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Economic and social inclusion and human rights

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on existing and growing inequalities around the world. People and institutions from all sectors and stakeholder groups need to work together to design and implement enabling environments to foster inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies and economies. In doing so, meaningful access and inclusivity need to be achieved at all levels, from access to infrastructure, to online education, digital literacy and skills, to equal opportunities regardless of gender, race, disability, as well as adequate protection of workers’ rights and access to digital health information and services.

Human rights need to be at the centre of inclusive digital societies and economies, and technologies and policies alike need to be designed, used and implemented in a human rights-centred manner. The protection of both civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights in the digital space should remain a priority for all actors. Adequate regulatory frameworks need to be put in place to provide rules and boundaries for the private sector. Governments need to be accountable for respecting and promoting these rights and for ensuring that others, including companies, also do so. Global companies that operate across borders need to be accountable for their practices and uphold international human rights standards, and users need to be more aware of how to demand respect for their rights. This holistic awareness and integration of human rights can only be achieved through collaboration, learning and capacity development, and open and constructive dialogue among all stakeholder groups.

The IGF can facilitate informed discussion on the values that we want technology and the Internet to serve and how Internet-related policy and capacity development efforts can contribute to more inclusive, just and peaceful societies.

Policy questions

  1. Social inequality and the pandemic: What can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic context about the relationship between digital inequality and social and economic inequality? Similarly, what lessons can be drawn with respect to the pandemic and Internet-related human rights? What does this suggest about policy approaches for digitalisation and digital inclusion? 
  2. Economic and social inclusion and sustainable development: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for social and economic inclusion set out in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Conventions on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on the Rights of the Child, and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts?
  3. Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?
  4. Inclusion, rights and stakeholder roles and responsibilities: What are/should be the responsibilities of governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, the academic and research sector and community-based actors with regard to digital inclusion and respect for human rights, and what is needed for them to fulfil these in an efficient and effective manner?
  5. Promoting equitable development and preventing harm: How can we make use of digital technologies to promote more equitable and peaceful societies that are inclusive, resilient and sustainable? How can we make sure that digital technologies are not developed and used for harmful purposes? What values and norms should guide the development and use of technologies to enable this?

Related issues

  • Economic and social equality and inclusion, access, education, children, gender, persons with disabilities, human-centred design, digital rights, privacy and data rights, freedom of expression, surveillance, responsible use of data, platform governance, accountability, transparency, regulation, ethics and values, future of work.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411