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ICTs in support of human rights, democracy and good governance

ICTs in Support of Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance   Word  PDF

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The common ground upon which information and communication technologies (ICTs) and human rights can be analyzed was forged two years ago at the United Nations Millennium Summit, which resulted in a declaration that affirmed common global commitments to the protection of the vulnerable, the alleviation of poverty, and the rectification of corrupt structures and processes – particularly in those countries in which there is a dearth of ‘rule of law’.  The world's leaders resolved to ‘spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.’ 

Attention to the protection of human rights through the use of new communication technologies is an area of growing interest, not only from the point of view of the technology and communications sectors, but from the vantage point of those working toward the betterment of governance mechanisms and the continued development of an equitable ‘global civil society’.  This includes those who work at the community ‘grassroots’ level, as they form networks of collaboration that extend the span of their missions to the international stage, as well as major public/private sector and governmental entities.   

The current period of preparation for the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) – in which the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has a leading managerial role - offers an excellent opportunity to address tensions that exist between national, regional and global models of governance – particularly where hotly debated topics like human rights draw to the forefront of discussion key issues like transparency, accountability, and the universality of human rights principles.   This paper was written in the summer of 2002 as part of the preparatory work of the ITU Strategy and Policy Unit for the World Summit (See for further details).  

The paper analyzes human rights and governance issues as they pertain to ICTs for the WSIS forum, with a focus on the role of those who protect human rights and foster good governance.  Various players are increasingly leveraging and applying ICTs amidst various contending national, corporate and supranational interests, and their work represents a significant challenge for traditional distributions of power in the international system.  The way in which new communication technologies may be able to help realize some of the goals of the 2000 Millennium Declaration are explored in this paper, and various short case studies illustrate the relevance and importance of these discussion points.  The objective of this analysis is to adopt a rights-based perspective on the major established development goals – specifically encompassing the protection of human rights – that are to be realized through the Declaration. 


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Updated : 2011-04-04