Right To Privacy In The Digital Age

I do not want to be subjected to arbitrary interference with my privacy, family, home or correspondence by officials of any country where I live. For I do believe that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. It has always been comforting for me to know that my right to privacy is respected and guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights. But I am also aware of the danger to my personal security living in today’s digitised World and working in social media. My privacy and personal safety could be easily compromised in just an instant because of what I write or say online in an e-mail, Facebook or Twitter accounts. And, unknowingly one day, I could get a surprise visit by any suspicious state official who then get my computer confiscated as a result of a random surveillance activity by state authority. It is easy for our human rights to be violated through electronic surveillance, governmental interception of digital communications and collection of personal data such as medical records, banking activities or financial transactions. Today, we have good news on this from that United Nations that the General Assembly just adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age. The representative of member states have adopted new measures to end activities that violate people’s human rights to privacy, offline and online digital communication. They agreed to comply with the obligations under the international human rights law, and to find ways to establish or maintain existing independent, transparent, and effective domestic oversight that includes accountability in the surveillance and interception of communications and the collection of personal data. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to prepare and submit an official report on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in digital age to the Human Rights Council next year at it’s 27th session in Geneva, and later to the 69th Session of the General Assembly in New York. I want to express my appreciation of the efforts of Ms. Pillay and the good work of her office at international level to defend human rights to privacy. But successful implementation of this important resolution depends on action by UN Member States. They should listen to her warning, which I totally agree with, that surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. People need to be confident that their private communications are not being unduly scrutinised by the State.

Tribute to Nelson Mandela

For those of us who believe in the work for justice and freedom for all people, Nelson Mandela continues to be our hero even after he is gone from us. He inspired me by the way he had lived his life. By the way he fought for human dignity and equal rights in his own country, South Africa. He had given a good example to me and to the younger generations to stand-up against racial discrimination, not only in their own country, but also, no matter where we live, in all the regions. From him, I learned an important lesson that failing is not something to be ashamed of, but that it is how one stood up after the fall to fight on to achieve one’s goal, is the thing that counts in life. His dismantling of the Apartheid System in South Africa was an unbelievable achievement. For me and my UN friends who worked at the United Nations at that time, we did not believe that such system could be eliminated in one generation. Yet, that was what he did, almost single handedly, with horrible consequences that brought him sufferings in his own life, and to his own family, in spending 27 years in captivity. Although he often said to those who praised him for this achievement, that he did not contribute alone, that there were countless numbers of people who had contributed together with him in the success in the elimination of the evil system of Apartheid. I am touched by his humility, and also his kindness towards all people, even towards those who had treated him badly during the early days of the struggle. His success in creating a new multi-racial South Africa under his leadership as their first elected President has much to be celebrated. I join friends in the United Nations System in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela who had made our World a better place to live.

Clean Water/Budapest Summit

The Budapest Water Summit began yesterday to focus on solving the problem of lack of access to clean drinking water around the world in the context of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. Country’s representatives come to Hungary for four-days of discussions to draw attention on water issues which effect the health and survival of millions of people all over the World . Experts predicted that by 2030, nearly half of global population could be facing water scarcity and demand could outstrip supply by 40 percent. New commitment for an urgent global cooperation and action can be based on the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Water management at community, country and regional level is key to success. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon urged us to take this opportunity to work together from wherever we are to solve the lack of access to clean drinking water supply because our security and life depends on them. It is the challenge of our life time when we are facing the disaster that happens on a daily basis from climate change such as hurricane, Typhoon and flood in low land areas around the world. Urgent cooperation and action are ongoing. Many have used information from reading the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Improved water management at community, country and regional level is key to our success. We have seen good work now being done in the Mekong River Delta, and the European Innovation Partnership on Water and in other region that can give us idea for global action and cooperation. The Budapest Water Summit Bulletin , the publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Canada, contains valuable background information for further global action and cooperation in this area which can be used as a follow up to this important World Summit.

A Chance For Peace

We don’t hear much talk on whether there are any possibility left for a peaceful settlement of the Syria crisis in the United Stats these days. There were some street demonstrations against the U.S going to war with Syria, but their voices had been drawn out by the sound of drumbeat for a surgical strike and the “macho” talk of shooting missile into Syria to punish the Syrian leader who was accused of using chemical weapons against its people on August 21. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seemed to be the lone voice that ask the Obama Government to give peace a chance and to wait for the result of the UN investigation team. Today, I am happy to hear another voice for peace from Former U.S.President Jimmy Carter who called for ending of hostilities. The Carter Foundation made a proposal to hold a Peace Conference and to work with the United Nations in finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a press interview today saying that there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria . He spoke on behalf of the “Group of Elders” formed in 2007 by the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. Members of the group includes former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former President Jimmy Carter. They condemned the use of chemical weapon against the people in Syria as inhumane and criminal act. They said that those responsible must be held accountable both individually and collectively. As a road to peace, they also proposed holding a Peace Conference called Geneva II as one non-violent possibility available to help in resolving the conflict which should include women in the process. Another action proposed by the Nobel laureates Jody Williams (U.S.), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Mairead Maguire (Ireland), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala) is to ask the U.N. Security Council to refer the case of the chemical weapons attack of civilian population to the ICC. These venues to a peaceful way for conflict resolution should at least be tried out before consideration of taking any military action that will end up killing and harming more people. It surely will expand the dimension of the war but I don’t think will end a regional conflict of this kind.

High-tech Hospital

Is high-tech and digitized hospital an answer to having a quality health care for people living in today’s world? It is the question that I have after reading about new Hight-Tech Hospital recently opened in Bangkok, the Ramkhamhaeng . The aim of this private hospital is to give efficient and faster services to patients and paid customers. The hospital’s administration proudly made announcements that they are equipped with the most modern computer network system for registration of patients, robots to dispense drugs. They give to patients smart identification card which include a guide containing data and barcode. They would inform the patients, as they enter the hospital compound, to use this ID card at every step of the way when they get treatment and service inside. The hospital officials also use barcode scanner to guarantee the right identification of each patient, and the matching of the name with the right record on the right file. After diagnosis of each case by doctors, who make an input of the result into the computer memory to make sure of the accuracy of the disease of each patient, the right treatment and the right prescription of medications for the patient. This is my question. Is this kind of fast, impersonal service what most of the patients want? A large number of patients in Thailand have no working knowledge of computer technology. They are not yet “into” the digital age. Many of them can barely read or write. Some have real fear of technology. Before duplicate this kind of a high-tech hospital, I suggest that a “focus group” be conducted with potential users of hospital service. My guest is that many of them would prefer to have a “human friendly” hospital rather than dealing with robots and computer touch screen and keyboard. I have nothing against high-tech hospital, but when I don’t feel well or sick walking into a hospital, I will be more comfortable to see and talk to a human person rather than insert a card into a cold machine.