Human rights advocacy: Strategies for the digital age

7 Dec 2016 17:30h - 19:00h

Event report

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Ms Laura Cunningham, Team Lead, Internet Freedom, US Department of State, introduced the session and talked about strategic approaches to advocacy issue in this field. She noted that there are a number of challenges that are unique in the field of human rights in that there is not enough money, time, or resources. She shared legal and technical policy implications that have ramifications in a world that has become increasingly digitalised. She noted that we must learn how to take advantage of opportunities to achieve our goals, and gave some insight about developing tools.

Mr Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Chair, Global Partners Digital Advisory Board, gave an introduction to advocacy, and presented his new publication for UNESCO on the freedom of expression and the Internet. He suggested some key questions for advocacy: Who needs the change, what is the required impact, and what is the incentive for relevant stakeholders to help. He also mapped the threats, policy areas, and processes relevant to the IG.

IG mapping is needed to prioritise the issue areas to be identify advocacy activities that can be carried out to achieve policy change. There is a need to identify potential allies, opportunities for change, and barriers, and to discuss potential avenues to overcome these obstacles to maximise the impact of their advocacy work.

Ms Lisa Vermeer, Senior Policy Officer on Internet Freedom, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talked about how the current IG ecosystem is not only complex, but must present other tools for civil society actors advocating for human rights in the digital age. A continuing problem is that of perception in government officials who still impose a securitised IG system. She mentioned that resources for effective engagement for advocacy work are limited, and some spaces are not open to multistakeholder engagement, making strategic approaches even more crucial. To effectively engage in these spaces, human rights defenders need to be aware of the ecosystem they operate in, the actors involved, and the barriers they face, and develop strategies to overcome these.

The focused workshop groups talked about the best advocacy strategies when it comes to strengthening strategic advocacy, which would be effective in offering an opportunity for human rights defenders of all stakeholder groups to share lessons learned about their advocacy work, map barriers they are facing, and jointly develop strategic approaches to overcome these. Advancing strategic engagement skills is also likely to benefit new voices of human rights defenders with limited resources to participate meaningfully.

There is a need to do initial mapping of Internet governance debates and trends relevant to human rights online and to share similar mappings among those already carried out.

Based on the outcomes of the initial debate, participants broke into different groups to discuss issues according to their own preferences. Within these groups, they discussed strategic advocacy approaches relevant for their respective issues, including the identification of actors, opportunities, and potential future plans for engagement.

by Hamza Ben Mehrez, Internet Society Tunisia