2022 Knowledge Exchange
GANHRI’s 2022 knowledge exchange provided an inclusive platform for NHRIs from all regions to share insights and experiences on both the opportunities and challenges presented to their mandate in the era of digitalisation.
Given the necessary move to digital platforms during the pandemic, this exchange was a timely opportunity to share good practices.
The world is shifting from analog to digital faster than ever before. The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has accelerated this shift even further.
Digitalisation is also impacting on national human rights institutions (NHRIs). NHRIs are increasingly users themselves of new technologies in the implementation of their mandate and functions – from monitoring and reporting to complaints handling, to human rights education and cooperation with civil society.
COVID-19 has made NHRIs even more reliant on digital technologies in the implementation of their mandate, including in connecting with their peers through GANHRI and other networks.
In many ways, digital technologies support NHRIs to exercise their mandates in the digital era more fully, by facilitating participation of people in the NHRI’s work, being present in communities, promoting narratives about human rights on social media, and ensuring fast and effective handling of digitalized complaints.
After an introductory address by GANHRI’s newly elected Chairperson, Maryam al-Attiyah, GANHRI’s Secretary, Amina Bouayach moderated the discussions in plenary.
Insightful presentations were shared by Minsub Kim NHRI Korea, Angela Maria Sánchez NHRI Colombia, and Scott Campbell and Birgit Kainz-Labbe from OHCHR.
The attendees were then split into two working groups moderated by Teresa Anjinho, NHRI Portugal and Branislav Marelic, NHRI Chile, for further exchange and discussion. These leading questions prompted their exchanges:
- As NHRIs, how are you using digital technologies to carry out your mandate and functions including monitoring, documenting and digital archives, reporting, human rights education, and complaints handling?
- What are your experiences in using digital technologies? Which are the promising practices you have identified, and the challenges you grapple with? What lessons do you wish to share with your peers?
- How do you ensure accessibility by all of your NHRI in the digital era? Please share experiences with regard to particular groups including persons with disabilities, persons in rural areas or living in poverty, children, and older people.
- As NHRIs, how do you help ensure human rights and civic space are protected in the digital era? Please reflect on your role, and exchange experience and lessons.
- What needs do you identify moving forward?
Technologies, it’s often said, provide us with unprecedented tools and unprecedented challenges for human rights.Scott Campbell, Senior Human Rights Officer and expert on technology and human rights, OHCHR
Positive outcomes and good practices identified by NHRIs across the board included the following:
- The digital space as a means to bring human rights advocacy and education closer to citizens, thus giving them a greater sense of ownership and empowerment.
- The potential to monitor human rights violations and even corruption on digital platforms.
- More rapid reporting and complaint handling via hotlines or WhatsApp numbers, some of which are dedicated to vulnerable groups such as woman or LGBTQ+ persons.
Challenges were also discussed, some of which mirror the positive outcomes to a certain extent. Among the most pressing were included:
- Those who are unfamiliar with digital technology, or who do not have access to digital resources- such as the elderly or those living in poverty- risk being left behind in the digital era.
- Inadequate resources to process and handle the increased number of complaints facilitated by digital platforms.
- Challenges in combatting the proliferation of hate speech, racism, and incitements to violence within the digital space, as well as human trafficking on the dark web.
For the Defensor del Pueblo, it is essential that technology helps to bring us closer to citizens and democratizes access to education surrounding human rights. – Angela Maria Sánchez, NHRI Colombia
The working groups returned to the plenary discussion, where they shared summaries of their exchanges, including recommendations for going forward. Key recommendations included:
- Strengthen monitoring of online hate speech and exploitation of the digital space which undermines the protection of human rights.
- Focus on capacity building to ensure that there are sufficient resources in place to process incoming complaints.
- Advocate for policies to combat digital terror and cyber-crimes.
- Develop training programs for those who are not familiar with digital technology to ensure they can also access necessary resources.
Dealing with digital terror and policies for dealing with private players should be put in place. – Justice Arun Kumar Mishra, NHRI India
The digital space expands the civic space, as was confirmed during the pandemic, and thanks to technology, NHRIs have been able to continue their work of protecting and promoting human rights.Amina Bouayach, GANHRI Secretary
The format of the event allowed significant opportunities for NHRIs to share their experiences and collect best practices and advice from peers on how to implement new technologies to their mandate.
The meeting was concluded by the moderators and GANHRI’s Secretary, Amina Bouayach. She further recommended that NHRIs fully integrate human rights in the digital space into their monitoring mechanisms, such as during the Universal Periodic Review.
In addition, she referred to GANHRI’s 2018 Marrakech Declaration on the role of NHRIs in expanding the civic space and protecting human rights defenders, particularly women.
Such work is just as important in the digital space as on the ground, and thus protecting the digital space cannot be divorced from the other aspects of the NHRIs’ mandates.