Finding the Pleasure Point in Internet Policy Spaces

Finding the Pleasure Point in Internet Policy Spaces

Sachini Perera RESURJ member from Sri Lanka and founder of GHOSHA 

The following is an excerpt from a published article, you can find the full paper here:

Someone called me a policy animal a few years back and I grudgingly agreed that indeed I’m one of those people who does get excited by the idea of influencing policy negotiations and policymaking. Grudgingly – because policy spaces, especially the grey corridors of the United Nations that I frequent for advocacy, are not fun places to be in. They are so far removed from ground realities, both geographically and empathetically. They are stiff, formal and hierarchical. Let alone getting our language and politics into policy documents, even getting our foot in the door as civil society is often considered a victory. They are tedious and often disempowering; the changes we manage to make are incremental and often invisible and human rights are traded away by states for overriding geopolitical interests with incredible ease. Especially the human rights of people who are already marginalised and disempowered. In spite of all of this, there is a thrill and geekery in trying to understand the dynamics between countries and country blocks, identifying allies and accomplices within state delegations and civil society, working with other feminists to raise our priority issues and find strategic ways to introduce progressive language to policy negotiations and outcomes.

There is also an imperative to be present in policy spaces to hold the line on the gains we have made over the years, especially as rising conservatism and populism from states and certain groups within civil society threatens those gains more than ever. There is a lot of heartbreak in watching the issues closest to our hearts being excluded or watered down but the payoff can be equally satisfying and pleasurable, such as finally ensuring that gender equality is a standalone goal in the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development or watching the efforts of activists to secure a main session on gender at the global Internet Governance Forum.

The achievement and advancement of our human rights is a dynamic process that involves;

  • us having the agency to name our rights and their violations
  • the recognition of our rights both socially and legally, and
  • the freedom to claim and assert our rights through state and non-state mechanisms.

…and the policy space, whether at local, national, regional or global levels, is a key space in which this process unfolds.

There is pleasure in doing policy advocacy as a direct constituency or facilitating the advocacy of others (and I would not disagree if I’m called a masochist for finding this grueling process pleasurable), but pleasure seems to be largely missing from the substantive discussions and negotiations that happening in policy spaces and this is an attempt to explore why.