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IGF 2018 - Day 1 - Salle VIII - WS139 Refugees digital rights: Necessities and Needs

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Paris, France, from 12 to 14 November 2018. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> IAN BROWN:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the workshop.  Sorry we're starting slightly late, but we hope that we can bring in a speaker remotely in the session.  So fingers crossed that is all set up now.  And this is workshop 139 on refugees digital rights:  Necessities and needs.  I'm Ian Brown from Research ICT Africa.  I'll be the Moderator. 

We have three speakers here who will give opening statements, and hopefully also our remote speaker.  But we want to make this as interactive as possible of course.  We asked the speakers to stick to five or ten minutes maximum, so we have at least half of the time to bring in your perspectives. 

I'll very quickly introduce the four speakers, and then I'll hand the floor to them. 

Firstly with an introduction and a short statement about the relevant legal framework, we have Mohamed Farahat, who is from the African Civil Society on the Information Society. 

We then will have his colleague, Dr. Cisse Kane, who is President of this organisation, who will talk a bit more about general issues and access and perspective in coming years.    

Then on my left we have Xianhong Hu, who is a programme specialist at UNESCO’s Division of Freedom of Expression, Media Development, Communication and Information Society, who will talk about UNESCO's work on digital rights and digital literacy and gender mainstreaming. 

And then finally, hopefully, we will have Dr. Aaron Martin from Tulbagh University, who will talk about refugees, and privacy issues, and in particular the use of biometrics and SIM registration and the resulting impact on access. 

So let's get going.  Mohamed.

>> MOHAMED FARAHAT:  Let me first say thank you to all of you for attending this session.  I hope you get benefit from the discussion.

First, I'd like to stress the importance of digital rights, and  the name of the session simply should shed  light on the importance to bring the refugees the digital rights to the IGF agenda.  And future IGF agenda, we will find only two sessions that spoke about the refugees.  

First we have, for example, IGF 2017, we don't have any sessions about refugees.  So this is important topic as to what extent the digital rights are important to refugees.  We started by defining what is the meaning of refugees.  The main document that defines refugees is the 1981 Convention on the refugee status.  We define a refugee as a person who is outside his or her country of nationality, or his or her residence, being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, social group or (?).  And is – I’m reading – availing him or herself to the protection of a country.  This is the definition of refugees. 

If we speak about or if we are focusing on this definition, we find that refugees who are forced to leave his or her country, or he leaves family or friends or loved persons behind without any Internet connection. 

So now when we speak about the host country of refugees, if we see that this country --  of course, the trends or policies of one country dealing with refugees is different from one country to another.  So if we speak about the countries that adopt restrictive policies for refugees, like if we speak about all of that in the Nina region, maybe access to the Internet is very, very, very limited and maybe the access to education is very, very limited, maybe this country puts a really high restriction on family reunifications, so it's not easy for a refugee to bring his family to the host country. 

And also if we speak about the right to registration, maybe also this country puts restriction on the right to assembly or to (?) organization or to NGOs to discuss about their problems.  At this time, the digital rights or the access to the Internet, this is a last resort for this person to communicate and to discuss and to express opinion about many issues that are important to them in the country of origin or the host country. 

Now I will go briefly in my intervention about the legal framework.  I'm not operating in the legal framework of digital rights, because I know that most of you are experts in this, or at least have excellent knowledge about the digital rights.  So I'll focus on some legal challenges that face the refugees to access their rights digitally.

The first interesting thing about the legal framework is that not only is the rights recognized as Human Rights, according to many International refugee rights’ laws, if we speak about SDR or about other conventions or other economic or cultural rights, because there are many different International and conventional rights.  But I will focus on the Article 19 that is used to be a cornerstone for the digital rights and especially for the right to freedom of expression, because most of refugees, this is based on this article, to express their opinion or to communicate with others. 

The problem with this article is it’s not a binding article.  The States is not binded by this article and they can do many restrictions or stop enjoying of freedom of expression.  However, also, the second problem in the digital rights for refugees, if you speak about this as a key legal document dealing with this refugee issue, this topic is not recognized in the 1951 Convention, nor do we have any provision in the 1951 Convention to speak about digital rights or access to information or access to the Internet. 

