Protecting Human Rights Online: The Freedom Online Coalition

20 December 2017 - A Open Forum on Other in Geneva, Switzerland

Also available in:
Full Session Transcript

>> MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone.  We've only got an hour for the meeting.  I think we need to make the best use of the time.  My name's Andrew, I'm the chair of the support unit which provides the administrative backup to the freedom online coalition.  The coalition was launched in 2011 in a meeting in the Hague.  At that time it consisted of 11 countries.  There are now 30 governments.  And each of those countries has pledged to find ways at promoting human rights and democracy online.  And it's a unique coalition among governments within the Internet sphere that focuses exclusively on promoting human rights. 

 

 

We're going to have some contributions from the government to give us a bit of context as to where we've gone now.  I'm then going to bring in Ambassador Fitschen from Germany.  So we'll hear about the very exciting plans the Germans have got for the coalition next year.  And then we'll hear from a couple of colleagues about the advisory network, which is the opportunity for Civil Society and the business community and the academic community to participate in the work of the coalition.  And that's obviously something particularly relevant to all of these people in the room. 

 

 

Fantastically, I've got a hammer which I've never had before, chairing a meeting.  So in the shower this morning I was actually singing the Beatles song about a serial killer who has a little hammer.  So if the mood strikes me and I start wandering around the audience with a hammer, you'll know what to prepare, someone should wrestle me to the ground because it means I've finally lost my mind.  But hopefully that won't happen.  And I'll stay confined to and facilitate the meeting.  So I'm going to start first of all by asking Piret Urb just to give you a bit of background. 

 

 

>> PIRET URB: Thank you, Andrea.  I'm coming from Estonia from the ministry of foreign affairs.  And I'll just talk a few words after Estonian chairmanship what the freedom online coalition has been doing and how we've reached here where we are today.  So Estonian chairmanship from 2013 to 2014, and it ended up with an agenda for freedom online which all of you know which is one of the coalition's main principle documents next to the Hague declaration, Hague founding declaration.  After Estonia, Mongolia, the chairmanship (?) by the continent, not only by the country.  So after Mongolia, ISOC chairman moved to Latin America, so there was Costa Rica.  And after that, the chair was in charge of bringing forward the coalition.  And now we have Germany who just started yesterday.  But that's the main steps in the middle there, there was a work plan which was adopted.  So everybody had understood that the terms of reference which the coalition had since Nairobi 2012, that it became ‑‑ okay ‑‑ that it has became a bit old and was not (?) anymore, so there was a need to renew and to revise.  And now the new one is more substantial and there are also member responsibilities, and there's evaluation framework for member review and all the necessary things.  So the very important thing was during Stockholm Internet Forum where Freedom Online Coalition got together for nearly two full days and working on the new terms of reference which I just mentioned. 

 

 

There have been also new efforts to enhance ‑‑ to enhance our cooperation with the Civil Society.  When working groups, freedom online working group, there were three working groups.  We had very close cooperation with all the stakeholders.  But the working groups got their objectives done and the goal achieved.  So after that, we also want to continue with multistakeholder engagement.  So that has always been one of the goals for FOC and this continues to be very important for us.  So there will be a new call.  You'll hear very soon from the colleagues sitting on the other side of Andrea. 

 

 

And 2017 was also the year where the first program of action as such was created.  So that was like a kind of first attempt to work in a more strategical approach and to plan the work in order to get to be done more than in the past.  So FOC has become one of the leading forces in global norm development and human rights online as there have been quite many joint statements which are creating global norms.  And now there is also a plan ‑‑ program of actions for 2018, which is not finalized but, of course, he's going to talk more about it.  These two are very, very important also for FOC and for FOC members. 

 

 

So I guess this is more or less all that I wanted to say.  And of course, FOC continues to support our digital defenders partnership, DDP.  So they're the members of FOC who are the members of that and always contributing which means online voices are always very important, and that part has always been there and always continues.  And there are some additional members.  So next. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Thanks.  I'll next go to the ambassador of Germany to set out Germany's plans for the coming year.  Ambassador. 

