CIPESA Joins Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) Project

Statement |

The Collaboration on International ICT for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) is pleased to be among eight partners that comprise the newly established Civil Society Alliances for Digital Empowerment (CADE) project.

The CADE project, an ambitious initiative designed to empower civil society organisations (CSOs) to participate more actively in digital policy processes, was officially launched on May 31, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland at an event attended by Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, Permanent Representative of the European Union to the UN in Geneva, Prof. Jovan Kurbalija, Executive Director of DiploFoundation, and project partners.

Co-funded by the European Union, the CADE project aims to enhance the active participation of CSOs in global governance and development initiatives. This initiative is crucial in fostering inclusive and participatory democratic processes worldwide.

In her address, Ambassador Knudsen emphasised the EU’s steadfast commitment to the vital role of CSOs in development. The EU’s Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for the thematic programme Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities from 2021 to 2027 highlights the importance of achieving high quality development outcomes through inclusive, democratic engagement.

“It appeals to one of our top priorities: to support and develop civil societies, which is particularly significant in the realm of global internet governance. This is about digital empowerment, and we need civil society’s active involvement. Our approach has always been strongly multistakeholder,” said Ambassador Knudsen.

Prof. Kurbalija further elaborated on the project’s goal to leverage technology for development, underscoring the CADE project’s innovative approach to enhancing CSO capacities. He noted, “This project aims to bring meaningful and substantive inclusion of civil society. Although many forums, such as ICANN, the WSIS Forum, and the IGF Forum, have open doors for participation, the challenge remains in equipping CSOs with the capacity to effectively engage and impact discussions.”

Dr Stephanie Borg Psaila, CADE’s project coordinator from DiploFoundation, introduced the eight partner organisations, which include the European Center for Non-for-profit Law (ECNL), Netherlands; Forus, France; CIPESA, Uganda; Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), Kenya; Sarvodaya Fusion, Sri Lanka; Social Media Exchange (SMEX), Lebanon; Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC), Fiji; and Fundación Karisma, Colombia.

The launch event was followed by a technical session held during the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event (27–31 May 2024 in Geneva). This session showcased the CADE project’s initiatives and concluded with a call to action for individual and institutional efforts to promote genuine inclusivity and participation in digital governance.

The CADE project is founded on the principle of strengthening the fabric of civil society. Its objectives are clear and resonant with the needs facing contemporary society as follows:

  • Enhancing CSO contributions: The project reinforces the role of CSOs as pivotal actors in local governance and accountability, as promoters of inclusive and sustainable growth, as providers of social aid and welfare, and as contributors to digital policymaking in the global process.
  • Reinforcing networks: A key goal is to bolster regional and global networks of CSOs and associations of local authorities, enhancing their capacity for cooperation, mutual support, and active participation in multistakeholder digital governance.
  • Education and awareness: The project initiates and backs efforts towards education and awareness-raising, ensuring populations are well-informed and supportive of development efforts. This underscores the importance of an educated civil society in progressing towards sustainable development, particularly in the context of digital advancements.

Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager at CIPESA noted that through the CADE Project, “CIPESA will continue playing its current catalytic role in supporting actors across Africa to become active defenders and promoters of the multistakeholder model of internet governance.”

New Law in Uganda Imposes Restrictions on Use of Internet

By Rodney Muhumuza |

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law legislation criminalizing some internet activity despite concerns the law could be used to silence legitimate criticism.

The bill, passed by the legislature in September, was brought by a lawmaker who said it was necessary to punish those who hide behind computers to hurt others. That lawmaker argued in his bill that the “enjoyment of the right to privacy is being affected by the abuse of online and social media platforms through the sharing of unsolicited, false, malicious, hateful and unwarranted information.”

The new legislation increases restrictions in a controversial 2011 law on the misuse of a computer. Museveni signed the bill on Thursday, according to a presidential spokesman’s statement.

The legislation proposes jail terms of up to 10 years in some cases, including for offenses related to the transmission of information about a person without their consent as well as the sharing or intercepting of information without authorization.
Opponents of the law say it will stifle freedom of expression in a country where many of Museveni’s opponents, for years unable to stage street protests, often raise their concerns on Twitter and other online sites.
Others say it will kill investigative journalism.

The law is “a blow to online civil liberties in Uganda,” according to an analysis by a watchdog group known as Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa, or CIPESA.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is among groups that urged Museveni to veto the bill, noting its potential to undermine press freedom.

“Ugandan legislators have taken the wrong turn in attempting to make an already problematic law even worse. If this bill becomes law, it will only add to the arsenal that authorities use to target critical commentators and punish independent media,” the group’s Muthoki Mumo said in a statement after lawmakers passed the bill.

Museveni, 78, has held power in this East African country since 1986 and won his current term last year.

Although Museveni is popular among some Ugandans who praise him for restoring relative peace and economic stability, many of his opponents often describe his rule as authoritarian.

