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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 28, 2019
CONTACT: Kathleen Clark, Mayor’s Office of the CTO; E: kaclark@cto.nyc.gov, P: 646-927-9592

GLOBAL CITIES COALITION, UN HUMAN RIGHTS, UN-HABITAT, EUROCITIES AND UCLG TO UNITE 100 CITIES IN 100 DAYS IN PROTECTING DIGITAL RIGHTS

 

The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights in partnership with the United Nations Human Rights Office, United Nations Habitat, EUROCITIES, and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) formally launch a campaign to rally 100 cities to join the coalition and create policies, tools and resources to promote and protect resident and visitor rights online.

NEW YORK–– Today, the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights is calling on cities around the world to join the coalition and commit to harnessing technology, to provide trustworthy and secure digital services and infrastructure that improve the lives of people and support communities in cities.

The coalition was initially formed by Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York City with the support of UN-Habitat and a commitment towards the following 5 principles:

  1. Universal and equal access to the Internet, and digital literacy
  2. Privacy, data protection and security
  3. Transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination of data, content and algorithm
  4. Participatory democracy, diversity and inclusion
  5. Open and ethical digital service standards

Since its launch in November 2018 the coalition has increased its signatories to 23. These cities are Athens, Austin, Berlin, Bratislava, Cary, Chicago, Cluj-Napoca, Grenoble, Guadalajara, Helsinki, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles, Lyon, Milan, Moscow, Philadelphia, Portland, San Jose, Tirana, Torino, Vienna and Zaragoza. The formation of the coalition marks the first time that cities have come together to protect and promote digital rights on a global level.

Additionally, the coalition has formally partnered with the United Nations Human Rights, EUROCITIES, and United Cities and Local Governments to build capacity, extend its reach, and coordinate support.

With our increasing reliance on the Internet, it is imperative that we ensure that human rights are protected, respected and fulfilled in the digital realm, and guaranteed to all.  Nonetheless, denial and limitation of access to internet persists. Globally, it is estimated that nearly six out of ten people are not connected to the internet in the world and sixty-five percent of people in the developing world do not yet have access to the internet. Furthermore, human rights violations are evident and extend to the virtual realm in many ways including, through network shutdowns, targeting of activists and journalists for their online activities, and the collection and use of personal data without consent.

Like urbanization, the opportunities conferred by the Internet and other digital technologies can drive sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection. Digital rights also offer great potential for promoting and accelerating sustainable development relating to SDGs, and especially SDG 11 geared towards making cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Additionally, in line with the New Urban Agenda it is important that local and national governments make appropriate use of digital platforms and tools to improve participatory processes and provide options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices, boost sustainable economic growth and enable cities to improve their service delivery, promoting equality for all in the enjoyment of the benefits of the digital era. Appropriate use entails ensuring accessibility, inclusivity, affordability and sustainability, thereby contributing immensely to sustainable development and peace.

It is on this premise, that the cities Coalition of Digital Rights was created. With cities signing the coalition for digital rights, and working together as cities, we aim to resolve common digital challenges and work towards framing and implementing legal framework and programs to advance digital rights and prevent their abuse.

Cities can learn more and fill out a form to join the coalition at https://citiesfordigitalrights.org.

“Now more than ever with the growing threats to human rights around the world, cities must work together to be more inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin, City of New York. “The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights is demonstrating a growing unity in our ability to come together to serve people fairly and equally and ensure digital access and safety for all.”

“We are just scratching the surface of understanding digital rights abuses in the modern world such as the monitoring and misuse of personal information that private companies are sharing and selling without our consent,” said Alby Bocanegra, Interim Chief Technology Officer, City of New York. “I’m proud that New York, Amsterdam and Barcelona are demonstrating leadership in protecting human rights in the virtual world and that cities around the world are joining us. Together, we can protect the fundamental rights of all people to feel protected while harnessing the benefits of technology.