 

 

>> THOMAS FITSCHEN: Yeah.  Thank you very much.  It's really a pleasure and an honor to sit up here and present the German work program for the freedom online coalition 2018.  It's great for all of my country to have found the support of everyone within the coalition so that we can take over the chairmanship of the coalition.  And let me remind you of the mission, of the purpose of the freedom online coalition.  Freedom online coalition describes itself as a group of government deeply committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the declaration of human rights.  We commit to working together and with all others who share these views to support that freedom and protect fundamental human rights and the coalition also aims to be ‑‑ and this is really the key word I like best ‑‑ FOC aims to be a proactive coalition that ensures freedom issues are on the international policy agenda as a way to drive concrete policy changes and outcomes. 

 

 

Key things on the agenda are not for the purpose of having an agenda but really for coming up with policy change and concrete results.  But that's more or less our guiding principle.  We take over the chairmanship at a time ‑‑ it has already been pointed out that after the ‑‑ with the new Stockholm frame of reference, we have basically a new set of procedural guidelines for our work, and we have also introduced a new mechanism which is the advisory network that we will talk about a little later.  So those two text and that new mechanism will have to be developed and actually be transformed.  So one of the first tasks of our work next year will be to make sure that all of this really gains traction and that it becomes a reality including, of course, the network.  

 

 

In terms of substance, I just mentioned we want to make a difference.  We are a proactive coalition.  Following from the Stockholm conference and as outlined in our form of excellence, still draft and not agreed, but almost done, we have identified three target areas and three main points of activity.  One is to look at global norms that seek to prevent and limit state‑sponsored restrictions online.  Here, of course, Geneva is one of the main premises and places where our action will be hopefully (?) with all of the different resolutions that come up in the human rights council.  And it's not just the online resolution, but there are also, as you all know, resolutions on human rights defenders which, of course, has ‑‑ may have an important connection with the online issues. 

 

 

We have a resolution on Internet freedom that is coming up for renewal.  We have activities in the human rights council to protect and defend the work space of Civil Society and civil rights defenders, so that is something that we may wish to support by drafting statements, a statement of the coalition.  We are also thinking of having a joint statement on Internet censorship that, of course, is ‑‑ those things are being drafted not by us, not by Germany, but that's a collective process that would involve all coalition members and, of course, with the active help of the Secretariat. 

 

 

The second area of activity would be supporting Civil Society voices online.  So we are thinking about drafting, again, I'm going to say we, the coalition thinks about developing a statement on Digital Divides.  We are also thinking of initiatives that foresee (?) and capacity for modernize groups freedom online activities, so bringing in other players and making sure that the coalition, 30 members with a proven track record of human rights protection and engagement for human rights online can really come in to support that type of activity.  And the third objective will be promoting and protecting human rights in the context of cybersecurity.  The whole cybersecurity debate is often framed in terms of either technical security or government responsibilities and competences to invest ‑‑ which areas to invest, which government agencies have what kind of competences.  But, of course, all of this, whatever governments and even private sector and those who run the networks and the hardware, there's always this human rights element that needs to be introduced into the cybersecurity debate.  So that will be one of our focuses to have protection of all communications figure prominently in all these debates on cybersecurity. 

 

 

For that, we are also thinking of coming up with a statement of cybersecurity laws.  As I said, all of this is still in the draft program phase.  But you will hopefully see it throughout the next years, some of these joint statements and expertise that I've mentioned.  If not next year, then it's always a possibility to pass on things to the subsequent presidency.  This is not a one‑year program that we have, but we actually pick up things that previous chairmanships have taken up, and we pass on the flag to others that will come after. 

 

 

I've mentioned the new internal phase we are in after the Stockholm (?) that we have.  There's also one important change in the Stockholm reference about membership, who can become a member.  And the coalition has introduced a new category of observer.  So for those countries who, at the moment, may not feel convinced enough to become a formal member, that's why the coalition has introduced this observer status, kind of trial phase to see whether a country would fit into the structure in what we do.  So we will try to do outreach on convincing more countries to become a member and also trying to get more countries interested in becoming an observer so that we have a broader base.  Right now 30 members was mentioned already.  But to be honest, most of them are from, let's say, northern or western countries, northern and western hemisphere.  We have very prominent and very active members actually from all continents, but maybe not enough from Asia, South America and Africa.  So we try to do outreach together with our members from those areas and with the Secretariat and everybody else to emphasize our cause and to make more countries join this coalition in the sense of having really the kind of group that is ready to fight for us and to have a larger group. 

