Internet governance to give right of access to everyone: UN Special Rapporteur Cultural Rights

Says principle of net neutrality is a fundamental principle of the Internet and should be upheld.


May 22, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: As a powerful global information resource, the Internet must be accessible to everyone and measures to ensure this must be taken, UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Farida Shaheed said on Monday.

"Since the Internet is essentially a global resource, it is crucial that appropriate Internet governance supports the right of everyone to have access to and use information and communication technologies in a self-determined and empowering way," said Shaheed, adding that a "human-rights based approach to the issue should always be adopted."

Shaheed is a Pakistani sociologist who works as a Director at Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratization, an international programme strengthening and promoting citizenship in Asia, the Middle East and Africa and as a Director Research at Shirkat Gah-Women’s Resource Centre in Pakistan.

Talking about promotion of human rights via the Internet, she added,"The Internet has become a key element for the enjoyment and the promotion of human rights such as the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers; the right to share and enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications; the right to participate in cultural life and engage with others through inter-cultural dialogue; as well as the right to development."

The sociologist noted that the Internet can also play an important role in promoting democratic participation, accountability, transparency and economic development, and this reinforces the need to maintain it as a global source for all to enjoy.

She underscored that the Internet should not be divided into national spheres and should be guarded against any monopolistic appropriation which could reduce the public space where social actors interact as equals. "The principle of net neutrality, whereby all content is treated equally over the Internet, is a fundamental principle of the Internet and should be upheld.”

“The Internet started as a collegial enterprise of communication and sharing informed by the principles of equality, non-interference and non-hierarchy," she added, "Its architecture was constructed in a manner which ensured that the flow of content was independent of the carrier infrastructure, making it very difficult for anyone to control the flow on the Internet. It is essential that these basic elements that make the Internet such a unique and important tool for communication are maintained."

It is noteworthy to mention that the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development will be convening a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland from May 21-25, wherein policy issues regarding internet governance will be discussed.

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