Sub-theme description: Internet Freedom
The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) is an intergovernmental coalition of 30 countries committed to advancing Internet freedom – free expression, association, assembly, and privacy online – worldwide. At this IGF Open Forum session, Coalition members will give updates on the work of the FOC since the 2017 IGF in Geneva and outline progress towards implementing the FOC Action Plan for 2018 under the German Chairmanship. The session will also be an opportunity to learn about FOC's new mechanism for stakeholder engagement, the FOC Advisory Network, and plans for this year's Freedom Online Conference, which will be taking place in Berlin, November 28-30. This event will be a platform for all interested members of the IGF community to discuss the work of the FOC.
Freedom Online Coalition
- Chair/Moderator: Mr Andrew Puddephatt, Head of the Support Unit
- Wafa Ben-Hassine, MENA Policy Lead, Access Now
- Lisa Vermeer, Senior Policy Officer Internet Freedom, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands
- Matthew Shears, Co-Chair of the FOC Advisory Network
- Wolfram von Heynitz, Head of the Cyber Policy Coordination Staff, German Federal Foreign Office
- Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [150 words or less]
At this IGF Open Forum session, Coalition members gave updates on the work of the FOC since the 2017 IGF in Geneva and outlined progress towards implementing the FOC Action Plan for 2018 under the German Chairmanship.
The session provided IGF participants with the opportunity to learn about FOC's new mechanism for stakeholder engagement, the FOC Advisory Network, and plans for this year's Freedom Online Conference, which will be taking place in Berlin, November 28-30.
The panel additionally discussed the issue of closing civic spaces online and discussed the FOC’s present and potential role in combatting closing civic spaces, and in ensuring multistakeholder engagement.
- Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence.
AN members on the panel, Wafa Ben-Hassine and Matthew Shears, provided insights into the activities of the FOC Advisory Network in its first months of being established, including through contributions to the drafting of FOC statements, learnings and strategy calls. Following the first submission of proactive advice of the FOC Advisory Network, the FOC issued a Joint Statement on the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018.
Panellists discussed the various threats and challenges to civil society in the digital age, and noted the common responsibilities of governments in supporting civic voices online.
- Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [100 words]
Mr von Heynitz, speaking for the German Chair, noted that governments can cooperate if they share the basic concern that human rights as upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are essential.
Lisa Vermeer, speaking for the Netherlands, raised the importance of the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) which has a dedicated program focused on the swift protection of human rights defenders. The Netherlands encouraged those concerned by internet freedom issues across the world to raise FOC membership to missions and embassies, to raise awareness to the FOC.
Germany suggested that the FOC engages further with the private sector.
- What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [75 words]
Panellists observed that conventions and institutions, such as the IGF and UNESCO, could monitor the work of civil society and ensure that, in the face of authoritarian state-funded NGO’s, these institutions can support independent civil society organisations. Governments can additionally ensure that civil society can participate in multilateral forums.
- Please estimate the total number of participants.
- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.
- To what extent did the session discuss gender issues, and if to any extent, what was the discussion? [100 words]
The panel discussed vulnerable groups within civil society, including women and girls.