 

 

And finally, all this work is not done by drafting texts and statements.  But we really need the experts in all the various places where activities of the U.N. and (?) we want to try to revitalize the local networks that we have, Geneva, New York, Paris, UNESCO, a lot of activities that are of direct interest of human rights, online and in Vienna where things may be coming up.  And the point of having these networks especially in Geneva, it's not just human rights council, it's also ITU, other areas and other organizations where human rights online issue may come up.  It doesn't mean that we want to take them there.  The network has to be there so that we can reach out to each other and really not be surprised by development by that we can play this active role that we as a coalition want to play. 

 

 

And finally, (?) hosted at the end of 2018 with the support of Civil Society, private sector, anyone who supports the coalition work and is ready.  That's more or less the short run‑up of what we are hoping to be able to achieve next year with the support of everyone and for the network.  I will give back to you and other speakers to explain what we have in mind with nongovernment players.  Thank you. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Yeah, thank you, Ambassador.  Since 2013, the coalition has tried to engage a broad section of Civil Society and the business community in helping it develop its thinking.  Initially that ran through a series of working groups which were established in the Tunis conference which completed their mandate earlier this year in Stockholm.  And since then there's been a process of thinking about the best way of engaging a broader community in some of those discussions. 

 

 

First of all, I'll tell you a little bit about why the government sees the engagement of a broader community is important to their work.  And then I'll come to people from outside those governments to explain how we've got to the kind of process we've now got to. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Yeah.  Let me start maybe by stating that there is something that you might have heard a couple of times already at this IGF, but it's still true.  It's very important that human rights online is a complex field.  Technology is changing fast.  And so are the challenges related to human rights online.  So it's very important for a coalition like the freedom online coalition to stay up to date on those developments.  And this is only realistically possible if also the private sector, Civil Society, academia and so on are involved in the discussions.  And so this is one very important principle of the freedom online coalition.  This is why the coalition has embraced it and why we try to make sure that such advice from a diverse point of view of the various stakeholders who are involved in human rights online is being taken on board. 

 

 

So this has been said, for example, already into the agenda that we mentioned, that is this is one working principle of the state but also the freedom online coalition as a whole.  And this is also why, since its inception, has always involved a large array of Civil Society, business, academia, actors, and so on.  So technically, these conferences are also in a multistakeholder format.  And many of the sessions are also developed in a grass‑roots format.  So this is always the most apparent single feature of the freedom online coalition is outreach and your conferences.  And this continues.  Andrea has mentioned already the working groups.  So the coalition felt that the more intense engagement with other actors, so apart from the annual conferences where necessary. 

 

 

This is one important element which Germany also took up when joining the freedom online coalition in 2013.  And one of our first measures was we instated a national roundtable on Internet of human rights.  So this was actually a consequence of our joining of freedom online coalition, and up until now, a frequent format which we are happy to organize and which gives us a lot of important input. 

 

 

So the creation of the advisory network we are talking about now goes back to the FOC strategic review process which we've already been mentioning.  So it goes back to 2015 when it all started, and it was a long process.  We traded the new Stockholm frames of reference, also the U.S. has been particularly active in this process.  I've seen some of the actors who were involved sitting here in the room.  So ‑‑ and (?) was the most tricky part.  Because it's not really straightforward.  How can a coalition which aims at driving the foreign policy agenda which consists of government who undertake foreign policy, how can this be ‑‑ this coalition be informed by multistakeholders?  So we had to be creative.  It was a long process.  And we had to go back to advise of experienced stakeholders.  And luckily we've already had working groups of the coalition.  So this is why we teamed up with the most experienced stakeholders.  So we have Matthew Shears and Katharine Kendrick sitting here, chairs of working group one or working group three respectively.  And so we are really glad that we have them on board and they are so supporting as much of the agenda of the coalition and are happy to engage in the advisory network as interim chairs.  And in a moment, they will explain how exactly the advisory network will work. 

