Inputs from the Human Rights Caucus
to the global Civil Society Declaration
First Version: November 13th, 2003; Revised on November 30th, 2003 and lastly during PrepCom3B
Human Rights Section
Centrality of Human Rights
(now introduction of section 2.2 of CS Declaration)
An information and communication society should be based on human rights and human dignity. With the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human rights as its foundation, it must embody the universality, indivisibility, interrelation and interdependence of all human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural - including the right to development. This implies the full integration, concrete application and enforcement of all rights and the recognition of their centrality to democracy, the rule of law and sustainable development. Information and communication societies must be inclusive, so that all people, without distinction of any kind, can achieve their full potential. The principles of non-discrimination and diversity must be mainstreamed in all ICT regulation, policies, and programmes.
Freedom of Expression
(now section 2.2.1 of CS Declaration)
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of fundamental and specific importance, since it forms an essential condition for human rights-based information and communication societies. Article 19 requires that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media and regardless of frontiers. This implies free circulation of ideas, pluralism of the sources of information and the media, press freedom, and availability of the tools to access information and share knowledge. Freedom of expression on the Internet must be protected by the rule of law rather than through self-regulation and codes of conducts. There must be no prior censorship, arbitrary control of, or constraints on, participants in the communication process or on the content, transmission and dissemination of information. Pluralism of the sources of information and the media must be safeguarded and promoted.
Right to Privacy
(now section 2.2.2 of CS Declaration)
The right to privacy, enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is essential for self-determined human development in regard to civic, political, social, economic and cultural activities. The right to privacy faces new challenges in information and communication societies, and must be protected in public spaces, online, offline, at home and in the workplace. Every person must have the right to decide freely whether and in what manner he or she wants to receive information and communicate with others. The possibility of communicating anonymously must be ensured for everyone. The power of the private sector and of governments over personal data increases the risk of abuse, including monitoring and surveillance. Such activities must be kept to a legally legitimized minimum in a democratic society, and must remain accountable. The collection, retention, processing, use and disclosure of personal data, no matter by whom, should remain under the control of and determined by the individual concerned.
Regulation and the Rule of Law
(now section 2.2.9 of CS Declaration)
National regulation should be in full compliance with international human rights standards, adhering to the rule of law. Information and communication societies must not result in any discrimination or deprivation of human rights resulting from the acts or omission of governments or of non-state actors under their jurisdictions. Any restriction on the use of ICTs must pursue a legitimate aim under international law, be prescribed by law, be strictly proportionate to such an aim, and be necessary in a democratic society.
(now section 2.2.3 of CS Declaration)
Good government administration and justice in a democratic society implies openness, transparency, accountability, and compliance with the rule of law. Respect for these principles is needed to enforce the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs. Public access to information produced or maintained by governments should be enforced, ensuring that the information is timely, complete and accessible in a format and language the public can understand. This further applies to access to documents of corporations relating to their activities affecting the public interest, especially in situations where the government has not made such information public.
(now section 2.2.4 of CS Declaration)
ICTs are progressively changing our way of working. The creation of fair, secure, safe and healthy working conditions, appropriate to the utilisation of ICTs, which respect international labour standards, for instance through tripartite social dialogue, is fundamental. ICTs should be used to promote awareness of, respect for and enforcement of universal human rights standards and international labour standards. Essential human rights, such as privacy, freedom of expression, the right for on-line workers to form and join trade unions and the right of trade unions to function freely, including to communicate with employees, must be respected in the workplace.
Key civil society demands
(now part of Conclusion of CS Declaration)
Host countries and institutions contributing to and participating in the post-Geneva WSIS process should fully respect the principles enunciated in the Declaration adopted at the Geneva Summit, including those relating to human rights that are fundamental to the information and communications society. These include, but are not limited to the freedoms of expression, association and information.
In preparation for the WSIS second phase in 2005, an Independent Commission on Information, Communication and Human Rights, composed of highly qualified experts with a broad geographical representation, should be established to monitor practices and policies and submit recommendations to the Summit. Its mandate should include a review of national and international ICT regulations and practices and their conformity with international human rights standards, the governance of current decision-making bodies in the ICT field, and the potential applications of ICTs to the realisation of the right to development and the essential human rights for sustainable human development, the right to education and the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one's family, including food and medical care.
Furthermore, the importance of the issues of human rights of WSIS justifies that these issues be addressed within the procedures of the Commission on Human Rights or its Sub-Commission, in order to ensure among others monitoring of threats to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom from surveillance, applications of ICT to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and to human rights education, and to recommend measures conducive to advancing human rights in information and communication societies.
Web site and mailing list of the HRIS caucus: www.iris.sgdg.org/actions/smsi/hr-wsis/
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