Human Rights Council – 31st session

29 Feb 2016 - 24 Mar 2016

Geneva, Switzerland

[Update] The Geneva Internet Platform team is reporting from the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council. Read the reports:


Online child sexual exploitation tackled during 31st Session of Human Rights Council (7 March)

by Emanuele Sacchetto

Technology is undoubtedly an important vehicle for global development. Yet, children are increasingly exposed to risks online. The issues related to online child sexual exploitation, and how to mitigate online risks, were the subject of a dedicated Human Rights Council discussion on 7 March during its 31st session.

With child sexual abuse on the rise, criminals are able to perpetrate offences related to online child sexual abuse material with more ease and anonymity. This makes the identification of perpetrators one of the most challenging issues in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children. Member states present during the discussion agreed that governments have an important role to play in monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting crimes, and many States, such as Bolivia and Argentina, stressed the need to reinforce laws at national level.

Since online child sexual exploitation is a global problem, is needs a global solution. State representatives affirmed the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, and the role that States need to play. A comprehensive legal framework, which is strong at both substantive and procedural levels, was also important.

Interpol Assistant Director for Vulnerable Communities Michael Moran stressed the need for cooperation among the States, highlighting Interpol’s efforts in advising governments over policy and legislative action. The importance of the NGOs’ good practices – in guiding States, businesses, parents and children, and other stakeholders – is undoubted. The business sector also plays a fundamental role, as the industry is in the best position to find technical solutions and to implement child safety measures.

Another important aspect relates to the protection of and support for victims. Identification of victims presents a challenge; in fact, it is estimated that over 50,000 victims have not yet been identified. Hence, it is relevant to consider the issue from a victim-centred perspective, and to provide support for victims.

The fundamental role of prevention was also discussed at length. Protecting children entails educating them on how to use the Internet is a safe way. Gaby Reyes, from the Asociación Crecer en Red (Peru), underlined the necessity to work with children and families together. Children’s participation in the discussion is fundamental since the issues affect them directly. Moreover, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation stressed the necessity to include families in the multi-stakeholder discussion. 

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, proposed that ICT companies selling tech products such as phones or computers should provide a special leaflet with information on the online risks which users of such products can be exposed to.

Many good practices related to prevention emerged during the debate. Among others, Google’s representative Brittany Smith explained how the company was committed to educating children on using technology in a safe way. In particular, Google is leading a project to train teenagers to be ‘information ambassadors’ in their community, to teach others on the safe use of technology and how to be aware of online risks, especially in countries where there is little awareness of these problems.

In relation to education and information, the importance of addressing and educating parents was underlined, as parents have the responsibility and possibility to better protect their children. Schools and the media also play an important role in sensitising children. However, since not every child attends school, the approach requires a diversification among the various contexts and world communities.

In conclusion, it was agreed that efforts to combat online child sexual abuse should not include restricting access to the Internet for children, as this would only limit their creativity and development. Rather, the best way was to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders and, above all, to continue educating and sensitising children about online risks.

Learn more about child online safety and children’s rights in a digital world.


The right to privacy: Presentation of the report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (9 March)

by Aye Mya Nyein

On 9 March 2016, the Special Rapporteur on the right to Privacy (SRP), Mr Joseph Cannataci, presented the first report of his mandate at the 31st  session of the Human Right Council in Geneva. He has occupied this position since August 2015 following the establishment of the mandate in Resolution 28/18 (‘The right to privacy in the digital age’). Cannataci’s emphasis in the first six months of office was on consultations with many stakeholders from different parts of the world to carry out the mandate.

In the absence of a definition of privacy accepted universally and contextualised to local sensitivities, the SRP report makes a few conceptual clarifications for the focus of the mandate:

  • emphasis on informational privacy (function and role of privacy in determining the flows of information in society)
  • taking rights in conjunction rather than in opposition: privacy and security instead of privacy vs security
  • privacy as an enabling right rather than as an end in itself

Developing safeguards without borders and remedies across borders is a key theme of the report, which draws on current developments around encryption, invalidation of the Safe Harbor agreement and mass surveillance concerns. It calls for cooperation across sectors to achieve the right to privacy and to ensure that various concerns and perspectives are taken into account. Seven areas for in-depth thematic studies were identified:  

  1. Privacy and personality across cultures
  2. Corporate online business models and personal data use
  3. Security, Surveillance, proportionality and cyberpeace
  4. Open Data and Big Data analysis: impact on privacy
  5. Genetics and privacy
  6. Privacy, dignity and reputation
  7. Biometrics and privacy

In addition to these studies, the working methods adopted by the SRP and his team include: country monitoring (based on a database of policies, laws, practices to map concerns and best-practices), review of individual complaints, joint actions and public engagement activities.

Noting the commodification of data underlying corporate on-line business models, on the one hand, and privacy-intrusive state actions, on the other hand, Cannataci proposes a ten-point action plan:

  1. Going beyond the existing legal framework to a deeper understanding of what it is that we have pledged to protect
  2. Increasing awareness
  3. The creation of a structured, on-going dialogue about privacy
  4. A comprehensive approach to legal, procedural and operational safeguards and remedies
  5. A renewed emphasis on technical safeguards
  6. A specially-focused dialogue with the corporate world
  7. Promoting national and regional developments in privacy-protection mechanisms
  8. Harnessing the energy and influence of civil society
  9. Clarification of key concepts like cyberspace, cyber-privacy, cyber-espionage, cyberwar and cyberpeace through thematic studies
  10. Investing further in international law- updating legal instruments through an expanded understanding of the right to privacy

The report was positively received and the reactions focused on definitions and challenges to achieving privacy. The links between privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of religion were also discussed.


Event announcement

The 31st session of the Human Rights Council will be held on 29 February – 24 March 2016 at the Palais des Nations, Room XX, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child will be held 7 March 2016,  9 – 12 a.m. and 3 – 6 p.m., Palais des Nations, Room XX, Geneva and will be broadcast live and archived on . The theme will be: Information and communications technology and child sexual exploitation.

Documents for 30th session of the Human Rights Council 
14 September – 2 October 2015

The Human Rights Council holds three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least ten weeks. They take place in March (four weeks), June (three weeks) and September (three weeks).

If one third of the Member States requests so, the Human Rights Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

More information about HRC sessions can be found here.