[IRP] IRP IGF notes

parminder parminder
Wed Sep 22 08:35:03 EEST 2010

Dear Meryem and all.

Thanks for your email, Meryem. I know your position on these issues and, 
as you know, agree with them. But thanks for reiterating them on the 
list. I think these are some important issues that we should always keep 
in front of ourselves.

There were two issues I brought up in my email. One was about the 
technical versus political process, on which we agree.

The other was, if, given the monumental changes taking place around us 
today, it is inappropriate to even look at any new HRs if they do appeal 
to our collective consciousness and conscience reg equity, fairness and 
justice. On this we seem to have some amount of disagreement. Let me 
take these two issues separately, since this particular difference of 
view - reg 'freezing' or 'evolution' of rights - does admit that HRs are 
political, and claiming HRs is a political process.

First of all, let me clarify. I do think that HR experts have an 
important, even a leading, role as we go forward. I have no doubts about 
it. However, while I had been reading what appeared to be a certain 
'technicalisation' of the process between the lines in a good amount of 
text, I simply had to stop when I came to the text saying that experts 
would help shield against political influence. I felt that the 
difference of politics between those who back this *apolitical* view of 
rights and those who consider them primarily political is too huge for 
me to continue without making my point. (You know that 
'technicalisation', expertise-based, multistakeholderism, apolitical etc 
etc are peas of a pod when it comes to preparing the DNA of a new global 
order which which admits of *no* distributive demands on the powerful.)

Also I was more than a bit surprised that when I had strongly made a 
point - more the once - during the IRP meeting that that the the process 
from here on should be more clearly political. As Meryem reaffirms in 
this email, she clearly supported this point at the meeting. However, 
this point - very important and central to me - was not mentioned in the 
notes at all, even in the form 'some people were of the opinion.....'. 
Probably this point may look a bit rhetorical and devoid of any real 
specific meaning to some, but as i said, it is central to my 
organization's continued participation in the process.

I will deal with the 'freezing' rights versus evolutionary rights issue 
later in a separate email. We (Meryem and I) may indeed have some 
differences on this issue, though I am not completely sure. In any case, 
we do both certainly agree that whatever be our positions with regard to 
this issue, they are certainly political, and the debate would also be 

Thanks, once again. Regards. Parminder

On Wednesday 22 September 2010 02:17 AM, Meryem Marzouki wrote:
> Dear Parminder, Lisa and all,
> There is probably a misunderstanding here, due to the used wording. In 
> her summary, Lisa was still talking about an 'expert group', but at 
> the same time she was expressing the need to shift the role - and 
> maybe composition, by adding new volunteers - of the current expert 
> group.
> My own understanding or, should I say, my own position that I 
> expressed today on the current expert group list, in reaction to these 
> minutes, is:
> "I agree that we could include more HR experts, in case there are new 
> volunteers. I also agree that, once version 1.1 will be produced, and 
> a draft of the visionary preamble (so-called "punchy" document;)) will 
> be ready, the major need would be to set up a small group to take the 
> lead in the consultation process with HR NGOs and institutions.
> However, I think that, precisely for this role, we need some HR people 
> who are at the same time involved in the coalition. As I said during 
> our IRP Charter launch meeting, I hate being called an "expert", 
> because I consider this whole process of translating HR in the digital 
> environment, especially when getting to the specifics, a political 
> process where we affirm our positions and commitments, not a sole 
> academic/expertise  process.
> In any case, as both a drafter and a coalition member, as both an 
> academic and an activist, I remain interested in taking full part in 
> the continuation of this process after the production of version 1.1, 
> and in particular in contributing to prepare and to conduct the 
> subsequent consultations, and finally to work on version 2.0 of our 
> Charter to be presented at next IGF."
> In any case, we should all understand that the consultation process 
> with HR NGOs and institutions beyond the IGF community cannot be 
> conducted by the coalition as whole, if only for practical reasons, 
> especially if we succeed in organizing face to face consultations. And 
> yes, Parminder, we also need HR people (or 'experts') who are able and 
> legitimate enough to avoid some dangerous drifts, like e.g. "this is a 
> multiskakeholder process, thus we need to find consensus/compromise 
> among all interests" (no, there couldn't be any compromise on such 
> essential principles as those embedded in HR) or "we need to strike a 
> balance between <put whatever you want here>" (HR are inalienable, no 
> way to raise the status of what should remain an *exception* by 
> considering it as fundamental right), or accept any cultural 
> relativism (HR are universal), or put aside economic, social and 
> cultural rights (HR are indivisible and interdependent), or ...
> So, yes, this can only be a political process, and HR are by no means 
> a technical issue. Calling our process "an effort to translate 
> existing human rights standards to apply to the Internet" doesn't 
> imply that this is simply a technical process, but indeed an effort to 
> define what HR mean - how they 'translate' - in the digital 
> environment. This is clear in the Charter, in its section 1, and 
> probably even more in section 2, where we get to the specifics and 
> detailed translations. Well, if you have a better word than 
> 'translation', then it would be most welcome. But my opinion is that 
> 'translation' is good enough to mean what is meant in this process: we 
> are not going to define new rights and thus to enter in an endless - 
> and probably unsuccessful - effort to have them recognized, but we are 
> defining what HR standards, which are already well established and are 
> already binding States, need in pratice to be fully realized in this 
> environment. I have no doubt you fully understand that this approach 
> is also part of the political process, well, part of the strategy, at 
> least.
> Best,
> Meryem
> Le 21 sept. 10 ? 19:08, parminder a ?crit :
>> 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 process.
>>  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
>> parminder
>> On Monday 20 September 2010 02:57 PM, Lisa Horner wrote:
>>> <!--P { MARGIN-TOP: 0px; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 0px } -->
>>> 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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