“Technology and the internet have globalized the world we live in at an incredibly rapid pace, so it is imperative that the public, private and civic tech worlds of our major metropolitan cities commit to universal standards of openness, fairness and transparency,” said Peter Koo, New York City Council Member. Many thanks to the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights for working to enshrine these essential universal principles that will stand as the gold standard for developing countries around the world.”

“It’s exciting to see so many cities taking up important work surrounding digital rights, particularly issues about privacy and data protection,” said Laura Negron, Chief Privacy Officer for the City of New York. “In New York City, we aim to protect the personally identifiable information of all residents, while also encouraging responsible data sharing to improve city services. The digital field is still a nascent and growing one, and it presents significant opportunity for experts worldwide to share knowledge and learn from each other.”

“As rapid developments in the digital realm hold promise and peril for humanity, cities including New York play a leading role in tackling global challenges like digital rights,” said Penny Abeywardena, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “By working together to share best practices with local leaders around the globe, we can ensure that our shared city values of inclusion, accessibility and fairness inform digital policies at every level of government. We are grateful to our partners at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and UN-Habitat for recognizing the importance of listening to city voices on this critical issue, and look forward to welcoming more international cities to the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights.”

“Through digital technologies we can connect to everything and everyone across the world. At the same time we are discriminated by algorithms and locked into digital bubbles,” said Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani of Amsterdam. “The city of Amsterdam feels the responsibility to lead this global cities movement, and demonstrate that cities lead the way in human centered innovation.”

“In cities we are the first to experience the impact of digitization,” said Ger Baron, Chief Technology Officer of Amsterdam. “We experiment which solutions work and which don’t. This gives us the unique possibility to provide feedback towards national, European and global governments on policy-making and regulation needs. With the digital rights coalition, we unite to protect our residents’ personal rights and our position to make city policies in a global digital marketplace.”

“A human centric digital society shall reflect the openness, diversity and the inclusion that are at the core of our societies and values,” said Deputy Mayor of Barcelona Gerardo Pisarello. “We want an open Internet that allows every citizen to take part in the online society. We want an Internet that empowers citizens not discriminates them.”

“Cities are closer to the citizens and can become custodians of citizen’s digital rights” said Francesca Bria, CTIO of Barcelona. “We need to ask what are the social, ethical and economic implications of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and make sure the rule of law, human rights and democracy are preserved in the digital society. This will lay the foundations for a people-centric digital future. We are very proud to join forces with NYC and Amsterdam to protect citizens’ digital rights, such as their privacy, data protection and right to information self-determination.”

“I was happy to connect the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights with the UN Habitat and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly as this coalition will help enable broader global reach to other cities that want to improve the “digital” experiences of urban communities where digital interactions have become part of daily lives, ” said Maher Nasser, Director in the UN Department of Global Communications. “The coalition will fill a vacuum in helping cities protect human rights and privacy in digital spaces for all.”

“The Internet should be a force that enhances the digital ‘public squares’ of our cities, empowering residents to better access information, to express their opinions more widely, and to seek opportunities free of discrimination,” said Peggy Hicks, Director at the UN Human Rights Office. “But for that to be a reality, it is crucial that cities shape policies based on the human rights reflected in the five founding principles of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights.”

“A paradigm shift in the protection and promotion of digital rights world is needed. National and local governments, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector all have a role in the development of proactive and holistic policies that ensure that technology is used to increase both freedom and security, and that the benefits of digital technology are experienced by all. Local governments have a responsibility in ensuring digital rights trickle down to every inhabitant. It is on this premise that the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights was founded” said UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Shariff.

“We want to ensure that access to digital services enables people to lead better lives, while leaving no one behind,” said Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General, EUROCITIES. “That’s why, as the level of government closest to citizens, cities are collaborating to ensure that secure digital services are designed and developed for and with people. The Digital Rights Coalition includes many EUROCITIES member cities with whom we are working to translate these principles into further actions at the local level.”

