[IRP] Blogpost: Egypt and the Complicated Ethics of the Telecommunications Industry

Lisa Horner LisaH
Wed Feb 2 12:19:38 EET 2011


We've had some discussions in the coalition in relation to the Charter about roles and responsibilities of the private sector.  Part of the power of the Charter lies in its human rights framing, and that comes with its own approach to ethical issues and responsibilities.  Human rights legally bind states to act in certain ways towards their citizens, look after their basic needs etc.  They aren't binding on companies.  But in our discussions, we've broadly agreed to follow John Ruggie's "respect, protect and fulfill" framework, in which companies have moral responsibilities to respect human rights. There seems to be consensus emerging around this framework in the international human rights community. Also, states are obliged to make sure that companies aren't violating rights...

So....the articles in section one of the Charter refer primarily to the responsibilities of states.  But we're also encouraging all companies to use the standards as guidelines...in the preamble we say: 

	"However, other actors also have responsibilities under the International human rights regime. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on "every individual and 	every organ of society" to promote and respect human rights. While these responsibilities do not equate to legal obligations (unless they have been enacted as such 	under national legislation) they do form part of prevailing social norms which companies and other private organizations should respect.
	Thus while the primary responsibilities under the Charter remain with governments, the Charter also provides guidance to governments about how they must ensure that 	private companies are respecting human rights, and guidelines to companies about how they should behave so as to respect human rights in the Internet environment."

But we also have sections 2 and 3.  Section 2 (yet unwritten) is going to lay out the legal and other standards that underpin each article, and explore a little bit what steps would need to be taken to uphold it.  This may involve working with the private sector in different ways.

Section 3 is the matrix of roles and responsibilities for different groups that Meryem started work on.  The draft is here: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ArEcBWyGO2nQdEdBTlNuTHNxUXVSaml1RUdzR1VKa2c&hl=en 

We haven't really done much work on this, and quite urgently need to look at it.  The approach it takes at the moment is to flesh out the articles of the charter a bit more, and outline who has responsibilities to uphold user rights.  I think we may need to add another column, looking at the steps each entity could be taking, or definitely should not be taking.  We also need to draft the matrix for other bundles of rights - at least A2K and development. 

Is anyone interested in developing this section of the Charter?  We could form a working group around it...and/or ask relevant folk to help...BSR, GNI....

What do you think...does this cover the CSR issues enough for the Charter?  There's also the option of linking to GNI documents - they've done a pretty good job of setting out best practice for companies operating in countries with limited rights protections.

All the best,

-----Original Message-----
From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org [mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of Michael Gurstein
Sent: 02 February 2011 03:56
Subject: [IRP] Blogpost: Egypt and the Complicated Ethics of the Telecommunications Industry

Interesting piece particularly if seen in the context of the Charter
	does the Charter have anything to say about these issues?
	does it say the right things?
	are the general issues raised covered in the Charter?
	should the Charter address "ethical" issues more broadly including
those that might impact on individuals/corporatiions?
Those sorts of things.



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