The Government (?) have not enacted any domestic legalization related to refugees, so this also is a problem, not only for the online rights but for the offline rights.  Like most countries in Nina regions don't have any legal documents handling this situation of refugees.  This is also a problem.  Because in this situation, from the legal side, all of the refugees are treated as a foreigner, and there is a big difference between this person as a foreigner and as a refugee.

Also, the other thing I will finish in one minute is that I would like to move to speak also to other things related to impact of national digital currency legalization and international protection for refugees.  As you know, this legalization, especially in countries like the Nina region, is thought to restrict the digital rights.  Arab countries put this legalization contrary to access to the Internet and access to digital rights in general. 

At this time we have – or this legalization is impacting International organizations.  What does that mean, the International protection for refugees?  Does that mean a code of International protection for refugees to prohibit these countries from deporting these refugees? But according to this legalization, if refugees write something on Facebook, the country has the right under this legalization to deport this person.  And they use the base or the reason is that this person is considered a threat on national security.

So what is the national security?  No official legalization defines national security.  They have a full on, absolute discussion to decide what is national security.  For example, in Egyptian law it defines national security as everything may be, if you speak about the military or (?) this is considered as national security and gives the country the right to deport the refugees. And so this is the impact of the national legalization on the international protections. 

To conclude my interventions briefly, I think it's extremely important to amend the existing legal framework related to refugees. For example, the 1951 Convention, I think that we have to amend it and to add some articles related to digital rights for refugees to at least make sure that at some level if some person or refugees is subject to any sort of deportation, we can use this Article as argument to stop the deportation.

And also we need to adopt binding legal instrument related to additional rights for refugees.  So my recommendation is to amend the existing legal framework, the 1951 Convention, articles related to additional rights for refugees, and also to adopt new legal instrument related to special -- certainly to the digital rights for refugees. 

Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Mohamed, for that helpful introduction. 

Next we will go to Dr. Kane.

>> CISSE KANE:  Thank you, Chairman.  Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, I'm very happy to be here.  My name is Cisse Kane. I’m from Senegal. I'm the Chairman of the African Civil Society on the Information Society.  It's a platform of 500 -- around 600 NGOs around the continent and throughout the African area.  And we are focusing on ICT for the workman in general.  And we congratulate Mohamed from Access Egypt who proposed this idea of the workshop that has been accepted by the IGF.  And I'll just talk in a general sense about the issue, but I address that there are some more experienced people around the table, and also the audience, that may be a bit more.

So the African Civil Society on the Information Society access is based in Senegal and we are operating throughout our network of organisations and also people who are members.  And we have been launched in 2003 during the World Summit on the Information Society.  And we develope projects in advocacy and sensitizing on various issues related to Internet and ICTs, like access, like also the threats of -- of the Internet.  Also, training about Internet access and also advocating for the issues of affordability and linguistic diversity and also localization of the process of the Internet.  Also, local cultures and languages. 

So if you go throughout our website, you can see what we are doing.  We are present in many of the debates and our members are participating in general debates.  And also we have participated in this Internet universality project that has been launched by UNESCO.  We even applied and we continue to contribute throughout our members. 

Regarding the issue of refugees and their rights, we consider that there is an ongoing debate between the -- the relationship between the rights online and the rights offline.  And we think that all the rights offline should be also implemented online.  Because the societies are really moving very fastly into the -- the digital transformation, and there is no time at waste to make the rights offline the new reality.  And everybody is now having a smartphone and having -- and is connected, and there are lots of new rights that should really be taken into account.  And we call upon the specialists of the issue to really tackle the issue of the rights online.  Because it's moving very fast and we cannot just ignore it. 

And also, when it comes to refugees in general, we consider that they are human beings and that all the rights that are for human beings should be also for them.  And the only thing which is really complicating the issue is that refugees are very often displaced people and they don't always live in the best conditions.  And sometimes maybe talking about Internet could be a luxury because sometimes they don't have clean water, they don't have toilets, they cannot settle, and they don't have links with their country of origin and they don't express themselves.  Sometimes they are just put in jail because of – and also we see in some countries that they are just put in jail.  Even the soldiers who were meant to protect them, they are raping the girls, and they are putting pressure and getting money and exploiting them.  So they are facing lots of stress. 

