IGF 2018 WS #346 Refugee Rights and Emerging Technologies: Building Digital Futures for all?

Format: 

Round Table - 60 Min

Subtheme: 
Additional Speakers: 

SPEAKERS:

Astri Kimball​ (Google), private sector

Andrew Toft (Department for International Development, UK), government 

Eimear Farrell (Amnesty International), civil society

Jean Guo (Konexio), civil society

Valentina Pellizzer (APC Women), civil society

Relevance: 

It is estimated that today over "65 million people – the largest number since the Second World War – are refugees or internally displaced people" (United Nations High Commission for Refugees ). A recent report from the UNHCR: "Connecting Refugees: How Internet and Mobile Connectivity Can Improve Refugee Well-being and Transform Humanitarian Action," found that Internet access has become "as vital to them as food, water, or shelter". Internet access and mobile phones play a pivotal role in providing vital information, helping families to stay connected and giving newcomers the necessary tools to being able to start a new life in another part of the world. However, large numbers of the refugee population lack digital networks and infrastructure, face unaffordable connectivity or imposed restrictions to their fully participation in the online environment.The “Refugee crisis” highlighted connectivity and accountability issues and over the last few years we have seen international organisations, civil society, private sector and members of the technical community working on refugee camps developing digital tools (blockchain technologies, biometric records, etc) that collect Refugees data to help respond to the daily needs of the growing community.

These tools, which may lead to positive outcomes on the life of refugees also impose new challenges and risks as the digital storage of private information brings the responsibility of ensuring the rights to privacy and data protection, otherwise risking the exposure of the most vulnerable populations. As we look into connecting the next billion (UN SDGs) it is imperative that we take an inclusive approach to ensure refugees' rights to access and protection in the online environment. This session will be a follow up on the discussion initiated at EuroDIG 16 ("Confronting the Digital Divide" Workshop Sessions: http://eurodigwiki.org/wiki/Category:Accessibility_2016), the IRPC's Lightning Session in IGF16 (http://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/index.php?q=filedepot_download/4183/391)

Session Content: 

The session will discuss what has been done to ensure equal access and full participation in the online environment for this large community of over 65 millions os refugees, whether the technologies used to collect data are following the necessary steps to ensure that the rights of refugees are protected online and offline. By the end of the session we hope that this enriched discussion will lead for a series of recommendations and best practices which can help not only the refugees and displaced people but also the different stakeholders who work with or are directly involved with this community.

Background links:

EuroDIG 2016: Workshops 2 and 10: http://eurodigwiki.org/wiki/Category:Accessibility_2016

IOM Publications: https://publications.iom.int/books/world-migration-report-2018-chapter-6-mobility-migration-and-transnational-connectivity

UNHCR Report on Connectivity for Refugees: http://www.unhcr.org/innovation/connectivity-for-refugees/

Interventions: 

The onsite moderator will initiate the debate by posing a few questions to the discussants and encouraging interactive discussion. The questions draw on work and views of each one of the speakers and will aim to a) identify discriminatory structures that prevent refugees to fully participate in the online environment, 2) discuss the work that has been done on the field to allow connectivity for refugees 3) address concerns on the way currently personal information is digitally gathered and stored in refugee and issues on data protection and privacy in light of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The onsite moderator will keep track of time and content and the first discussion will be followed by an engagement with session participants onsite and online. The discussants will also have the opportunity to leave their final remarks and recommendations, before the onsite moderator concludes the session

Diversity: 

The IRPC is bringing together a group of discussants from different stakeholders and is actively seeking for diversity in terms of gender, geography and policy perspectives. We made sure that both genders are represented and that speakers and organisers are representing different stakeholders: civil society, the technical community, international organisations and the private sector. We are also bringing proposed discussants who will be first time IGF speakers.

Online Participation: 

Online attendees will be encouraged and able to participate in the roundtable discussion. They will have a separate queue and microphone, which will rotate equally with the mics in the room to ensure that online attendees will have equally opportunities to engage in the discussion. The workshop will take comments submitted via phone, chat and social media platforms. The session moderator the online moderator, who will have been IGF trained, will work closely together to make sure that the workshop is open and inclusive.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The roundtable will start with a brief introduction of the theme and followed by a couple of introductory questions which will be the result of previously held discussions among the IRPC members and the speakers and that the group will address. Each discussant will speak for a maximum of 3 minutes. The discussion will then be open to the wider audience and both participants and speakers will be able to engage on an in-depth conversation on the theme for 20 minutes. A final 10-minute round will allow panelists to share their recommendations and the onsite moderator will use the last 5 minutes for conclusion and session wrap up.

Onsite Moderator: 

Marianne Franklin

Online Moderator: 

Hanane Boujemi

Rapporteur: 

Minda Moreira

Agenda: 

Onsite Moderator Introduction: 5 minutes

Introductory questions to discussants Roundtable discussion: 20 minutes

Open discussion: 20 minutes

OnSite Moderator to address the discussants with a last question:

Final round: recommendations: 10 minutes

On-site moderator closing remarks: 5 minutes

Report: 

- Session Type –Workshop

- Title: WS #346 REFUGEE RIGHTS AND THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT: Building Digital Futures for all?

