RFSD Peer learning table on SDG 9 & 17

Thank you chair,

I am Oli Henman from A4SD and I am speaking on behalf of the Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism. Our collective key points for the discussion:

Importance of leaving no one behind

  • Digital technologies have great potential for participation and decentralization. Technology has the power to lower barriers and reduce inequalities, as well as strengthen civil society.
  • There is a need to provide stronger opportunities for digital inclusion at national level.
  • Ensure direct support to marginalised communities
  • Bridge the digital divide by ensuring affordable infrastructure is available everywhere, including in rural areas.
  • But infrastructure is not the only barrier to participation. We also recommend provision of training for digital literacy and capacity development, particularly for older people and vulnerable groups.
  • Governments should also ensure online accessibility in all public consultations

Risks of digital intimidation and the closing of civic space for activists

  • However, in many countries in our region, digital technologies are restricted and limit the access to information and opportunities of civil society.
  • There is a practice of widespread blocking and restricting access to many independent and human rights information resources in countries such as Russia, Belarus and Turkmenistan.
  • In addition, technology has been used to limit civic activism and pressure activists. Online intimidation prevents partnerships across borders, stops solidarity and prevents mutual learning.
  • It is essential to continue to uphold and guarantee the freedoms of information and association, as well as the right to participate in international cooperation.
  • Online harassment and bullying has also risen over recent years. With the development of online technologies, the practice of online violence, such as Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment, has become widespread.
  • Online violence is prevalent in the private sphere as well as in the world of work. During the Covid pandemic, such practices have increased exponentially, and women in all countries suffer disproportionately often from online violence.
  • At the same time, many countries in our region lack sufficient regulation to prevent and eradicate such practices.
  • Adopting a broad scope of protective measures is essential, also updating some of the existing legislation against harassment and bullying are necessary to capture and eliminate online-based abuses.

Sharing frontline solutions through online platforms

  • It is important to share good practice on measuring progress, civil society and citizen generated data.
  • Online spaces can be used to share experiences and solutions directly by community groups to a broad audience, to raise awareness and enable sharing of expertise and crowdfunding.

Potential for ‘digital rights charter’ to guarantee equitable rights-based online access

  • We also highlight that much of our online experience is currently controlled and managed by large digital and social media companies, such as google, Facebook, Twitter. In no other sphere is our engagement so dependent on large corporate interests and we recognise that many experts including Tim Berners-Lee have called for recognition of digital rights.
  • Need to ensure online privacy and ensure safe spaces online, we call for a charter of digital rights to recognise new rights in the digital age.
  • This charter should be developed collaboratively with inputs from across civil society and should cover a range of areas, to enable individual users to have direct ownership over their online footprint and manage their online identity.

Digitalisation and the world of work

  • Digitalisation, robotisation and AI give rise to important questions about responsibility and accountability. Platform work and self-employment break the traditional chain of command between employer and worker. In the absence of any contract, we have the lack of social protection, insurance and safety.
  • We insist that human beings must keep control and be accountable for the actions of robots and AI, and this must be adopted as a fundamental ethical principle. Social partners at all levels must agree on and apply the rules.
  • Social dialogue is necessary to ensure that digitalisation does not damage either working conditions or standards of service.