And the issue of ICT and the digital issue, we should really help to raise these big threats that are facing.  And maybe one of the best ways is to use the ICT as a means to weight on the processes, to make them having their own rights in all aspects. 

And you know in Africa, Africa is one of the most -- well, one of the continents where we have most refugees.  26 percent of the world's refugees population are Africans.  And we have wars in many countries.  We have refugees in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt also.  And we are giving employments to the world organisations, so they should also think about how they can really help fulfilling the rights. And we think that the digital issue can be sort of a way to help them to tackle their major challenges. 

Also, there is -- the issue is so critical that the African Union -- my organisation is a member of the African Union Civil Society body, which is the economic, social and cultural Council of the African Union.  And I'm happy to inform you that the year 2019 will be the year of the refugees, returnees, and displaced persons.  So we are going to organise lots of debates and also lots of actions around the issue of race refugees.  And that's why we are expecting to have really good recommendations from this workshop so that we can bring it to the African Union and we can voice for the refugees at the political level of the African Union. 

Because at the ECOSOC we are working on ICT issues.  And I'm in charge of the ICT component of the ECOSOC.  ECOSOC next year, 2019, starting the first of January, it will be the year of the refugees.  That shows how we are really concerned about the issue of refugees and internationally displaced persons. 

Also, to finish on that, we have two components.  The first component is the refugees in Africa.  So displaced persons from one country to another, from a region to another.  But we also have the refugees from Africa outside of Africa.  And maybe we can look also at these aspects in a positive way.  Because most of them are -- in some countries, they are living in better conditions, they are going to school, and they are making progress in all their education.  And we see that recently a refugee who was living in a camp in Kenya a few years ago, she became a Congresswoman in the US.  She is from Somalia.  This is a good example of how we can help these people.  Because they are just human beings and they just want to live a normal life, how we can help them. 

And coming back to the digital – and I’ll finish there -- I think all rights are the same in all countries in Africa, which is access to ICT, access to Internet.  But also the cost of Internet is very, very heavy for them.  Sometimes they don't even have a penny to have connection and they need to be in touch with their country or origin or their region of origin

And also, the issue of access to local languages and local contents.  Sometimes they are just lost in this (Coughing in the background) because they are just disconnected.  All of these are normally also digital rights as they are human beings. 

So I think UNESCO has been doing a great job on these issues.  And I think there is a need, really, to come up with more concrete proposals and solutions to really put it on the table of the politicians and also the decision makers. 

And just to finish on that, we are a network.  We are present in almost all of the African continent under (?), and we are ready to voice for the refugees' rights.  We are ready to accompany the UNESCO, but also all partner organisations, and to make this year 2019 successful.  And we are waiting also for your proposals to get this done. 

Thank you very much. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Cisse, and also to Mohamed for being so concise. 

Xianhong.

>> XIANHONG HU: Thank you so much.  My name is Xianhong from here in UNESCO.  Welcome all of your to the house and I wish you enjoy every day here and the discussion. 

Thank you so much for bringing up the crucial issue of refugees to the Internet Policy forum.  This is my first time to encounter this issue.  And also thank you for your organisations’ contributions to UNESCO’s project on the Internet and universality project.  I remember how I met you, Mohamed, in Egypt, when we said that UNESCO wanted to advocate the Internet universality principle where we were advocating for fundamental principles, and information to be developed according to Human Rights based, and should it be accessible by all.? Should it be open?  Should it be driven by the multi-stakeholder participation?  I do think that all of these principles should apply to refugees equal as to anybody in the world. 

I would like to at the UN level have you know that we have reached a global consensus to achieve the sustainable development goal because we want to leave no one behind. That's all what we are here about.

So I'm not an expert on refugees, but I've been working on digital rights for years.  Since the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed a very important resolution in 2012, we interpreted the digital rights from the angle of the International Human Rights framework, which means that all of the Human Rights as endorsed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be equally applied offline as online. 

Well this year happens to be the 70 years anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we are celebrating the Human Rights Day on the 10th of December as well.  So that might also be an occasion which really you think about these issues. 

