Activists, Lawyers & Journalists: Renew IGF Mandate, Expand Civil Society Voices and Human Rights in Internet Governance | Freedom House

Activists, Lawyers & Journalists: Renew IGF Mandate, Expand Civil Society Voices and Human Rights in Internet Governance


November 13, 2015, João Pessoa, Brazil

We, the undersigned representatives of a group of global activists, journalists, academics, and lawyers from a dozen countries who attended and participated in the 10th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on November 10-13, 2015, in Joao Pessao, Brazil, as part of the Freedom House civil society delegation, make this statement at the meeting’s conclusion to highlight our positions and concerns.

We believe that the IGF is the most appropriate platform for discussions and debates about the future of the internet. We believe in the importance of upholding and strengthening the multistakeholder approach to ensure that the internet remains open, global, and secure. The multistakeholder approach remains one of the few viable options that civil society has to continue to participate and make our voice heard. It also allows us to help shape debates on human rights as they relate to the current discussions on security, privacy, surveillance, and bridging the digital divide.  

The 2015 Net Freedom report from Freedom House covering 65 countries from around the world assessing internet freedom indicate that for a fifth consecutive year internet freedom is in decline globally. Some of the repressive tools used include content removals, arrests and intimidation, harsh surveillance laws and technologies, which all allow governments to undermine encryption and users' anonymity. We hereby call the IGF community to understand the dangers these human rights violation practices entail and engage in discussions on how to ensure that the internet remains a tool of empowerment and not a tool of repression.

In calling for more protection of human rights online, our group makes the following recommendations:

1. Renew and extend the IGF mandate. The mandate is currently set to expire at the end of December 2015. We call on the UN member states to strongly support renewing and extending the IGF mandate. We believe that short-term mandates hinder the ability of the IGF to fully achieve the outcomes and stakeholders involved in it must seek better processes.

2. Expand the space for civil society voices. Civil society has a more thorough understanding of the opportunities, weaknesses, and problems related to the use of internet by people from all walks of life and from around the world. The input of civil society is essential and informative for the technology, business, and government communities for a better understanding of how the internet is used. Civil society is thus even more essential when it comes to developing countries where basic human rights both offline and online are severely violated. 

3. Adhere to international standards of human rights: all laws, policies, regulations, terms of service, user agreements, and other measures to govern the internet must adhere to international standards of human rights, including but not limited to Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression; Article 12, guaranteeing the right to privacy; and Article 20, guaranteeing the right to free association and Human Rights Council Resolution 20/8 – adopted by consensus in July 2012 – affirming “that the same rights that people have offline (in democratic countries) must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression,” and pledging to explore further “how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights.” 

We wish to thank the government of Brazil and the state government of Paraiba, João Pessoa for their warm hospitality and dedicated efforts in successfully hosting the 10th annual meeting of the Global IGF.


Freedom House

Carlos Brito, R3D, Mexico

Juan Diego Castañeda Gómez, Fundación Karisma, Colombia

Nighat Dad, Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan

Demba Kandeh, Front Page International, The Gambia

Anna Smirnova, Metro4All, Moscow

Pinda Phisitbutra, Foundation for Internet and Civic Culture, Thailand

Godfrey Twesigye, Unwanted Witness, Uganda

Dr. Raisa Urribarri, Emerita professor, Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela

Alfredo Velazco, Usuarios Digitales, Ecuador

Dhouha Ben Youssef ICT and Human Rights Specialist, Tunisia

Bouziane Zaid, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco