[IRP] IRP IGF notes

parminder parminder
Tue Sep 21 20:08:50 EEST 2010

Dear Lisa

I request clarification on one point.

I did try strongly during the meeting to make the point that we should 
take the first phase or charter text writing as a rather technical one, 
whereby a concrete document to work on has been assembled, and that we 
should be clear that the next stage is going to be a political one. We 
should accordingly plan our steps ahead, and one of my suggestions 
supported by a few others was that we should go to frontline grassroots 
organizations working on human rights to validate our work ( and not 
just CoE, UNESCO etc).  I also clearly remember at least Meryem clearly 
and unequivocally support the notion that it is now going to be a 
political process, and the 'expertise part' is just one aspect of the 

  However I see the note presenting the process forward as still largely 
a technical/ expertise oriented process.

    "Looking forward, I think there?s a general feeling that we still
    need some kind of expert group to make sure that the text is
    accurate and strong. That will also help us guard against any
    *political* (emphasis added)/corporate/other influence on the
    substance of the text."

My organization seeks to bring nothing other than 'political influence', 
which seems to be sought to be guarded against here , to the process 
through representation, to our best capability, of the interests of the 
people and groups we work with. We are indeed not an expert 
organization, and so in the present formulation of the process going 
forward I am not sure how to see our role.

I simply do not think HRs are a technical issue at all. They are as 
political as anything can be. And as our political consciousness and the 
political nature of our society evolves (for example through and because 
of globalisation) rights also evolve. We need to take HR documents as 
our principal instruments but also go to the edges where new political 
consciousness is arising in a collective construction of the nature of 
the society people consider just and fair to all. For instance their are 
grassroots organizations fighting for reproductive rights of young women 
and I am not quite sure if they figure in UNHDR.

Let me quote from a text on HRs - 'Normative and Theoretical Foundations 
of Human Rights'

"The rhetoric of human rights can sometimes obscure

    the many ways in which the human rights movement
    is a political movement. The talk of universalism, of
    common standards for human kind, and of inalienable
    and self-evident rights, can give the impression that all
    the big questions about human rights are settled. As
    even a cursory investigation of the history of the human
    rights idea shows, however, the greater part of what we
    appeal to when we appeal to human rights is contro-
    versial and contested."

In fact, I am unable to accept that the present exercise is simply an 
'effort to translate existing human rights standards to apply to the 
Internet'. (BTW, if it were so , how do right to the Internet, and right 
of equality over the Internet (network neutrality or network equality)) 
figure in the present text. Such a view valorises the so called negative 
rights against positive rights vis a vis the Internet, and I think this 
is one of the principle political economy questions that this global 
group will have to face up to, and address squarely.

So my view is that we should not try to fit an expressly political 
exercise into ill-fitting technical clothes. This is my primary response 
to the notes for the present. I will go more minutely through the text a 
little later for any specific comments.