 

 

Just to very quickly talk about the process in which ‑‑ with which we created this new mechanism.  It also goes back, of course, to the adoption of the terms of reference in Stockholm.  And this led us to a drafting process, which was followed by several consultations with our FOC stakeholders last year at the margins of the Stockholm meeting, we had substantial exchanges on how this advisory network should work.  What are the expectations from Civil Society and likewise, we also communicated our expectations as FOC government.  So how can this collaboration which hasn't been tested before, how can this best work?  So I really think we engaged in an open‑ended consultation process which led us to many conclusions.  And in the actual drafting process which followed, which was firstly adopted by FOC governments to deliver conceptional was (?) and tried to take all those varying angles and viewpoints on board.  And after this drafting process, we instated a chartering rule which now consisted of the governments of Germany, Finland, Costa Rica.  And on the stakeholder side of Matthew Shears and Katharine Kendrick.  So we engaged in substantive discussions once again on our draft and changed quite a bit, I think.  And engaged furthermore in another round of consultations.  And these consultations also yielded some substantive conclusions on what we possibly should change.  So once again, we sat down in this chartering group and redrafted the terms of reference.  And this is practically the point we're at right now.  So this was ‑‑ yeah ‑‑ intense engagement.  Maybe now I hand it over to Matthew and Katharine to explain how this went about and what it now looks like. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: So Katharine, do you want to take this?  

 

 

>> KATHARINE KENDRICK: Thank you so much.  So Peter described the process that brought us to the current terms of reference, and I'll briefly explain the modalities of the advisory network that we're launching for applications today.  The advisory network will be 20 individuals representing a broad array of sectors and geographies.  Two of those individuals will serve as co‑chairs of the advisory network, playing a facilitating role in collecting input from different stakeholders within the network and liaising with the governments.  And really it will serve as a key mechanism for the coalition government to engage with nongovernmental Internet stakeholders on a regular basis to support the FOC's mission of advancing human rights online, and to be instrumental in ensuring multistakeholder engagement in the work of the FOC broadly, both day to day and the specific conferences and events that the FOC undertakes. 

 

 

It's important to note that this network is not meant to be a gatekeeper for Civil Society engagement with the FOC government.  Rather, it's a standing resource to those governments sort of recognizing the value of having an established structure for that engagement.  But it will be complimented by engagement by others outside of the advisory network. 

 

 

>> MATTHEW SHEARS: Thanks, Katharine.  I think it's important to know what the specific relationship is between the advisory network and the if TOC.  So on the fly, you've got highlights of what those are and just to kind of walk through them.  So the advisory ‑‑ the relationship between the FOC and the advisory network is expected to be ongoing collaborative.  So there will be opportunities for the advisory network to input on the FOC government's activities as follows: To provide advice and recommendations on any and all substantive issues and procedures and relevant matters that are within the FOC's mandate.  To contribute to and participate in subordinate entities such as ad hoc or ongoing working groups.  And specific policy topics.  That make recommendations to the FOC.  So let me just pull on that because what Katharine and the working groups that we were involved in were ongoing annual ‑‑ multiannual, actually, working groups.  And these are different.  These are ad hoc in the sense that they will pop up and address a particular issue and then they will go away again.  And so there's an opportunity to engage in those working groups as they evolve when they address specific issues. 

 

 

The advisory network with also recommend topics for development of FOC statements.  It's an important development and and that didn't exist before now.  And will be offered an opportunity to input into the drafting process, and it's also, of course, going to participate in the annual conferences and meetings and other events and will also assist with the organization and dissemination on information on the FOC.  So it's a different type of relationship now, whereas the relationship with the multistakeholder community was very much through the working groups and at the annual conferences, now it's more of an ongoing relationship in which there's opportunity to contribute to the work product of the FOC so that marks a particular type of change. 

 

 

>> KATHARINE KENDRICK: In our conversations about the tour and how to shape this advisory network, I think Matthew and I certainly and many of those who submitted input through the open consultation brought some of the lessons learned from the working group experience trying to derive both what it worked well and incorporate lessons of things that could have worked better.  And I think one of the main values that we saw in the working group experience was the opportunity to have a trusted forum to engage with governments to share concerns on both sides and have a candid conversation.  And so we've designed the advisory network together and with outside input through the consultation to serve as that type of forum. 

