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IDRC and USAID launch donor principles for rights-compliant digital initiatives

On October 11, 2023, the IDRC and USAID launched the Donor Principles for Human Rights in the Digital Age. The principles, endorsed by the 38 member countries of the Freedom Online Coalition, establish a framework to align digital-technology focused development initiatives with human rights and democratic norms.
The picture depicts the October 11, 2023 donor principle launch event in Kyoto, Japan, with participants gathered around a conference table and facing away from the camera.
Sidney Leclercq / IDRC
IDRC and USAID co-organized the launch of the donor principles on October 11, 2023 at the 2023 United Nations Internet Governance Forum.

The donor principles provide a framework for governments with international development and assistance programming to ensure alignment between digital initiatives and their commitment to human rights and democratic values.  

Notably, the principles prompt donor governments to engage in human rights impact assessment processes and emphasize the importance of ensuring digital security and safety in the selection and design of data and digital technology initiatives. The principles also urge donors to prioritize digital inclusion by ensuring stakeholder engagement and the support of local research.  

Partnering with USAID to advance inclusion in digital governance  

IDRC has engaged with the Freedom Online Coalition’s (FOC) work to bring Global South and under-represented voices to the table in FOC consultations.  

Digital inclusion became a key priority for the FOC under Canada’s chair-ship in 2022. Since then, IDRC has partnered with USAID to ensure wider and more inclusive participation in the FOC’s processes, promoting an inclusion agenda and rights-compliant donor practices in the digital space.  

Beginning in 2022, IDRC and USAID revived and co-chaired the FOC’s Funding Coordination Group, coordinating the development of the donor principles. IDRC also funded a CAD296,000 project supporting the FOC’s inclusion agenda, allowing Global South stakeholders to contribute to the shaping of global digital governance norms. 

The donor principles build upon this inclusion agenda. In addition to an explicit commitment to prioritizing digital inclusion, their drafting included a public consultation process — a first in the history of the FOC. IDRC harnessed partnerships and research networks to contribute to the outcome document, and worked to ensure the principles’ focus on inclusion, the need to support local research and the role of donors in empowering Southern voices in this sphere.