“Our world is evolving. Our communities are no longer solely comprised of those who are physically close to us and therefore our norms, values and rights also need to evolve. Digital rights will not only mean translating OFFLINE rights into the ONLINE world; they should in fact be a tool to expand the scope of our citizenship,” said Emilia Saiz, General Secretary, United Cities and Local Governments. “They should support the transformation of our societies into safe and sustainable environments. You can count on UCLG to bring the quest for digital rights to the global level, representing not only cities whose citizens are thinking about their digital rights, but also those that are still waiting to go online.”

“The City of Athens is implementing an ambitious digital transformation strategy which is making it a better place to live, work and visit,” said Mayor Kaminis, Athens, Greece. “Upholding and advancing the digital rights of our residents is a central focus of this effort and we are proud to become part of this coalition in the first wave of cities.”

“Austin is excited to join the ranks of these global cities leading the charge for digital rights. Cities play a critical role in the increasingly digital lives of our residents,” said Mayor Steve Adler, Austin, Texas. “Growing this network of leaders will help Austin and other coalition members share knowledge and practices that will strengthen accountability, provide necessary protections, and expand opportunities for our people in the digital age.”

“The city of Berlin is developing a digitization strategy, accompanied by a participatory citizen dialogue,” said Ramona Pop, Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises. “The aim is to create a Berlin that is worth living in, which also ensures access and opportunities for all Berliners and thus offers potential for growth and better social coexistence in the city.”

“We have developed a public platform for citizens to have greater access to information on urban development, promoting digital citizen participation and guaranteeing the correct protection of their data in accordance with Mexican laws,” said Saúl Jiménez, Director of Government Innovation of Guadalajara, Mexico. “In Guadalajara we believe in the open data as a powerful tool for citizens to become co-responsible in the development of the city and be sure that together we are creating a city that is closer, connected, compact and available to all its citizens.”

“As the home to innovation, cities have a crucial role in shaping how new technologies truly put people first,” said Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer, London, United Kingdom. “It is right we work closer together to set a progressive, sensible and ethical approach to promote inclusion and the digital rights of our citizens.  London’s support for the Cities for Digital Rights Coalition builds on our track record of mobilizing data to improve the lives of all those who live, work and visit our great city.”

“We applaud the leadership of these cities for making a strong commitment to digital rights and inclusion,” said James Thurston, Vice President for Global Strategy & Development at the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict). “We know from the work of our Smart Cities for All global initiative that today the digital divide for persons with disabilities and older persons continues to grow. We look forward to partnering with these cities to support their efforts to be both smarter and more inclusive.”

“The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition is proud to see the the cities coalition for digital rights putting the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet at the heart of digital cities agendas,” said Marianne Franklin, Chairman Internet Rights Principles Coalition, Professor at Goldsmith University London. “They are leading the way in showing how internet futures for our cities can be not only human rights-centred and digitally smart but also environmentally responsible.”

The internet is becoming increasingly entwined with urban life. We rely on it for everything from transportation to accessing essential public services,” said Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation. “In recognition of this, cities around the world need to make commitments to ethical, responsible technology. The Cities Coalition for Digital Rights is doing that –crafting localized policies that reflect unified principles of privacy, inclusion, equal access and accountability. Together, they are building on the internet’s intended nature –a decentralized resource, open and accessible to all.”

“Technology reflects values and decisions and is therefore never neutral,” said Martin Brynskov, Chairman Open & Agile Smart Cities Network. “As cities we have a responsibility towards our future generations to reflect on the direction we are heading and what implications our choices have. Ethical considerations should be at the heart of the design process of a digital society. As Open & Agile Smart Cities we support models where governments, private sector, academia, and residents cooperate to shape cities in which people have control over technologies. We welcome this initiative and will further engage with the cities in our network to endorse the statement. We look forward to appending the exciting work of these cities within our efforts on Digital Rights and Skills.”

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About the City of New York Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer

The Mayor’s Office of the CTO is led by the New York City Chief Technology Officer. We’re making broadband, smart city technologies, digital services, and the tech industry work for all New Yorkers. Learn more at NYC.gov/cto.