- Date & Time: 14th November, 9am

- Organizer(s): Minda Moreira and Marianne Franklin

- Chair/Moderator: Marianne Franklin

- Rapporteur: Minda Moreira

 

- List of speakers and their institutional affiliations:

Astri Kimball​ (Google), private sector

[absent] Andrew Toft (Department for International Development, UK), government

Eimear Farrell (Amnesty International), civil society

Jean Guo (Konexio), civil society

Valentina Pellizzer (APC Women), civil society

 

- Theme (as listed here): Human Rights, Gender & Youth

- Subtheme (as listed here): Refugees

Session Type – Workshop

 

Title: WS #346 REFUGEE RIGHTS AND THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT: Building Digital Futures for all?

 

Date & Time: 14th November, 9am

Organizer(s): Minda Moreira and Marianne Franklin

Chair/Moderator: Marianne Franklin

Rapporteur: Minda Moreira

 

Please state no more than three (3) key messages of the discussion. [300-500 words]

  • It is estimated that today over "65 million people are refugees or internally displaced people" (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and internet access and mobile phones play a pivotal role in providing vital information, helping families to stay connected and giving newcomers the necessary tools to being able to start a new life in another part of the world. However, despite the fact that everyone should have their human rights protected as per international HR law, reports from the ground are showing that basic rights such as the access to information have been withdrawn from refugees and displaced people in certain parts of the world, including in Europe. Stripping refugees and migrants from their rights comes hand and hand with the rise of negative narratives that dehumanise. 
  • The “Refugee crisis” highlighted connectivity and accountability issues. Over the last few years and as a result of the drive for using innovation in humanitarian context and for providing “legal identity to all” (SDGoal 16.9) refugee camps are becoming testing grounds for new technologies that collect, store and manage personal data. These tools, which may lead to positive outcomes on the life of refugees also impose new challenges and risks as the digital storage of private information brings the responsibility of ensuring the rights to privacy and data protection. However, the lack of transparency, accountability and the inexistence of clear and concerted policies that protect the data and privacy may be putting at risk very vulnerable populations. 
  • In order to find solutions and to ensure that the human rights of refugees and displaced people are protected online and offline the voices of this community need to be brought to the table making sure that refugees and displaced people are involved in the design process and are setting the agenda on the discussion, together with advocacy groups that represent them. Governments, private sector, technical communities and civil society need to work collaboratively, bring positive narratives, apply a human rights-based approach to the development and use of emerging technologies.

Panel presentations:

Moderator Marianne Franklin, IRPC introduced the session with he UNHCR report stating that there are over 65 million refugees and displaced people and the importance of a mobile phone and connectivity in improving refugees’ well-being. Taking into account that many reports from the field show how refuges and displaced persons are been stripped out of their basic rights in many parts of the world, including Europe she asked whether human rights online - which have been recognised by the UN, work or do not work for refugees and displaced people. She also brought to discussion the double-edged sword of emerging technologies which can be empowering and provide contact with the loved ones, but are also being used to track and label people who do not fall easily under the citizenship rubric. 

Valentina Pellizzer, APC Women brought in her experience of working with refugees in the Balkans to highlight the dehumanisation of refugees. Valentina also referred to her work at Tacit Futures to point out the existence of an infrastructure of data surveillance paid with public money that tracks mass migration and refugees. She stressed the importance of reflection on the polarity between the fragility of infrastructure of care - based on civil society organisation taking steps to connect people on the move with their friends and family and the public-private partnerships in refugee camps, urging for  a third party composed by civil society and the refugees themselves to monitor this partnership.

Jean Guo, Konexio, explained the work with refugees and newcomers developed at her organisation to ensure that those who are the most vulnerable, including refugees have the opportunity to access digital skills and rights. She highlighted the importance of connectivity, and  stressed that it is important to make the distinction between the different levels of usage and to understand how technologies and smart devices are used, as older and younger generations, may use these devices in different ways. On protection of digital data Jean highlighted the importance of creating solutions that take into account  the possible dangers and risks associated with connectivity and how developers need to be made aware, through education and information, that devices and apps that they are developing can bring out solutions but can also collect information that can put lives in danger.

Astri Kimball, Google, highlighted the work of her organisation has been done to provide solutions and help support 800 000 refugees and displaced people, in terms of access (maps, people finder, google translate), educational resources through online education and positive narratives about immigration  - Youtube Creators for Change, lifting up voices to counter the negative ones. Referring to Artificial Intelligence solutions, Astri mentioned that technology can provide solutions adding that  the  protection of rights and privacy is global challenges, but that power of the data to find patterns and provide solutions is a great opportunity for society and therefore the right balance needs to be found  not to put privacy and rights at risk. 

Eimear Farrell,  Amnesty Tech, Amnesty International (AI), pointed out that while examples of tech for good and how it is used to bring good and to improve lives of refugees and migrants are all around, it is also very important to ensure that they do not cause harm. She highlighted the fact refugee camps have been the ground for testing and trialling of technologies in very vulnerable populations and that this can bring serious  and sometimes unpredictable consequences.