Thanks, and best regards


On Monday 20 September 2010 02:57 PM, Lisa Horner wrote:
> Hi all
> Thanks to everyone for a great IGF....both those of you who were there 
> in person, and those who were participating and tweeting from afar.  
> The Charter went down really well, and I think we've successfully 
> raised the profile of the coalition in the IGF.  So well done everybody!
> I've jotted down some notes below about discussuions that were had 
> about the Charter and other coalition business at the IGF, and tried 
> to draw out outcomes and next steps.  If I have anything wrong, please 
> do say.  Also if you disagree with any of my suggestions for next 
> steps or would like to discuss further.
> Apologies for the length of the notes...we discussed a lot, and I 
> think it's important to keep everyone in the loop.
> Thanks again to everyone for their hard work.  Onwards and 
> upwards...let's make this year even better!
> All the best,
> Lisa
> * *
> *General Reception to the Charter *
> ? This was fantastic. A wide range of people expressed a lot of 
> interest in the Charter process, including new faces and people who 
> have in the past been a bit more sceptical about the effort. It?s 
> really emphasised for me the importance of concrete initiatives in 
> mobilising people and getting them involved.
> ? Our workshop was really busy - there weren?t enough chairs or copies 
> of the Charter for everyone (we had around 55 copies).
> ? There were a few critical comments. These included opinions that:
> ? It?s not closely related to the internet ? a rehashing of rights 
> rather than elaboration on internet issues. We don?t need to restate 
> rights that are the same online and offline.
> ? It?s a bit too negative and gives too much ground (i.e. not coming 
> out strongly enough on condemning internet censorship and giving too 
> much space to permitted restrictions on content and expression).
> ? It doesn?t focus enough on worse case scenarios.
> ? The language is misleading in places, and could easily be 
> misinterpreted. Definitions of issues aren?t clear ? i.e. what is an 
> ?internet offence?.
> ? It?s not practical, visionary or enforceable enough. Too simplistic.
> ? It?s too wide ranging, brings too much together, and isn?t clear 
> enough between rights and principles.
> ? I think some of these comments are valid, and we can work to take 
> them on board.
> ? However, on the whole, the response was tremendously positive. On 
> balance, the vast majority supported the Charter. Whilst there were 
> reservations over content, the process was really commended. People 
> said that it was a much needed text and process, and applauded our 
> efforts. New people have come on board and want to participate. 
> Furthermore a number of people have said that the Charter will really 
> help them in their work. There was real energy and enthusiasm. So I 
> think we all deserve a huge pat on the back ? congratulations everyone!
> The discussions we had in the coalition and with the wider IGF 
> community have helped us to identify a few next steps (below). Here?s 
> what I think came out of it all...for those who have participated, 
> please do correct me if I?m wrong! Also, we can discuss these next 
> steps that I suggest...please send your thoughts and ideas through.
> *1) Objectives of the Charter*
> ? We've identified three overarching objectives of the Charter (in 
> addition to its immediate aim of translating UDHR rights to apply to 
> the internet):
> - To provide a platform for dialogue and collaboration between 
> different stakeholders.
> - To provide an authoritative document that can influence policy 
> making and norms
> - To provide an information resource for different groups, with a 
> focus on policy makers.
> ? In most of our discussions, I think there was a general sense that 
> we couldn't expect to be able to take the document to the UN or member 
> states and demand its ratification/incorporation into law. At least 
> not in the short term. Instead, our aims are more related to a 
> bottom-up process of norm setting, and the provision of a useful 
> document that people can use in policy and law making, and in advocacy.
> ? Whilst we didn't have an in-depth discussion on the ownership of the 
> Charter, I got the sense that some would still like us to follow a 
> process of getting endorsements. If we go down this route, it would 
> perhaps be better to aim for endorsements by individuals rather than 
> organisations, given our multi-stakeholder status. But my feeling in 
> the short term is that we should focus on getting the text right, and 
> keep it as an IRP coalition document. But let's discuss this further.
> *2) **Length of the charter and the punchy working group*
> ? There was some discussion about the length of the Charter. Some felt 
> that it was too long and unwieldy, covering too wide a range of 
> rights. However, most felt that we shouldn?t try to reduce the length. 
> Some commented that we shouldn?t be worried about making it even 
> longer. There was a general feeling that part of the value of the 
> Charter lies in its comprehensiveness, and its attempt to cover all of 
> the issues and the relationship between them.
> ? However, to complement the detailed and somewhat technical document, 
> there was a strong sense both within and outside the coalition that we 
> should produce a short, punchy and visionary document that outlines 
> the top level principles. This could be a tool for advocacy and 
> mobilisation.
> ? We felt we didn't need to wait to finish the consultation process 
> before we start on this.
> ? Brett, Shaila, Henrik, Dixie, Karmen and Carlos have formed an aptly 
> named ?punchy working group? to take the lead with this. Brett ? could 
> you update us on your workplan?
> *3) **Incorporating technical feedback *
> ? There was a feeling that the text is currently not as coherent as it 
> could be. Some felt that some of the wording might cause 
> misunderstandings or was inconsistent with human rights language and 
> standards.
> ? It was also felt that the two levels we wanted to use to structure 
> the Charter (human rights and interpretive principles) were sometimes 
> not clearly separated out in section 1 of the document.
> ? We decided that we should look at these issues before we consult 
> further on the Charter. We don?t want to change the content or real 
> substance of the Charter. The only changes that will be made at this 
