- What does the current landscape of interventions to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms online comprise? What interventions and activities are conducted to foster and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms online?
- What are the benefits, drawback, barriers and enablers that characterise different interventions and approaches to promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms online?
- What interventions and activities should the UK FCDO prioritise with its funding instruments to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms online in order to maximise impact of interventions across a wide range of stakeholder groups and keeping in line with UK policy?
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has commissioned RAND Europe to conduct a study aimed at identifying and scoping impactful ideas for interventions and activities to foster and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the digital age. The objective of this research is to help inform decision-making on future interventions to be implemented, supported, or funded by the UK FCDO and its partners. The study provides an overview of human rights in the digital age, the trends and challenges associated with them and the capacity-building approaches that have been adopted to foster and protect them. The report presents a series of recommendations to be considered by stakeholders involved in capacity-building efforts focusing on human rights.
Capacity-building interventions take place in a rapidly evolving technology, political and socio-cultural landscape. This landscape is characterised by
- opportunities to use data, digital technologies and services to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms, aid access to relevant information and strengthen safeguards
- challenges stemming from the exploitation of data, digital technologies and services as economic and governance commodities (e.g. through digitalisation of public services)
- threats to human rights stemming from the exploitation of the information environment for mass surveillance and authoritarian practices, or illicit and criminal purposes (e.g. disinformation).
Organisations active in capacity building can employ a range of approaches to help foster and safeguard human rights in the digital age.
- These can be broadly grouped into four categories—governance and regulation, technical interventions, education, and strategic communications—that provide different opportunities and options to achieve impact, and which are characterised by different strengths, weaknesses, and implementation requirements.
- Adopt a holistic approach to human rights and fundamental freedoms, moving away from a distinction between capacity-building initiatives with a digital focus and those aimed at more traditional concepts of human rights.
- Ensure that policy initiatives support and resonate with international engagement work to foster and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Develop a strategic approach and overarching framework to guide initiatives focusing on human rights and fundamental freedoms. These should identify
- overarching priorities and desired impact to achieve through a portfolio of initiatives
- criteria for choosing individual initiatives to ensure their relevance to the overall strategic vision.
Build on established principles and good practices for the delivery of individual interventions to maximise their impact, sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency. Donor, funder and implementer organisations could
- consider adopting complex interventions that span multiple activities, objectives, and beneficiaries
- tailor interventions to local and regional contexts to aid local ownership and ensure adequate nuance in intervention activities and content
- ensure the adoption of inclusive, multi-stakeholder approaches to capacity-building intervention design and implementation
- incorporate comprehensive planning, risk assessment, and evaluation activities to mitigate potential unintended consequences and maximise learning
- embed tools for transferring knowledge, skills and competences in capacity-building initiatives and interventions.
This research was prepared for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and conducted by RAND Europe.
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