Talking about the work that AI has been doing to address these issues she mentioned UN’s Global Compact on Migration an Global Compact on Refugees which included language around data, biometrics and how AI together with other organisations and NGO’s advocated for improved language on privacy and data protection in these areas, especially in the case of biometrics. AI advocates a HR based approach to the use of emerging technologies by looking at questions such as participation of the people affected, equality, non discrimination, also transparency, right to remedy and accountability. The AI is also starting to organise a coalition of groups interested to acting in these issues to look at the gaps in knowledge, provide practical information and documentation and to propose alternative solutions.

She addressed the political  securitization of immigration and the drive to use technology  towards innovation in humanitarian contexts and she stressed the fact refugee camps are becoming testing grounds for new technologies and that this needs to be highlighted in everyone’s interest.  Digital Identity she added can be empowering but it need to be under the control of the people owning this identity.  As for the partnerships between governments private sector organisations in refugee camps she stressed the need  to tackle the  lack of transparency on contracts  that are in place and data sharing agreements and the importance of private companies to ensure that HR are respected and that any means of surveillance on very vulnerable populations often fleeing on the basis of they identity is an issue that governments need to be addressed as identity is critical to their protection.

  • Please elaborate on the discussion held, specifically on areas of agreement and divergence. [300 words] Examples: There was broad support for the view that…; Many [or some] indicated that…; Some supported XX, while others noted YY…; No agreement…

The dehumanisation of refugees was an issue covered by the panel. Valentina Pellizer stressed this can be tackled by addressing the issue of whiteness - at the core of the existence of refugees, which involves acknowledging the responsibility of colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. Astri Kimball explained their work on positive narratives about immigration  - Youtube Creators for Change, to lift up voices and to counter the negative narratives online while Jean Guo urged governments to stop stereotyping and to share more positive examples.

There was broad support for importance of connectivity, which allows refuges and displaced people the access to basic rights, but as Jean noted, it is also important to make the distinction between the different levels of usage and to understand how technologies and smart devices are being used by these populations.

The protection of rights and data in the digital era was widely discussed. Valentina mentioned the infrastructure of data surveillance paid with public money, stressed the importance of reflecting on the polarity between the the fragility of the infrastructure of care - based on civil society organisations, and the public-private partnerships in refugee camps and called the monitorisation of these partnerships by a third party composed by civil society and the refugees themselves. Also focusing on refugee camps Eimear Farrell highlighted the fact that as a result political securitization of immigration and the drive to use technology towards innovation in humanitarian contexts these have been testing grounds for new technologies in very vulnerable populations often fleeing on the basis of their identity and that this can bring serious and sometimes unpredictable consequences. She added that digital identity can be empowering but it needs to be under the control of the people owning this identity. Addressing the partnerships between governments and private sector organisations in refugee camps she stressed the importance of tackling the lack of transparency on contracts and data sharing agreements, and the need of private companies to ensure that human rights are respected. Awareness through education and information, so that developers can create solutions that take into account the possible dangers and risks associated with connectivity was Jean contribution to the topic and Astri pointed out that the power of the data to find patterns and provide solutions is a great opportunity for society and therefore the right balance needs to be found not to put privacy and rights at risk.

Questions from the floor included:

  • Are companies (such as Google) applying HR standards at the design level of new digital tools
  • What measures are going to implemented in collaboration with governments to ensure that the rights and digital of refugees are protected?

Other comments from the audience addressed the negative aspects from some of the tools created to develop the positive narratives (such as Google’s Creators for Change), as they are sometimes being used to lure people to the countries where they are then trafficked and the limitations of some other tools (e.g Google Translator and Kurdish Sonali) in addressing the needs of refugees and displaced people.

 

Please describe any policy recommendations or suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps. [200 words]

List of concrete solutions and recommendations included:

  • The introduction of group privacy as best practice.
  • The need of testing new tools before they are launched at full capacity to ensure that they are actually useful and safe.
  • Working towards a reflective and responsive tech .
  • Involving refugees and displaced people in the design process of new solutions. 
  • The need of a disrupting technology bending towards justice.
  • Using technologies on HR work or solutions that help further the rights of refugees and migrants  and working collaboratively.
  • The need of a human rights-based approach to the development and use of emerging technologies.
  • The need to ensure  that refugees themselves and migrants and the advocacy groups that represent them are setting the agenda on discussions around global standards on these issues.
  • Ensuring that data protection and innovation are mutually reinforcing.
  • The responsible use of data, and the need to reflect about how data is collected and working towards a standard policy. Audit has to be done by refugees themselves and the civil society. 

What ideas surfaced in the discussion with respect to how the IGF ecosystem might make progress on this issue? [150 words]

- Please estimate the total number of participants. 

There were around 21 participants

- Please estimate the total number of women and gender-variant individuals present.

There were 19 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] N/A

Session outputs and other relevant links (URLs):

Session Time: 
Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 09:00 to 10:00
Room: 
Salle VIII

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