GNI Publishes Updates to the Core Commitments of our Membership

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March 20, 2017  |  Membership, News

The legal and policy landscape influencing privacy and freedom of expression in the ICT sector has shifted since the launch of the Global Network Initiative in 2008 and new international instruments on human rights have been created. In accordance with GNI’s Governance Charter, and following extensive deliberations and consultations, GNI is pleased to publish updates we have made to the GNI Principles for Freedom of Expression and Privacy (“the GNI Principles”) and the Implementation Guidelines (“the Guidelines”). 

Updates to the GNI Principles 

The GNI Principles state the overarching commitments of participants to collaborate on freedom of expression and privacy.

The Board approved revisions to the GNI Principles to specifically reference two international instruments published after the GNI Principles were launched in 2008. These are the United Nations’ Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) published in 2011, and the OECD guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises, which were updated in 2011 to include human rights. The original drafting of the GNI Principles was informed by the higher-level forerunner to the UNGPs – the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” or “Ruggie Framework” – which was also issued in 2008.

These updates clarify expectations for companies in situations where national laws may conflict with internationally recognized human rights; specify that companies should ensure protections for the safety and liberty of company personnel; and align the Principles to the UNGPs with respect to the commitments by participants to protect, respect, promote and support human rights. 

Updates to the Implementation Guidelines include:

  • Incorporating lessons learned from GNI’s first cycle of Independent company assessments, and the 2014 GNI Strategic Review;
  • Describing the roles of companies’ senior managers and respective boards in exercising oversight of implementation of the GNI Principles;
  • Aligning the Guidelines with the UNGPs, including prescriptions on human rights due diligence and human rights impact assessments; and
  • Streamlining the organization of the Guidelines for clarity and ease of reading.

The GNI Governance Charter requires that the core commitments contained in the GNI Principles and Implementation Guidelines are periodically assessed. In November 2014, the GNI Board established a Working Group to develop revisions to the Principles and Guidelines for consultation. The group included representatives of all four GNI constituencies – academics, civil society groups, companies and investors – and was steered by GNI Executive Director, Judith Lichtenberg. The revisions were further developed through consultation with GNI participants, members of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue, and external civil society stakeholders. The updates to the GNI Principles were formally approved by the GNI Board in May 2015, and the updated Guidelines were approved in February 2017.   

GNI welcomes questions and feedback on these updates. Please contact GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg: [email protected]

For reference, see below the original versions of the core documents from 2008: 

GNI Governance Charter

GNI Governance Accountability and Learning Framework

The Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy

Implementation Guidelines for the Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy

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