The Global Network Initiative is pleased to welcome two new civil society organizations as members: Lebanon’s SMEX, and Derechos Digitales, which works to protect human rights online throughout Latin America.

“The rising threats to free expression and privacy online are truly global in nature,” GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg said. “We are thrilled to bring on board two leaders in protecting free expression and privacy in their respective regions, helping to inform our perspectives and deepen our capacity for advocacy on the ground.”

Beirut-based SMEX defends digital rights in the MENA region through research, knowledge-sharing, and advocacy, often in collaboration with an expansive network of regional partners.

According to SMEX Executive Director Jessica Dheere, business and human rights issues can be overlooked in the MENA region, and SMEX welcomes the opportunity to promote GNI’s principles and multi-stakeholder collaboration as a model: “GNI is a unique space where organizations like ours can engage on an equal basis with the companies that, perhaps more than anything else, shape our digitally networked sphere,” she said.

Derechos Digitales’ primary objective is to develop, defend and promote human rights in the digital environment, particularly, freedom of expression, privacy, and access to knowledge. Their work includes a yearly report mapping the state of rights in Latin America, and while they are based in Chile, they frequently provide research and advocacy support for local partners on policy debates throughout the region.

Derechos Digitales Executive Director María Paz Canales said: “At a time where global ICT company operations have increasing consequences for privacy and freedom of expression, we believe that our addition to GNI enhances the group’s diversity and helps promote solutions accounting for the local and regional contexts.”

Furthermore, Ms. Canales said, “We believe that this task cannot be achieved by only one type of stakeholder but rather benefits from close collaboration across private companies, academia and civil society organizations working from different regions of the globe.”