By J C Suresh
In a radical departure from diplomatic protocol, in some ways remotely reminiscent of Fidel Castro speeches at the UN General Assembly, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff lashed out at the U.S. for spying activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).
“The atmosphere was electrifying when (on September 24) the first speaker among political leaders, President Rousseff, described the internet spying as ‘a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty’, noted one observer.
She also called for the creation of “multilateral mechanisms for the worldwide network” and proposed five principles for the multilateral governance of the internet.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke directly after President Dilma, but did not make any reference to her speech.
Below is an excerpt (offered by the South Centre in Geneva) of President Rousseff’s speech at the General Assembly that pertains to the internet spying issue and global internet governance.
“I would like to bring to the consideration of delegations a matter of great importance and gravity.
Recent revelations concerning the activities of a global network of electronic espionage have caused indignation and repudiation in public opinion around the world.
In Brazil, the situation was even more serious, as it emerged that we were targeted by this intrusion. Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information – often of high economic and even strategic value – was at the center of espionage activity. Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Office of the President of the Republic itself, had their communications intercepted.
Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of International Law and is an affront to the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.
The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained.
Brazil . . . knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.
We are a democratic country surrounded by nations that are democratic, pacific and respectful of International Law. We have lived in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years.
As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among Nations.
We face . . . a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty.
We expressed to the Government of the United States our disapproval, and demanded explanations, apologies and guarantees that such procedures will never be repeated.
Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable.
Brazil . . . will redouble its efforts to adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data.
My Government will do everything within its reach to defend the human rights of all Brazilians and to protect the fruits borne from the ingenuity of our workers and our companies.
The problem, however, goes beyond a bilateral relationship. It affects the international community itself and demands a response from it. Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between States. Time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries.
The United Nations must play a leading role in the effort to regulate the conduct of States with regard to these technologies.
For this reason, Brazil will present proposals for the establishment of a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.
We need to create multilateral mechanisms for the worldwide network that are capable of ensuring principles such as:
1 – Freedom of expression, privacy of the individual and respect for human rights.
2 – Open, multilateral and democratic governance, carried out with transparency by stimulating collective creativity and the participation of society, Governments and the private sector.
3 – Universality that ensures the social and human development and the construction of inclusive and non-discriminatory societies
4 – Cultural diversity, without the imposition of beliefs, customs and values.
5 – Neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes.
Harnessing the full potential of the Internet requires, therefore, responsible regulation, which ensures at the same time freedom of expression, security and respect for human rights”.