This article was first published by the Washington Post on Oct 13, 2022

Civil Society Organisations Call For a Full Integration of Human Rights in The Deployment of Digital Identification Systems

Press Release |

The Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development (the Principles), the creation of which was facilitated by the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative in 2017, provide one of the few attempts at global standard-setting for the development of digital identification systems across the world. They are endorsed by many global and regional organizations (the “Endorsing Organizations”) that are active in funding, designing, developing, and deploying digital identification programs across the world, especially in developing and less developed countries.

Digital identification programmes are coming up across the world in various forms, and will have long term impacts on the lives and the rights of the individuals enrolled in these programmes. Engagement with civil society can help ensure the lived experience of people affected by these identification programs inform the Principles and the practices of International Organisations.

Access Now, Namati, and the Open Society Justice Initiative co-organized a Civil Society Organization (CSO) consultation in August 2020 that brought together over 60 civil society organizations from across the world for dialogue with the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative and Endorsing Organizations. The consultation occurred alongside the first review and revision of the Principles, which has been led by the Endorsing Organizations during 2020.

The consultation provided a platform for civil society feedback towards revisions to the Principles as well as dialogue around the roles of International Organizations (IOs) and Civil Society Organizations in developing rights-respecting digital identification programs.

This new civil society-drafted report presents a summary of the top-level comments and discussions that took place in the meeting, including recommendations such as:

  1. There is an urgent need for human rights criteria to be recognized as a tool for evaluation and oversight of existing and proposed digital identification systems – including throughout the Principles document
  2. Endorsing Organizations should commit to the application of these Principles in practice, including an affirmation that their support will extend only with identification programs that align with the Principles
  3. CSOs need to be formally recognized as partners with governments and corporations in designing and implementing digital identification systems, including greater country-level engagement with CSOs from the earliest stages of potential digital identification projects through to monitoring ongoing implementation
  4. Digital identification systems across the globe are already being deployed in a manner that enables repression through enhanced censorship, exclusion, and surveillance – but centering transparent and democratic processes as drivers of the development and deployment of these systems can mitigate these and other risks

Following the consultation and in line with this new report, we welcome the opportunity to further integrate the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other sources of human rights in international law into the Principles of Identification and the design, deployment, and monitoring of digital identification systems in practice. We encourage the establishment of permanent and formal structures for the engagement of civil society organizations in global and national-level processes related to digital identification, in order to ensure identification technologies are used in service of human agency and dignity and to prevent further harms in the exercise of fundamental rights in their deployment.

We call on United Nations and regional human rights mechanisms, including the High Commissioner on Human Rights, treaty bodies, and Special Procedures, to take up the severe human rights risks involved in the context of digital identification systems as an urgent agenda item under their respective mandates.

We welcome further dialogue and engagement with the World Bank’s ID4D Initiative and other Endorsing Organizations and promoters of digital identification systems in order to ensure oversight and guidance towards human rights-aligned implementation of those systems.

Press Release Endorsed By:

  1. Access Now
  2. AfroLeadership
  3. Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC)
  4. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  5. Derechos Digitales
  6. Development and Justice Initiative
  7. Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project, NYU Law School
  8. Haki na Sheria Initiative
  9. Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation (HRF)
  10. Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB)
  11. Namati

Centre for Human Rights and CIPESA Conduct Study on Civil Society in the Context of the Digital Age in Africa

By Center for Human Rights and CIPESA |
The study on Civil society in the digital age in Africa: identifying threats and mounting pushbacks was undertaken by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) to explore the extent of state-sponsored digital challenges that the civil society in Africa is faced with. It illustrates the challenges faced by civil society organisations and the importance of digital security measures.
Considering the digital threats contributing to the shrinking civic space on the continent, the study highlights the international and regional framework governing the activities of civil society. It further maps the national legislative and policy threats against civil society in selected African countries: Egypt, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. The study shows how these digital threats not only limit the operations and existence of civic society but also impede the enjoyment of human rights such as the freedoms of association, assembly and the right to freedom of expression.
Based on the findings of the study, it is argued that civil society organisations are significant players in the democratic development and protection and promotion of human rights and thus, their operations and rights should be safeguarded. The study, therefore, calls on African governments to respect their obligations under international human rights law and adopt measures that enable civil society to perform their mandate in promoting good governance, accountability and respect of human rights on the continent, especially in the context of the digital age. The study also recommends the civil society to devise methods of countering digital threats. This could be done through the development and implementation of human rights-sensitive organisational data protection, digital security policies and enhanced organisational understanding of how they can harness digital technologies for digital security purposes. Further, the study encourages the private sector and funders to support and complement the efforts by the civil society in advancing digital rights and opening up the civic space.

Civil society in the digital age in Africa: identifying threats and mounting pushbacks


Civil society in the digital age in Africa identifying threats and mounting pushbacks

This report documents the threats to civil society in the digital age by examining the legislative and regulatory framework, as well as state action in four countries in Africa: Egypt, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. The recommendations emanating from the research call for the states to revise and repeal identified restrictive laws and align them with international standards.
Download the full study here.

Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum

The Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) is an arena where tough topical global issues around Internet rights, especially in Africa, are discussed between civil society, technology companies, government, academia and other stakeholders. For the first time ever, the Forum will focus considerable time and energy on digital inclusion, after organising six editions that focused heavily on digital rights.
For more information on the event, click here.