 

 

>> MATTHEW SHEARS: It if I can just add, Katharine used a very important word early on, she said the role of the co‑chairs, and we are interim co‑chairs, is to act as facilitators and not gatekeepers.  One of the concerns that was raised by ‑‑ in the consultation that somehow the relationship would be between the FOC and the co‑chairs is and not with the advisory network, and that is not the case.  So it's important to clarify that because that was one of those things that was raised at least on a couple of occasions. 

 

 

I think it's probably also useful just to say that I think in terms of the ongoing ‑‑ the process going from now, this is the formal launch of the advisory network.  Katharine and I are on board as interim co‑chairs.  We have put the application process up on the website.  So that's available for you to access.  And the deadline ‑‑ unless somebody already mentioned it ‑‑ for applications is January 11.  So please do bear that in mind when you're going off on holidays and other places. 

 

 

We very much encourage you to participate.  This is somewhat of a unique opportunity.  It's very different than what it was before with the working groups.  But I think it will be equally rewarding.  And we have room for up to 25 participants in the advisory network.  And we'll be putting together a process for the election of the next set of co‑chairs, and that will occur over the first couple of quarters of next year. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Maybe I can add as well some of the important points.  To explain a little bit what is the value added for government to have this particular advisory network and not something else.  And the big value is that this advisory network will enable to ‑‑ will be enabled by the structure to feed into ongoing FOC activities.  So if there's an ongoing drafting process, this advisory network will be able to provide advice.  So it will be extremely relevant with what it says because it directly feeds into the work of the coalition.  And I think this is maybe the biggest difference of the advisory network to the previous structure we've had.  So this was also one point of concern of the previous structure and vice versa, that there was somewhat indirect connect between the work of the freedom online coalition and the work of the working groups.  And now we really addressed this and brought those two into one process together.  And so what we really hope to achieve is to have one advisory network, so it's a small group of 25 stakeholders.  The sole purpose so that the small group is manageable by the co‑chairs.  And the small group can also, that the people can gain confidence among each other, that they can create good working relationships and that they can have intense discussions on the topics.  That we have a really a think tank of trusted advisers which can work with the freedom online coalition and which is happy to engage in this platform for multistakeholder dialogue with the FOC on devising good foreign policy.  This would be the ideal outcome.  And this is also why we think it's extremely valuable. 

 

 

And there are two more features maybe which I would like to highlight about the new frame of reference, which really make the advisory network hopefully a success.  So on one point, it's a two‑way engagement.  We can collect advise when we need it because we have an ongoing activity.  But at the same time, the advisory network can always provide good suggestions, can highlight, then can propose topics, and can engage with the FOC. 

 

 

The second key, this will happen also because we have now a very clear relationship between the advisory network and the freedom online coalition.  So the co‑chairs of the advisory network, and it is the chair of the freedom online coalition who will be primary contact point.  There will be a frequent engagement, and it will be informal.  We hopefully ‑‑ we already have a trusted relationship.  We will have furthermore quarterly calls between the entire advisory network and the freedom online coalition and the states.  And we will have regular meetings at the margins of international conferences.  So this is actually a good practice the online coalition already had, but we'll just continue it and to make it explicitly part of the advisory network. 

 

 

And we have, as I already mentioned, a clear role for the advisory network to feed into ongoing activities.  So the relationship between the network and FOC has been clarified.  And this is, I think, what hopefully makes up for a good mechanism.  So we are really looking forward to your applications for the advisory network.  Because, of course, we need good people.  And this is why we are really happy to distribute here at the IGF.  I think it's the perfect venue to reach out to the global Internet government communities and active human rights online and that's why we are happy to distribute this flier and share with you the applications now officially.  Thank you. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Thank you, Peter.  I've been around international policy for 20 years.  And I'm very aware that governments are often influenced by private companies in shaping of their policy.  And I can't think of another issue or mechanism where governments have opened up and developed their diplomacy for the broad range of participants including Civil Society.  I think it's an unusual mechanism and a very welcome one for the coalition to adopt it.  I'm going to throw it open now.  Any questions?  I think there are two possible lines of questioning or contribution.  One is on the work program as outlined by the government of Germany.  The second is on the advisory network itself and any questions you may have about that. 

