ICTs in Support of Human Rights, Democracy and Good Governance

Audrey N. Selian, International Telecommunication Union


From the introduction: 'The common ground upon which information and communication technologies (ICTs) and human rights can be analyzed was forged two years ago at the United Nations Millennium Summit, which resulted in a declaration that affirmed common global commitments to the protection of the vulnerable, the alleviation of poverty, and the rectification of corrupt structures and processes – particularly in those countries in which there is a dearth of ‘rule of law’. The world's leaders resolved to “spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.” The current period of preparation for the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)2 – in which the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has a leading managerial role - offers an excellent opportunity to address tensions that exist between national, regional and global models of governance – particularly where hotly debated topics like human rights draw to the forefront of discussion key issues like transparency, accountability, and the universality of human rights principles.

This paper will analyze human rights and governance issues as they pertain to ICTs for the WSIS forum, with a focus on the role of those who protect human rights and foster good governance. Various players are increasingly leveraging and applying ICTs amidst various contending national, corporate and supranational interests, and this represents a significant change for traditional distributions of power in the international system. The way in which new communication technologies may be able to help realize some of the goals of the 2000 Millennium Declaration will be explored in this paper, and various case studies will illustrate the relevance and importance of

these discussion points. The goal of such analysis is to adopt a rights-based perspective on major development goals – specifically encompassing the protection of human rights – that are to be realized through the Declaration. It is where international institutions and their national/civil society

counterparts meet and leverage electronic communications networks, that various UN-defined development goals and resolutions have the potential to be realized. Indeed, this is exemplified in part by the fact that “… as human rights groups form international linkages [for instance through the use of ICTs], their frame of reference shifts from national law to international human rights.”'