The UN says that internet access is a basic human right, India disagrees

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has passed a non-binding resolution that effectively makes internet access a basic human right.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has passed a non-binding resolution that effectively makes internet access a basic human right. Any country that denies that right is violating the human rights of its citizens.

The resolution was passed with 70 countries signing on as cosponsors. However, 17 countries were strongly opposed to the resolution and one of those countries was India. Joining India in its opposition were Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, China, Cuba, Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Vietnam. That’s not a list of countries you want to be on.

The UN states that the goal of this resolution is to increase internet access as it facilitates opportunities and grants access to education and related tools. The UN also adds that today, it’s impossible to live without basic internet access. The resolution calls for states to address security issues and ensure freedom and security online, that they recognize the importance of privacy and have a system of accountability for human rights abuses. It also calls for states to give importance to the education of girls and women in tech related fields.

The 17 countries that opposed the resolution, India included, are primarily opposed to a clause in the resolution that states that it “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our dissemination of information online.”

What India and those 17 other countries are effectively saying is that they’re open to the idea of internet access for all, but that they want absolute control over it.

Thomas Hughes, the director of Article 19 says, ““We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia, and India voted in favour of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online...A human rights based approach to providing and expanding Internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down.”

Unfortunately, the UN has no power to actually enforce this resolution. Practically speaking, the resolution is a set of guidelines that countries can choose to follow. At the very least, the UN can try to put pressure on governments like ours to change their ways. For whatever good that will do.

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