 

 

Or if you have any other questions about the operation of the coalition, about the way we do things, why we do things and how things are working, feel free to do that.  We'll farm those questions out between us.  So I'll throw it open to the platform now.  We have other governments here as well who may want to contribute their own thoughts and I would also invite them to kind of add their contributions.  So just wave at me.  I can bring you in. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: Thank you very much, Peter.  Thank you all for the contributions.  And thank you to the incoming German chair of the FOC for the inspirational and aspirational program of work for the next year.  I think this will invigorate the work of the FOC.  And we are definitely very happy with the way the advisory network is taking shape.  We are thrilled by the fact that we can now, in this circle of governments working together in a consistent manner, take on board the input from other stakeholders.  That will definitely enrich our policies.  We're confident, very confident about that. 

 

 

About the work plan, I would just like to underscore that apart from doing our part to contribute to the working of the advisory network, the good interaction between the network and the FOC as a member, we also would like to contribute to important challenges.  For example, in the area of safeguarding space for Civil Society, we are concerned about a shrinking space of Civil Society online.  And we would definitely like to join in with others and working in the framework of the FOC to find ways to counter that development. 

 

 

What we also would like to do is contribute from our part to diplomatic network, the diplomatic outreach, the German chairmanship is very diligently promoting.  I think diplomatic coordination in key cities where important multilateral discussions about human rights issues that are relevant for digital rights and freedom online are taking place is absolutely fundamental in order to create that global wave of support for freedom online.  That's very necessary, taking that into account. 

 

 

And what we also hope to do is to contribute from our part to the existing excellent relationship between the FOC and digital defenders partnership, which in our view embodies the FOC's members' commitment to actually promoting and helping to safeguard freedom online for defenders, human rights defenders, very important ‑‑ very important cooperation and definitely something we (?). 

 

 

Finally, I just would like to add a few words about the way we as freedom online coalition can enhance even more our profile and our credentials in thinking about more freedom online in the world.  And that is by referring to what we have taken on board in the terms of reference the Stockholm terms of reference, the fact that we are going to engage in peer learning.  We as members of the FOC have committed ourselves to ‑‑ on a regular basis ‑‑ talking to each other, sharing information about challenges we face at home and what practices that we can share with others that will help us also as members of the FOC to be ‑‑ to be champions of the commitments that we have engaged in.  Thank you. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Thank you.  Again, I'm going to throw it open.  I realize it's customary of the IGF for all the conversation to happen in the coffee bar and for the meetings to be treated as a place where you catch up with your e‑mails, your Facebook, social media, Twitter, or have a little sleep.  Let's change that tradition today and actually have some conversation in the meeting room rather than keeping it all for outside.  So do feel free, please, to ask your questions, contributions, thoughts.  We're very keen to hear what you have to say.  Thank you.  Otherwise my gavel's coming out. 

 

 

[ Laughter ]

 

 

     >> AUDIENCE: Before I say my comments, I'm warning you, you forced me to say it. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Excellent. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: I was just wondering, in the new terms of reference, there's a chapter about termination and about ‑‑ sorry ‑‑ I'm director of the network for Mexico, Civil Society group for Mexico.  In the terms of reference, there's a part about termination of membership, and there's a process on revision of the ‑‑ how members comply with member responsibilities.  I'm wondering if you have devised a process for this because the frames of reference understand to be general, particularly, I mean, my concern about my government not being part ‑‑ or not compliant with responsibility, but I'm wondering whether you have ‑‑ not particularly about Mexico, but everyone, a procedure and whether the advisory group or other stakeholders may play a part in either recommending the chair to initiate a process or being involved in the ‑‑ somehow in the process of compliance with the responsibilities.  Thank you. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Yeah, I mean, it's been a long‑term call from Civil Societies group to be internal mechanisms by the coalition to deal with governments who may fall below the standards they set themselves.  So in fact, this was agreed back in Stockholm that this mechanism would be established.  Where we've reached to now is that there is a ‑‑ we've commissioned some work on establishing such a process and criteria.  That has just been completed.  It's now out to the governments for consultation.  Because as you would appreciate, it's essentially a deeply political ‑‑ I mean, there is a certain amount of it's quasijudicial in terms of assessing its criteria, but it's also deeply political in terms of how the governments act on that. 