In specific to the digital rights, I should mention that UNESCO has written a position on the universality.  We had a core mandate in our constitution to define the freedom of expression, and after 2015 our Member States endorsed a new position to address the Internet governance, which as I mentioned is called the Universality, raises four principles.  So by a human rights based approach, we have identified a number of key rights we think should be highlighted in the Internet ecosystem.  I think that's equally applied to the refugee situation. 

I recently saw news that when a refugee came to a country, and he first has to ask for water and shelter, but then they also ask for a mobile phone and ask for WiFi and ask for a connection.  You can imagine how the ICT and the Internet are being so central to satisfy their basic needs and also address their well-beings. 

And by Human Rights online, I mean the digital age. We have identified five or six key areas.  We know Human Rights is really so broad.  The first one, freedom of expression.  It's not a luxury.  I think it’s equally essential as to the food and water for refugees as well.

The second one is freedom of information.  This is access to the governmental information, the public health information, as a right of citizens, but we should have it for individuals, for the people in the vulnerable situation like refugees. 

And I should mention the privacy. Privacy, I know we have a greater expert on that, privacy and personal data protection, it's become a crucial issue impacting the dignity of everybody in the digital age. 

And then we look at freedom of association as a right how everybody, an individual, can engage in the public life, in the public policy making, it's equally essential for the refugees. 

And, lastly, we look at the broader dimension of economic and social and cultural rights of everybody in the digital age.  Since we are living on the Internet, we could not live without it.  It's part of our everyday life.  And the right to education and the right to participate in the cultural life. 

I saw you are looking at me.  I’m also going to finish.

In addition to this rights-based approach, as our colleague just mentioned about the access and connectivity, the cost, affordability.  These are all covered by the universality principles in terms of access.  By access, it's not just the infrastructure, you cannot just give them a mobile phone and get everything, you also need to think about the quality of the access, if they are relevant and useful content to them. 

And we have to look at language issues, again, capacity, and literacy.  Internet ICTs also are developing on a daily basis, and social media platforms, artificial intelligence, and blockchains, they are changing and giving new opportunities and also threats on a daily basis.  I think we can also assist people to be educated and informed with the latest scares, to make sure that they are equally benefiting from the development of ICTs. 

The very last point I want to point out is the gender divide and the children, an issue that is always at my heart.  As UNESCO’s mandate, we are administrating the gender divide issues.  I don't know if you have statistics among the refugee community about the difference between women and the men and their access and their use of the ICT.  Maybe they are having even more barriers to that.  And equally the children, they are always in a position to be empowered with their digital skills, and to be safe. 

So I stop here and I look forward to more discussion.  Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Great.  Thank you, also, Xianhong, for being concise.  And also you have a meeting tomorrow at 4.  Is that right? 

>> Xianhong Hu :  Oh, yes.

>> IAN BROWN:  If people are interested in finding out more about UNESCO's work, please come. 

Okay.  Now, Aaron has been patiently watching us from the screen.  Aaron, have you heard everything?

>> AARON: Yes. 

>> IAN BROWN: Perfect.

>> AARON: Can you hear me? 

>> IAN BROWN:  Yes.  We can hear you.  Wonderful.  So the floor is yours. 

>> AARON: (Remote participant audio not clearly discernible)Aaron

Thank you (lost audio) – pressing issue and I want to hear it discussed. 

A little bit about myself and who I am and why I am tied into this specific issue around (indiscernible audio.) I’m a post doc at the Tilbaugh Institute for (?) Technology and Society. At this institute I work with Professor Lynn Taylor on the ERC project, focusing on (indiscernible) adjustments connecting digital rights and freedom and I think it flows into today’s discussion.

My focus is on (?) data (Lost audio) cybersecurity risk.

I’d like to note the connectivity for refugee strategy because more rights based and mobile connectivity is a human right.  This is a work in progress, as I urge you all to keep an eye on our website for further updates and a draft.

Now today I’d like to discuss a further topic of how the legal and regulatory framework are providing improved connectivity for having a simcom or opening a bank account have created barriers to access in different ways.  So these are legal and regulatory frameworks that need to be discussed.

