The Internet has provided enormous opportunities for the exercise of the rights to freedom expression, association, and peaceful assembly. As global civic space has shrunk, the online sphere has proven essential for human rights defenders, media, and civil society more broadly, to access and share information and to hold the powerful to account.
The Internet has also brought new challenges. The proliferation of ‘hate speech’ and harassment targeting marginalised groups and human rights defenders, disinformation intended to undermine public debate and trust, incitement to terrorist acts, are among those with significant and negative human rights impacts.
Increasingly, States are engaging in regulation that threatens to restrict online civic space, often delegating the complex task of policing speech to private actors, without also delegating clear responsibilities to respect human rights.
While moves toward regulation are often rooted in genuine concern for the public interest, many States deploy similar arguments as a smokescreen for their efforts to consolidate power, control public discourse, and silence oppositional voices, under the auspices of protecting “national sovereignty” or “security”.
Unchecked surveillance, criminalization of online expression and “cybercrime” prosecutions, data localisation regulations, attacks on encryption, increased website blocking and filtering, and internet shutdowns, are all on the rise, alongside less sophisticated but severe forms of harassment and intimidation. Private actors are often coopted into or actively profit from these human rights abuses, through arrangements that are opaque and outside of applicable legal frameworks.
These trends pose significant challenges to the Human Rights Council’s often-repeated maxim that “the same human rights people have offline must also be protected online.”
Join us to discuss what role the Human Rights Council can and should play in bolstering support for normative progress and action in defending our online civic space.
Olivier Chamard/Geneva Academy
Knowledge transfer is at the heart of our activities. During 2019, our professors, researchers and staff have ensured such transfer in international humanitarian law, human rights and transitional justice via research, our three masters, training courses, events and the Geneva Human Rights Platform.
Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni is one of our Senior Research Fellows. She is involved in several research projects dealing with gender, the right to food and land commercialization, as well as with gender equality in the context of business activities, and on economic, social and cultural rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.
From its adoption to its content and implementation, this training course provides a comprehensive overview of the United Nations Declaration on the rights of peasants, as well as tools to protect and promote the rights of peasants, rural women, fisher, pastoralist and nomadic communities, as well as agricultural workers.
This online course aims at unpacking the nature and scope of international human rights law in transitional contexts.
Olivier Chamard / Geneva Academy
The Treaty Body Members’ Platform connects experts in UN treaty bodies with each other as well as with Geneva-based practitioners, academics and diplomats to share expertise, exchange views on topical questions and develop synergies.
Olivier Chamard/Geneva Academy