Closing in on a decade of convening
The 10th anniversary edition of RightsCon comes to a close today with a discussion on the opportunities and challenges of our future, featuring Xiaowei Wang, Creative Director, Logic Magazine; Mariam Barghouti, Writer, Researcher and Policy Analyst, Al-Shabaka; and Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative. You can view it here.
This year’s summit has been record-breaking across the board — with 9,120 participants tuning in from 164 countries for 527 sessions. The program reflected issues that were at the core of RightsCon when it started – privacy and transparency – and topics that are newer, but critical, additions, like disability rights and public health.
In this 10th anniversary edition, our second hosted online, the global RightsCon community has demonstrated its strength, solidarity, and resilience in the face of continuous disruption to our civic spaces. We hope the discussions and connections made have refueled our movement for the work ahead – over the next year and decade.
Over the last five days, we came together to solve problems, build partnerships, and achieve tangible outcomes. Here are just a few highlights of what we’ve accomplished at RightsCon this year:
- For the third consecutive year, nine – the most we’ve ever welcomed – United Nations Special Rapporteurs released a joint statement emphasizing digital rights as a “top priority” to rebuilding civic space in pandemic recovery.
- Between Opening and Closing Ceremonies, 25 new civil society organizations, and over 500 individuals, joined the #BanBS global coalition, a powerful new network working together to ban biometric surveillance.
- Nearly 100 human rights defenders connected with experts from CiviCERT help desks around the world to strengthen their digital security.
- In the face of hundreds of reports of content takedowns in the past several weeks, 17 organizations and more than 50 artists, journalists, and human rights defenders came together to call on Facebook to Stop Silencing Palestine.
- The Digital Rights Litigators Network — born at RightsCon 2016 — rallied around legal challenges to the Nigerian government’s order for Twitter to stop operating in the country, and began organizing a global intervention under the leadership of local groups.
- The Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Danish Technology Ambassador formally launched the Tech for Democracy initiative.
- Over 10 civil society organizations from the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, and Puerto Rico convened to strengthen connections and set the next steps on the protection of digital rights in the region, with a special interest in digital ID and digital gender violence.
- Civil society called on the Malaysian government to abandon all attempts to throttle and censor online free speech.
- U.S. activists dove deep into strategies for centering racial justice in the fight for data protection, highlighting the importance of incorporating labor rights activists into digital rights conversations to collectively advance our goals.
- At the 5th RightsCon General Counsels meeting gathering representatives from all across the tech sector — from social media platforms to telcos to VPN providers —companies agreed to increase information sharing on censorship orders, like content takedown requests from governments, and to partner with civil society on adopting new, more secure internet standards and protocols.
- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Access Now, and 10 more organizations launched a coalition from across the MENA region to combat the sale of surveillance technologies to governments using them to violate human rights.
Digital Rights Watch announced the Internet Economy Project to rebalance power online.
- The COVID-19 Observatory by Al Sur released a comprehensive new report (ES) documenting technology-based responses to COVID-19 across Latin America and providing guidance on rights-respecting practices for adoption and implementation.
- Stakeholders across civil society, the UN, and the private sector contributed to new human rights due diligence guidance on UN procurement and use of digital technologies, while committing to engage with those most vulnerable and affected.
- The #KeepItOn coalition released a robust new advocacy toolkit and a comprehensive resource library to help empower human rights defenders fighting against internet shutdowns in their own communities.
And it’s not over yet! You can still engage with highlights from the summit by visiting the RightsCon 2021 Playlist on Access Now’s YouTube. Read our Executive Director Brett Solomon’s reflections on 10 years of RightsCon. Also make sure to check out the RightsCon After Dark musical performances by feminist rapper Rebeca Lane, musician and activist Evan Greer, and Egyptian rockstar Ramy Essam, as well as evocative poetry by Sabika Abbas, and the stories of brazen African women as told by The LAM Sisterhood.
If you attended RightsCon this year, you will still be able to log in to the platform and access all the recordings of Panels, Lightning Talks, Tech Demos, and Press Briefings. We’ll be looking toward making even more resources from RightsCon available to everyone in the future.
As we come to a close on 10 years of convening, we’re looking ahead to determine when and how RightsCon might come together in person again. Any decision we make, as always, will be grounded in our commitment to convening spaces that are accessible and inclusive to a global community. We’ll keep you updated, but for now, you have our word that RightsCon will come together again in 2022, and we hope to see you there!