(lost audio)

>> IAN BROWN: Thanks, Aaron, that’s great.

So we have had from the speakers I think a really good introduction, a look at the relevant legal framework and broader issues of refugee rights, and a number of ideas on ways that the situation could be improved.  So UNESCO's work on Internet universality and Aaron’s mention of work by UNHCR and GSA and others. 

So we have 15 minutes in our session and it's time to bring in everyone else.  Could I ask you please for our moderator’s sake that you say your name and your affiliation at the start of your intervention.  You are welcome to give a concise comment, if you wish, if you could keep that perhaps to 30 tor 60 seconds, so everyone can get a chance, and to ask a question.  If you have a question, please indicate which of the four speakers you are putting your question to, just so that we have the best opportunity for everyone who would like to get involved to do so. 

Put up your hand if you have a question that you'd like to make.  We immediately have two.  That's a good start.  So please.  

>> AUDIENCE:  Good afternoon. Pinder Wong from Hong Kong. 

I just want to make an observation with respect to Mohamed's opening comments and the legality of it.  Because legal identity has been one of the common themes, which really harkens back to kind of a Westphalian view from 1648.  I think there is a new tool in the toolbox and I think Xianhong and also Aaron mentioned blockchain technologies and tokenization.  I think there is a new tool in the toolbox, and that is to recognize that these displaced persons, these refugees who seek legal identity might have an alternative.  In other words, they may not have legal certainty but they h ave cryptographic certainty. 

So in the digital world, in the world of bit coin, in which I’m been playing with for the last sort of three to four years, ie this new edge technology, there is a new tool in the policy toolbox commonly called blockchain, but more pragmatically it’s the ablity to use a cryptocurrency to engender economic activity.  So it's not just an issue of asking for handouts. 

So the suggestion here specifically to the observation for next year in Africa is to really start thinking about livelihood and the right to work.  Why?  Because necessity is the mother of invention.  These people are probably going to be the most creative in the world, almost by necessity.  And so if we provide them digital tools, they will be able to empower themselves and work digitally.  So the right to work digitally is something I feel passionate about.  I think cryptocurrency enables that.  But I think there is a very, very limited window where, for example, an authorized cryptocurrency, vis-a-vis the other ones, there is a window before all this stuff goes underground.  Because the tools already exist.  So therefore a tool provision to enable them to provide cryptographic – the use of cryptographic currencies so they have the ability and right to work online, is something that I would suggest that the African Union look at. 

Thank you.

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Pinder.

Mary Ann, could you use a microphone for the remote participants.  This one here.

>> MARY ANN FRANKLIN:  Hi.  Mary Ann Franklin, Internet Rights and Principles Coalition. 

Thanks for the very important panel.  Refugees have specific rights under International law.  Refugees also have human rights under International law. So my question is: How is it possible that refugees, asylum seekers, displaced persons and newcomers find simple things such as access to the Web, the ability to use their mobile phones, why are these things taken away from them when they have the misfortune – and I call it the misfortune -- of finding themselves in detention centres or removal centres, how is it possible that they are -- that their rights as refugees and as human beings are subtracted away from them by virtue of the situation? 

I'd like a concrete answer from any Government and also any technical community people here, please. 

Thank you.

Also just, while I have the floor, the second part of this thing, we will continue at 9 o'clock Wednesday morning with our refugees and rights. 

Thank you very much, panel

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Mary Ann. 

Since Mary Ann asked a very specific question, before I go back to the panel, is there anyone from a national Government or International organization or from the technical community that would like to respond to Mary Ann's point?  Anybody? 

Maybe at your meeting, Mary Ann, they will meet your challenge.

>> MARY ANN FRANKLIN:  The questions stand on the record. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Which of our panelists would like to come back on the first point?

>> MOHAMED FARAHAT: I'd like to mention that it's important that we have someone from the Egyptian Government to speak about live view.  They were supposed to talk about this live view in one of the sessions, the component. (indiscernible)

I will stress that the digital rights are very important to make sure that the refugees have access to the Internet, and access to digital rights have a big impact on the livelihood issue.  Because if we speak about like the refugees, in some countries they don't have access to work because they need work permits.  And the Government don't give the refugees a work permit. 

