The rise of the Internet is transforming the very foundations of society, offering possibilities for a more equal, democratic and prosperous world in which human rights are realized fully. The Internet enables communication, association, and access to information on a scale which is unparalleled in human history. This Charter aims to protect and expand the positive spirit and value of the Internet for the generations to come.
Human rights are universal, non-negotiable, indivisible and interdependent. It is self-evident that human rights apply on the Internet as they do everywhere – in all contexts, communications media and jurisdictions. The same fundamental principles apply on the Internet as in all areas of human endeavour.
The Internet is different from any other medium yet invented, different from any other place in the world, different from any other tool human ingenuity has yet produced. The Internet has grown to be a major power for the realization of human rights. However, the Internet is also presenting new challenges for human rights. It is used both for good and for bad. It is not always evident exactly how human rights apply to the Internet, and Internet governance and policy rarely takes human rights into consideration.
Thus it is of crucial importance to lay out and explain how human rights apply to the Internet. This is necessary for ensuring that Internet governance is centred on values that are people-centred, and that respect the core values of humanity: human dignity, equality and non-discrimination, solidarity, diversity, rule of law and social justice.
Hence this Charter: not an attempt to create new rights, but to reinterpret and explain universal human rights standards in a new context – the Internet. The Charter re-emphasises that human rights apply online as they do offline: human rights standards, as defined in international law, are non-negotiable. The Charter also identifies principles, deriving from human rights, which are necessary to preserve the Internet as a medium for civil, political, economic, social and cultural development.
Under international law, states have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of citizens. The rights and principles laid out in this Charter therefore describe the responsibilities that states have in relation to the Internet. However, the Internet is through its design a trans-boundary multi-stakeholder environment where no single entity has control: governments, businesses and people all have a role in developing the environment and control is dispersed among many institutions and actors. Thus in order for human rights to be respected in the internet environment, all stakeholders have a part to play. The Charter therefore encourages all actors to take steps to realise human rights online. It is addressed to all actors and stakeholders of Internet governance, who – according to the Preamble of the UDHR – shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for the rights contained in the UDHR and to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.
The Charter is built in two sections. The first interprets human rights and defines principles that stem from these rights for the purposes and concerns of the information society. The second section addresses the roles that different actors and stakeholders should play in order to uphold these rights and principles.
This Charter is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and subsequent human rights law and standards of the United Nations and other human rights institutions.
This Charter of Human Rights and Principles on the Internet has been developed by the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles and draws inspiration from the APC Internet Rights Charter and other pertinent documents. It builds on the WSIS Declaration of Principles of Geneva and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, which recognise that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) present tremendous opportunities to enable individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life. Like the WSIS Declaration, this Charter aims to build a people-centred information society, which respects and upholds fundamental human rights that are enshrined in the UDHR.
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