 

 

So we would hope that in the next kind of couple of months, there will be a mechanism which can then be publicly published and available for people for comment.  And I think there would be ‑‑ and clearly the advisory group could raise those issues and concerns.  The decision clearly would rest with the governments themselves, as you would expect.  But yeah, that mechanism on the way, I would expect it to be up and operational in the next few months.  So that is something that's come from this side of the table for some time, and it's now been enacted.  Yeah.  There will be more details to follow. 

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Anyone else like to ‑‑ yeah.  Just say who you are, mate. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: Sure.  Melody from Access Now.  I just wanted to comment the FOC because last year you issued a historic statement against intentional state‑sponsored destruction of access to or dissemination of information online, so Internet shutdowns, Internet disruptions, whatever they are called.  However, what we noted is that since last year, we actually recorded the biggest number of Internet disruptions, 77 compared to much lower number in 2016 and in 2015.  So I was wondering if you were planning to do more attrition.  We know that some of the disruptions, for example, take place during elections.  And some countries are involved in my opinion lating elections, sending observers to countries during (?) as part of these mandates and part of this corporation, having some language and explaining the implications of Internet disruptions during elections could be included. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Yeah, thanks for raising that concern.  It has been preoccupation for the governments.  And we certainly, inside the coalition, have done a lot of work with our existing members to actually ensure that they understand the purpose of the policy and to avoid network disruptions and some pretty critical elections that have taken place.  I think you're right, it's a growing problem.  And I think it underlines the importance that the ambassador set out, not just developing the policy framework, but really building the diplomatic coordination and outreach to actually enact those statements which is why I think the German plan to build really strong networks in Geneva, Paris and New York and to engage in much more outreach with governments in the south and different areas where as you well know, the network shutdowns are particularly prevalent I think becomes a very big priority.  So I think that's what we will look to see under the German leadership whether we can step up those efforts to actually match that. 

 

 

So I think you're right.  We don't see that the problem is going to diminish in the future.  We think it's going to be a problem particularly as you said around elections in the period to come.  So it remains a key priority.

 

 

And I think with all of the policy statements, they are both ‑‑ they have an internal function side of the coalition, to strengthen the hand of the human rights voice and they have an external function which is to reach out to countries.  I think both are key parts of the agenda. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: Hi.  I'm from (?) and from Kenya, from the Kenya office.  When we had elections this year, previously during the year, beginning of the year, there were ‑‑ there was a yes or no statement from the minister and from the ministry whether there was a shutdown on the Internet.  One of the leverages that we use when we're talking to the government, the Kenyan government, was the fact of membership to the FOC to all these processes for them to keep the Internet open.  So I just wanted to emphasize on (?) and go beyond the outreach of Internet shutdown for African countries.  It's really good to move beyond Kenya and Ghana to other parts (?) for them to include ‑‑ for them to join this coalition and to share standards and for this coalition to have more (?).  That can be good for Civil Society and for us to keep them to task to their international commitments within this coalition and other coalitions.  Thank you. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: (?) Can you hear in the back?  No, I think you need to use the mic. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: Oh.  First of all, my name is Jason Peelmeyer.  And on behalf of the global initiative, I want to compensated all the FOC members for all the wonderful advances that have been set out today and have been the fruit of a lot of very hard work over the last couple of years.  I want to also thank Katharine and everybody else who's been a part and Matthew and everybody else who's been a part of the kind of external network around the FOC for all of your work.  I really think that the FOC is making a significant advancement with the Stockholm terms of reference.  And we're very excited about the network and how that is shaping up.  I have a lot of interest in that. 

 

 

I have one question I'll come to, but just a couple points I want to make.  One on melody's point about shutdowns, (?) concerns as well on that topic and we had a really good joint call between GNI and the FOC on that topic which I think was quite useful for members of both sides and an example of the kind of cooperation that the FOC can and should seek more of with external actors. 