So the last result for this is to make some work through the Internet.  And actually now in Egypt, Egypt does not allow the refugees to work legally, so now they start to mix up their own work through Internet and they have Facebook pages to announce about their work. 

And also I'd like to relate to this with the – my colleague here mentioned about the gender. Most of the women refugees don't have access to Internet, and they mentioned that only, as I remember, only 2 percent of women has access to the Internet. So most -- for experience, most of the African refugees in Egypt are women, not men, with children, without husband.  So I think we have to make sure that they have access to the Internet and we give some resolution to solve the language barriers, as it would be good to make some work and some money. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Mohamed. 

Who would like to come in?  Please.  

>> AUDIENCE:  Sorry, I’m not commenting, but maybe I make a statement, I was just looking at this, maybe I came in a bit late, maybe it was addressed, but my name is Olivia Naguru. I'm from Uganda.  And I know about the rights issues and having access to information, but I'm just wondering, because in many cases the issue of refugees is – there is the issue of cost, access to the devices themselves.  There are times that when a refugee is going to a place, their devices are confiscated.

Away from that, there is also the issue of having money to buy the gadgets themselves and also connecting – you know, having money to connect these.  And probably somebody may have mentioned it from the submissions earlier, how -- my question is:  Has there been any sort of engagements to work with service providers to provide any sort of, you know, discounts to the mobile phones but also to the Internet?  Because I think this could be one way of making life a little bit more easier and friendlier to have some sort of subsidy cost or fees -- reduced fees to have access to this connectivity budgets. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you. 

I wonder, Aaron, if you would like to come in, because I know you worked in the past with telcos and you mentioned GSMA.

>> AARON MARTIN:  (audio indiscernible) -- subsidies through – kind of organized by agencies that would help groups. So I know -- I don't want to misstate the country, but I know for sure that UNHCR has done this and somewhere in the Middle East, either Jordan or Lebanon, I can get the specifics for you.  But because it's quite expensive mobile connectivity there, and cost was one of the major barriers, they have basically negotiated a refugee plan.  I hate to use the label, but it provides a much more cost effective access to groups there.

(Audio stopped)

>> MOHAMED FARAHAT:  (missed audio) – lack of communication or how to solve the issue of access to the Internet for refugees, I think one of -- maybe the solution for that, if we choose that, maybe UNHCR in cooperation with the Government, the host country Governments, if you set up some like some centres that offer this service free for refugees, maybe it would solve the problem.  Maybe if we speak up like access to education for children or we can say that education centres for children sometimes you can access to this place without a charge

And also for -- maybe also some like cybernet centres, especially for refugees, so they have access to these without paying any money for that, to maybe solve the problem.  The problem of course is the cost. 

Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you. 

>> CISSE KANE:  I think, as I said earlier, there is a -- also the level of priority.  For most of these refugees, they don't have even a place just to sleep. Sometimes food is a problem.  So -- and also, the issue of the country where they are living is important, related to a wealthy country versus a Developing Country, there may be some priorities to check.  But I'm hopeful that ICT as a tool can be a way to ease their life. 

For example, I like your proposals about the displaced persons in Africa.  And I think if there are some solutions, we are open and we can talk at the (?) level.  

Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you.  We have four minutes left.  I know you have one question here.  Anyone else want to make a last-minute short intervention?  So we will take all three and then final words from the panel, please.

>> EDMOND CHUNG:  Edmond Chung from DotAsia.  I'm very supportive of the discussion and I hear with a lot of interest. 

But I have a more stupid or quick question.  Maybe I came in late and missed it.  I understand this is part of rights, but how -- like I'm sure many countries and jurisdictions have protocols for handling refugees.  How many of those have connectivity in those protocols at this point?  And the question -- the reason I ask this is where is the fight right now?  Is it to get the Governments to adopt this as part of the protocol for dealing with refugees?  Or is that already in and it's a matter of economics to implement it?

So I don't know whether that has been answered. 

>> IAN BROWN:  No, it hasn't, and that's a great question. 

Please. 

