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Re-energising the narrative: human rights in the digital age (WP1655)


The theme of the event, the 14th in the annual human rights series, was the over-arching concern of human rights under threat with a specific emphasis on narratives, language and discourse, including opportunities and threats presented on and off line.

In recent years the international community has witnessed increasingly polarised views, a rise in populist leaders and the emergence of extremist movements, including a retreat from human rights responsibilities by some key powers. There is an urgent need to address the diminishing commitment to human rights, characterised by the reduction of civic space and increased attacks on activists. At this critical juncture, this meeting will provide an opportunity for human rights advocates to identify ways in which to develop and promote positive human rights narratives and generate creative proposals to engage and motivate key networks and institutions in order to reverse the trend.

The event considered the specific threats presented by abuse via social media platforms, the ‘echo chamber’ effect on critical thinking and policy making, and the deliberate exploitation of divisions in societies, eg computational propaganda/’fake news’, amplification by algorithms and systematised trolling.

Through a mix of plenary and breakout sessions, the event provided an opportunity to:

  • Re-think existing approaches and current messaging in order to re-energise human rights discourse
  • Explore creative proposals and develop recommendations to refresh the debate
  • Consider ways in which the digital environment can be used to strengthen respect for human rights
  • Identify opportunities to promote a safe and inclusive digital future for all, taking into account relevant human rights norms
  • Reflect on how to ensure diversity online through more transparent algorithmic decision-making

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