[IRP] APC rights charter / Internet bill of rights

Anriette Esterhuysen anriette
Mon Jun 15 13:55:04 EEST 2009

Dear Lisa

A few answers from me. Other colleagues from APC can add. We are all a
bit swamped right now as we are en route to board and staff meetings in
Argentina, finishing our audit, board reports and so on :)

> Sorry for joining this discussion so late, and thanks again to APC for
> inviting our participation in the review of the charter.  I just have
> a couple of questions to the folk at APC, and a couple of wider
> comments/questions?
>  APC - Would it be possible to give us a bit of background about why
> you?ve decided to review the charter? 

This is the second major revision of the charter. The charter was first
developed in 2000/2001, and revised in 2006. 

Because we tend to use the charter as a frame of reference in our policy
advocacy we are quite aware of its strengths, but also its weaknesses.
We have always assumed that it would need to be udpated from time to
time and work as a living document. But perhaps there is a different
route, and you kind of describe that below.

Conceptually however, because the APC charter is premised on the
're-interpretation of existing rights frameworks' in contemporary
contexts, it would need to be updated from time to time as these
contexts change.

On Fri, 2009-06-12 at 14:15 +0100, Lisa Horner wrote:
Hi all
>  I think that might help guide the editing process.  What was the
> process of creating the original charter, and are there any specific
> issues that you think now need to be addressed?

The charter emerged from two processes: (1) APC's first internet rights
project in Europe, dating back to 1999. This was a time when civil
society activists first realised that the internet was not going to
remain free and open. Who remembers Echelon?

(2) APC's regional ict policy monitor projects in Latin America and
Africa, which started in 2001 and focused not just on human rights on
the internet, but also access and affordability.

We needed a 'checklist' to help local organisations involved in policy
analyse and advocate from a rights perspective (a lot of new ICT
policies were being formulated at the time, particularly in development
countries, but also at regional level in Europe). 

We were part of earlier processes, notably Cees Hamelink's people's
communications charter, but we felt that we needed something new, and
internet specific. Not long after the APC IR charter came out CRIS also
drafted a charter, which we participated in.

But tactically APC decided to avoid the conflict between the 'old
rigths' and 'new rights' movements prevalent at the time.

Therefore our charter is rooted in the principle of re-interpreting
existing rights. You can read more about how we developed this approach
in a bottom-up way with our members in Asia, Africa and Latin America in
"Involving civil society in ICT policy" which APC co-published with CRIS
in 2003.

>  Did you have feedback from different people about what might make it
> more useful, and how do you envisage using the charter in the future? 

Both versions were developed in a rush. The first one perhaps more so
with the primary authors being APC staff who were not rights experts.
The second draft had some input from a human rights lawyer and on, e.g.
privacy, from a privacy expert.  But still most of the writing was done
by us.

In general we get extremely positive feedback from people working at
national level on the charter. They feel it helps them understand what
is meant when people talk about human rights on the internet. And it
helps them think about what kind of policies they want, or that they
don't want.

We were amazed by the spontaneous way in which APC members and partners
translated the document into multiple languages.. (22 or 23 now). We
felt the document still had loads of weaknesses, but for many people it
made a lot of sense.

We tried to bring it to the attention of the 'Bill of rights' group from
the outset, but it was only when Max took this on board that we

>  Finally, is there a timescale/deadline for this?

That is up to you and this group. The updating is now a collective
process. But always a good idea to set a timeline.

> IRP coalition members ? When the coalition name changed from ?bill of
> rights? to ?IRP?, there was a fairly large contingent of people who
> were keen to still work on an internet bill of rights.  But there
> haven?t been any responses to this invitation from APC to work on this
> charter.  Is there any reason for that?is this the kind of thing that
> people had in mind?  Or is it just a case of not having enough time?I
> know we?d all like more of that!

> Finally, I was wondering about the use of the term ?rights? in the
> charter.  I personally fall into the camp of people saying we don?t
> need new rights for the internet ? just that we need to interpret and
> apply the human rights that are already enshrined in international
> law.  I think that initiatives like this charter are an important way
> of doing that, and I realise that the charter explicitly says that
> that the new rights are rooted in the UDHR.  But for me, the
> statements in the charter are ?principles? that flesh out the meaning
> of our human rights in the context of the internet.  I think that a
> wider range of people might engage with the charter if we simply
> change ?all people should have the right to?? to ?all people should be
> able to? or other such language.

Yes, if we stick to the principle of reviving and re-interpreting
existing rights that would be the way to go.

Personally, my own perspective is rather open at the moment. 

As a human rights activist (not expert) I started working on the APC
Internet Rights Charter believing very strongly in not arguing for new

However, with recent success in Ecuador where APC and other
communications networks argued sucessfully for the inclusion of
information and communication rights in the new constitution I am
beginning to wonder if the anti-new rights stance does not make
political sense.

The truth is, as the purist human rights organisations who don't like
talk about 'new' rights know... the UDHR is not that widely respected,
or enforced. In many countries where governments are actively anti-human
rights one could potentially get further by adopting a 'new rights'

This is a question of strategcy and tactics, and does not mean we should
change the spirit of the charter... but it should be kept in mind.

> This may seem like semantics, but I think it might make a significant
> difference to how the wider human rights community and other
> stakeholders view the charter.  However, I?d still like to participate
> in this process if we stick with rights.  But I just wanted to open
> the discussion up to see what people think?

My personal wish for this process is one that I have had since working
on the first draft in 2001....  to strengthen the document so that it
has greater credibility and robustness in terms of existing rights
frameworks - but without losing its popular appeal.

I want the involvement of people that have expertise in international
law, in human rights law, that understand the mechanics of legal and
rights language, but that are also willing to accept that they can be
quite alienating in their approach and use of language.

My question is, I guess, if we can combine this approach with the kind
of popularisation of internet rights awareness that we have been fairly
successful in?  

We still need a charter that can contribute to building a global
movement, and that can be used on an everyday level at national level by
people who are still struggling for these rights.


> All the best,
> Lisa
> From:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
> [mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf
> Of karen banks
> Sent: 23 May 2009 08:48
> To: anriette at apc.org; Max Senges
> Cc: irp
> Subject: Re: [IRP] Right to Freedom of Movement: Partnering with APC
> to review the Internet Rights Charter
> hi all
> > One quick question: should we use our mailing list as communication
> > channel for discussions about changes or do you have a seperate list
> > setup?
> Or, just use the wiki?
> We do have a list setup - rights at lists.apc.org - which might be easier
> to use for discussion - as opposed to comments on charter revision..
> are people happy moving discussion to rights at lists.apc.org ?
> you can subscribe here:
> http://lists.apc.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/rights
> karen
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anriette esterhuysen - ?executive director
association for progressive communications
p o box 29755 melville - south africa 2109
anriette at apc.org - tel/fax + 27 11 726 1692

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