>> AUDIENCE: I'm Faith Li.  And I'm a youth representative from the DotAsia organisation.  So to add to a point that was just raised, I think it would be crucial for Government, intergovernmental organisations, as well as these service providers to work together in order to provide more welfare and -- for these refugees, to increase the connectivity, which they currently have very limited access to. 

So I was wondering whether or not it would be possible to perhaps -- are there any specific ways to provide this kind of welfare to them?  For example, could you perhaps distribute bandwidths or could you perhaps create a refugee specific channel for them to have access to, or maybe create a local community network? 

So, actually, I'm aware that there is a network in place called Loon.  It's essentially designed to bring Internet connectivity to rural and remote communities worldwide.  But obviously one project like this might not be adequate to cover such a global issue.  So, I was just wondering what are the specific ways to make this kind of welfare happen? 

Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you.  Finally.

>> AUDIENCE:  Again, Pinder Wong from Hong Kong, again. 

I think labels matter, whether you say displaced, refugees or economic migrants, I would like to suggest for this group, since it's so digitally focused, is I refer to everyone as being Netizen expatriates, Netpats.  Why?  We moved 40 billion people online in the last 20 years and no one seemed to notice.  In the digital realm, it’s space enough for everyone.  So if we begin with sort of the digital space or the netizen space, and view them as sort of netizen expatriates – I mean, there are people who travel the world with a bag and a phone with multi-banked and with multi-currency and they do that. 

So if we take a more positive view that they can contribute to the domestic economy, again I suggest that you consider the term netizen expatriate

Thank you.

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you for that.

So we are already overrunning.  So I'll go to each speaker.  If they would like to respond to questions or a final statement, great, and if you have any immediate closing thoughts.  But I think people will start coming in the door in the next couple minutes, so let's be quick. 

So I’ll go in the same order in which they spoke.  So I’ll go to Mohamed, please.

>> MOHAMED FARAHAT:  The only thing I would like to say at the end of the session is that the digital rights is a solution for the problems that refugees already faced.  Because if we -- they face a problem, to get access to education, access to education and work, and so the solution now is digital rights.  So I would like to stress this.  We have to ensure that and to make sure that they have access to these rights, to solve the problem of access to their offline in host countries. 

Thank you. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you.

>> CISSE KANE:  I think that the digital rights of refugees are just – it’s -- a bigger problem, more of a problem.  They have more specific needs, they have more priorities to live and to be in a good situation of livelihood, and maybe sometimes just to have something to eat.  And that we have already rules for human beings about Internet and access, we can use the same rules.  But that means that there are some good solutions in the -- in every country, because a refugee is first a human being. 

Thank you.

>> XIANHONG HU:  Thank you so much.  I learned a lot from all of you.  I think we should, yes, think about how we can mainstream the digital rights and Human Rights aspect to the International policies and legal framework, but also about the national protocols about refugees, as was mentioned. 

I think digital rights should not get isolated from considering the Internet, digital age in its entirety.  We should look at how we enable this by promoting access, content, gender equality, children empowerment as well. 

I'm still looking at the approach of the governance called a multi-stakeholder approach.  I would say this should be working for so many refugee issues.  Look, everybody can offer a solution.  From a technical community, you can offer a technical solution.  From the IGF we can offer a legal and regulatory framework and policy options.  And the national Government, NGOs, civil scientists, and academics, they all have a role to play.  It's a shared responsibility and we need the expertise and resources, -- I’m sorry -- and service providers, they could provide a solution.  Refugees are living in such a tight situation to be -- I mean, to be empowered. 

So I do -- I do promote I think the multi-stakeholder approach to be one agenda, but for the future, to engage actors to support the refugee issue. 

Thank you for advertising our event tomorrow at 4 p.m., room 10.  We can really continue some part of the discussion here. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you, Xianhong

Aaron.

>> AARON: These are complicated issues, and I'd be cautious of easy solutions.  Refugees are just one population among others, asylum seekers, returnees, they have different realities, and we have to account for all of the groups and the specifics of their situations as we think through the digital rights. 

>> IAN BROWN:  Thank you again to the speakers and everyone who contributed.  And I hope in 2019 we can meet in Berlin and discuss connectivity that improves these situations. 

Thank you.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

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

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678