Rights and ICT Sector Development at the Stockholm Internet Forum


by Milka Pietikainen


I was pleased to represent the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue and Millicom at the Stockholm Internet Forum on 21-22 October 2015 and to interact with experts from around the globe on the topic of improving access to the benefits of the Internet. Together with the Global Network Initiative, the Industry Dialogue organized an “unconference” session on the subject of Making Freedom of Expression and Privacy a Key Part of ICT Development. Patrik Hiselius (TeliaSonera), Judith Lichtenberg (Global Network Initiative), Babette Ngene (Internews), and Marcin de Kaminski (SIDA) joined me in sharing perspectives on how donor, development and international financial organizations can incorporate freedom of expression and privacy into their ICT sector development projects in order to better ensure that the benefits of technology are genuine for the people they impact. From the perspective of Millicom, working in many countries that receive international aid and financing, such organizations can have real influence in promoting best practice and building local capacity.


Our unconference session was inspired by the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue’s input to World Bank consultations on revisions to its Environmental and Social Framework in the first quarter of 2015. The Industry Dialogue recommended that the World Bank evaluate the risks and impacts to freedom of expression and privacy in a partner country prior to financing ICT sector projects and throughout these projects’ life-cycles. The evaluation would ideally include a review of the partner country’s legal framework related to freedom of expression and privacy. If the framework were unclear or inconsistent with international human rights standards, the World Bank could include mitigation strategies in its borrower’s Environmental and Social Commitment Plan. Additionally, the Bank could explore providing training and technical capacity-building aimed at making the domestic legal framework consistent with international standards and ensuring that government officials follow them.

Unfortunately, the second draft of the World Bank’s Social and Environmental Framework did not incorporate our suggestion. The absence of safeguards or policies related to human rights has been the subject of criticism from UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston, who has recommended that the World Bank adopt a human rights policy. At a minimum, Alston counsels the Bank to adopt a “due diligence policy to enable it to adjust or reject projects that would otherwise lead to, or support, human rights violations.” Human Rights Watch has also recommended that the World Bank assess risks to freedom of expression, privacy, and other fundamental rights prior to approving projects with ICT components and throughout the project life-cycle, that it adopt mitigation strategies, and that it raise concerns with government officials regarding censorship, illegal surveillance, and network shutdowns.

In addition to our unconference, Patrik also participated in the final wrap-up session and reflected on the value that Industry Dialogue companies have found in engaging with each other and a variety of stakeholders with the aim of increasing transparency around our operations.

We are grateful to SIDA and the participants of the 2015 Stockholm Internet Forum for providing the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue with the opportunity share our challenges and work with the participants. The Industry Dialogue and the GNI would be pleased to share the lessons that we have learned with other donor or international financial institutions. We would also welcome the chance to work with SIDA to increase company participation in next year’s Stockholm Internet Forum and to share ideas as to how the Forum could provide more opportunities for interaction and trust building between different stakeholder groups.


LF Milka_2


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Lisl Brunner

Lisl Brunner is the Facilitator for the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue. Prior to this role, Lisl spent five years as a staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and holds a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary.

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