Trygve Lie Symposium: Social Media & Human Rights

9/26/2011 // What role can social media play in order to promote democracy and human rights? This was the theme for the fourth Trygve Lie Symposium on Fundamental Freedoms which took place on the opening day of the 66th UN General Assembly in New York. Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre led the debate.

The discussion brought together human rights activists with experience from Egypt and Syria, a key representative from Twitter Inc. and the Foreign Minister of Sweden and the United States to debate at the International Peace Institute in New York.

In addition, members of the public watched the event online (see video) and discussed the issue on Twitter using the hashtag #trygvelie (twitterfeed).

The goal for this year's Trygve Lie Symposium on Fundamental Freedoms was to create room for debate about both the enormous opportunities and significant challenges that social media represents when it comes to the promotion of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights. The following took part in the discussion:

  • Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister, Norway
  • Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister, Sweden
  • Maria Otero, Director General, State Department, USA
  • Claire Diaz Ortiz, leads social innovation and philanthropy at Twitter
  • Nora Younis, Human Rights Activist, journalist and blogger, Egypt
  • Wissam Tarif, Activist in the Arabic World for Avaaz, former director of the Human Rights Organisation INSAN

Sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, technological development and the emergence of social media have opened for an explosive growth in the access individuals have to information and their capacity for public expression.

The democratic upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa showed to the full how social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as personal and political blogs, are used for social and political mobilization.

While these tools are used to promote democracy and human rights, they are also used by the authorities to control and manipulate the population. Irresponsible use can also contribute to undermine the democracy.

The International Peace Institute wrote this article after the Symposium.


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