural and social rights.
  2. Developing detailed inputs and contributions on how Human rights, as broadly defined, can be precisely translated within the specific framework of information and communication, in order to build a common vision of this society.
  3. Raising awareness of NGOs and the public on the importance of addressing human rights in the information society, having noted that major organization dedicated to promoting Human Rights in the Information Society are not yet part of the WSIS process. This is also the case of general-purpose human rights organization, as well as trade unions.
Current members of the HRIS caucus are: Coordinators of the HRIS caucus are: Web site and mailing list of the HRIS caucus: www.iris.sgdg.org/actions/smsi/hr-wsis/

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