 

 

I wanted to also note that GNI will be holding its next board meeting in Paris in February we'll be holding an event there with UNESCO on elections.  And ICT sector.  And very much hope that the UNESCO FOC network, maybe if it's not already sort of revitalized, maybe we can use that as an opportunity to have some engagement with the network of FOC members in Paris.  So just putting that on your calendars. 

 

 

And then lastly to the point about peer learning.  I think it's a really important component and (?) about the role that membership and the FOC plays, external stakeholders can use that membership as a talking point as a point of reference and hold countries to their commitments.  But that also just curious the thoughts perhaps from Ambassador in particular on how to use the coalition to continue to build capacity among member states in a proactive fashion. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Because we're short on time. 

 

 

>> AUDIENCE: (?)

 

 

>> PANELIST: Just a very brief clarification.  Somebody noted in an e‑mail to me who's watching that the deadline on the FOC website says January 4th.  That's not correct.  It's January 11th for applications.  Thanks. 

 

 

>> PANELIST: Perhaps we should change that on the website.  It might be helpful.  Thanks.  Ambassador. 

 

 

>> THOMAS FITSCHEN: Yeah, thank you very much.  Thanks for all these questions and suggestions, and first of all, thank you for the support that kind of is coming out from the audience here. 

 

 

I just wanted to pick up a few points that were made.  The point about the new provisions on termination.  (?) It's been debated for quite some time.  FOC members, I think if you look at the terms of reference or the statutes or the procedure of other organizations, ours are really quite elaborate.  There is a procedure with a lot of feedback possibilities, so that is already quite an elaborate provision.  As FOC members are aware that this type of, let's say, internal quasi‑control, kind of self‑evaluation, is really necessary to keep ourselves, to keep ‑‑ to keep the coalition up to its own high standards and rest assured that this will be taken seriously.  On the other hand, it's, of course, also a delicate and sensitive process to enter in.  But as an Drew said, details of the procedure will have to be developed.  It's all fresh from the printer, so to speak. 

 

 

On ‑‑ follow‑up on shutdowns or any other (?) the statements that ‑‑ the general statements that we deliver ‑‑ first of all, a statement by a group in a given situation or maybe sometimes even without a given situation, but then it's really also up for coalition themselves.  But also for Civil Society for anyone else to refer to this.  To set this language in motion, to put it on track and have it enter the discussion in the various countries.  So it's not just that these 30 countries or 30‑plus hopefully in the future countries will start talking about it.  But that we create this language that can be referred to.  That's an old experience from anyone working at the U.N. or other international fora that once you have a good text, good learning out in the world that others can be told they can be cross‑referenced, that's how it's being implemented also. 

 

 

The point about expanding membership in Africa, I made the point that's one of the priorities before you arrived.  That's certainly covered in our work plan.  And capacity building.  That's another point that I have heard in many of the panels over the past two or three days.  And it's also something that the German government, we do have a capacity building strategy that has been adopted by the federal government.  So it's natural.  You want to make other states come up with rules to subscribe to rules, to subscribe to norms, to enter institutions to kind of come up with a common level of performance, then we often hear the question that governments or other players are really ‑‑ yes, we'd love to join, but we can't because of lack of capacity.  That's why it is certainly our conviction and members of the coalition and the coalition as such that to level the playing field, we have to bring everyone up to the same level and that capacity building is a necessity to ensure protection of human rights online to ensure security, to ensure proper, for example, crime prevention and law enforcement, online.  It's all a matter of capacity.  That doesn't mean necessarily hardware and software, things you can buy, but it's really the mentality and the education and of course the political will that needs to be fostered and promoted.  So it's capacity building in a broader sense, not just handing over money for governments to buy hardware from anywhere, but really the kind of ‑‑ the capacity to join the debate, the capacity to be responsive to be in the room, to take positions, to negotiate texts with the freedom online agenda on everyone's mind.  So that's what we consider capacity building.  It's, as I said, high on the agenda.  I think those were mostly the points and suggestions that were made.  If there are no others ‑‑

 

 

>> MODERATOR: I think we can ‑‑ it's quite late now.  We've reached the end of the meeting.  I thank the panel for their contributions and thank you for your attendance.  Thank you very much. 

 

 

[ Applause ]

 

 

(The session ended at 18:17.)

 

 

>> MODERATOR: Oh, the meeting's adjourned till next year.