The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is pleased to announce a two-year collaboration with a group of eight global companies that belong to the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. By working together, GNI and the Industry Dialogue aim to advance freedom of expression and privacy rights in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector more effectively.

The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue is a group of global telecommunications operators and vendors who have been meeting since 2011 to discuss freedom of expression and privacy rights in the telecommunications sector in the context of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  The companies that are currently participating in the industry dialogue are: Alcatel-Lucent, France Telecom-Orange, Millicom, Nokia Siemens Networks, Telefonica, Telenor, TeliaSonera, and Vodafone. These companies have a global footprint, providing services and equipment to consumers, businesses, and governments worldwide.

The GNI will house the work of the Industry Dialogue and provide a common platform to exchange best practices, learning, and tools. During the two years of collaboration, the members of the GNI and the Industry Dialogue aim to find a shared and practical approach to promoting freedom of expression and privacy rights around the world.

“Telecommunications play an essential role facilitating the free flow of information, and today the human rights and economic impacts of the sector are in the global spotlight,” said GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan. “The GNI believes that strength lies in numbers and this is an important opportunity to pursue shared goals and a common approach to human rights.”

The Industry Dialogue has developed a set of Guiding Principles on telecommunications and freedom of expression and privacy, which will form the beginning of a more extensive external dialogue with key stakeholders. The Industry Dialogue remains open to other telecommunications companies committed to advancing freedom of expression and privacy rights in the sector.

The telecommunications companies are not joining GNI as part of this collaboration. There is a review process built into the work that will assess progress during the two years.

“This is a positive step from some of the world’s largest companies providing communications and Internet access to consumers around the world and we hope that this effort will lead to full implementation of human rights standards through membership in GNI,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. “This is an opportunity for GNI to learn from telecom companies about the complex human rights challenges they face and for them to learn from GNI about how they can develop an accountable system to safeguard human rights.”