> stage are intended to correct and to clarify what?s already there.
> ? I suggested that Dixie Hawtin (Global Partners) takes the lead with 
> this work. Dixie will have some capacity in the coming weeks, and has 
> a background and qualifications in human rights law. She would be 
> supported by Wolfgang and Meryem in this work, and also other human 
> rights contacts that she has.
> ? Meryem has also said that she will be able to complete the draft of 
> the second section, producing tables for the missing groups of rights.
> ? If you have any concerns about the current text in terms of language 
> or phrasing, this is your chance to send them through. Please make 
> your comments by email to the list. Please be as specific and 
> constructive as you can with your comments, referring to specific 
> articles and making suggestions for changes in the text where 
> necessary. DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS: 10 October. We will produce a new 
> draft by 31 October. This will be Draft 1.1.
> *4) **Once we have Draft 1.1 ? next steps*
> ? We had a lot of discussion about where to take the Charter from 
> here. I think there was general consensus that working towards 
> creating an improved and solid version 2.0 by the next IGF would be a 
> good idea (assuming it happens!).**
> ? We agreed that we need to go to specific institutions with 
> expertise, like CoE, Unesco and traditional human rights organisations. **
> ? I think what also really came out of this IGF was the value of the 
> *process* of creating the Charter as a means of fostering 
> participation, collaboration, outreach and a general sense of 
> ownership. I think most agreed in our discussions that we could, and 
> should, try and foster a broad-based consultation process, inviting 
> comments and participation from as many people as possible through our 
> own networks and beyond. However, we also agreed that the Charter 
> itself is not supposed to be a consensus document. Rather, it?s a 
> genuine effort to translate existing human rights standards to apply 
> to the internet. So we agreed that we could invite comments from a 
> wide range of people (according to a framework/list of questions), 
> under the understanding that we don?t necessarily have to incorporate 
> them all. We will however consider them all, and use them as a 
> resource to improve and strengthen the text where we can.**
> ? We had a very quick discussion about the role of the expert group, 
> in our planning and our debrief meeting. We?re extremely grateful for 
> the work that our experts have done so far on the text, working on a 
> voluntary basis. Special thanks to Wolfgang for leading on section 1, 
> and Meryem for section2. **
> ? Looking forward, I think there?s a general feeling that we still 
> need some kind of expert group to make sure that the text is accurate 
> and strong. That will also help us guard against any 
> political/corporate/other influence on the substance of the text. **
> ? I?d like to suggest that we shift modes a bit to form some kind of 
> oversight group that helps to ensure that the text is accurate and 
> meaningful as we move forwards. Maybe we could make the group a bit 
> bigger, with people with different backgrounds and expertise. Now we 
> have a good draft, I think this group should play a supportive rather 
> than a drafting role....that we can ask them for advice on specific 
> issues and to check the text. These are just my ideas at the 
> moment....we should discuss this further. If you have any thoughts on 
> this, please feed them in!**
> ? We will draft a framework and plan for consulting on the Charter as 
> we move forwards, based on ideas from our meetings here at the IGF. 
> I?ll send a draft of this through asap for comments, and we can take 
> it from there.**
> ? Carlos has kindly volunteered to look into technological platforms 
> that we can use to collect and collate comments from wider networks, 
> learning from the experience of the Brazilian civil rights framework 
> process.
> *In depth policy discussions*
> ? I think there?s a lot of work to be done on section 2 of the Charter 
> ? this is where we?re teasing out the roles and responsibilities of 
> different stakeholders, defining more specific principles, and 
> exploring where the boundaries and limitations might lie in relation 
> to specific issues.
> ? I?m really keen to explore ways of holding in-depth discussions, 
> preferably face to face, on these issues. Bringing together top 
> experts from different stakeholder groups to really thrash out the 
> issues. We?d need to find some funding for this. If you have any 
> ideas, please let?s discuss. Whether it?s collaborating on a funding 
> proposal or encouraging small contributions to put into a central pot 
> of funds.
> *5) **Other coalition business*
> ? Most of our coalition discussions here at the IGF focused on the 
> Charter. We agreed this would be the focus of our work as we move 
> forwards. But we?ll also of course encourage other initiatives that 
> people want to undertake, and we should keep an eye on the IGF 
> process...especially as its future is still unclear.
> ? We should start thinking about making our formal feedback statement 
> about this year?s IGF...any volunteers to take the lead with that?
> ? We also need to continue the discussion about funding. There was 
> general agreement that we don?t want to formalise the coalition in 
> terms of legal status or membership...its value and power lies in its 
> flexibility and openness. But there was also agreement that we need 
> funding if we want to reach our full potential...not least to hold 
> meetings to foster collaboration and work on the Charter. But also so 
> that a wider range of people might be able to take the chair in the 
> future.
> ? We have a few options and can continue to discuss. One is for our 
> existing organisations to raise and administer funds on behalf of the 
> coalition. Another is to house ourselves within an organisation with a 
> formal structure...I suggested Global Partners? sister charity, Global 
> Dialogue, which is currently housing two human rights networks. These 
> are thoroughly independent, but can take advantage of GD?s 
> registration as a UK charity to raise and administer money. If you?d 
> like to discuss this further, please do let me know.
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