Roia attends RightsCon 2018 in Toronto

The month of May ushered in exciting times for Roia, as the organization was invited to present at RightsCon 2018, presented by Access Now.

Steven Dixon, our Communications and Development Manager, attended the 3-day event with Communications Officer Jessica Barrett – two of over 2,500 participants from the international community who came together to discuss the role of ICT in protecting and advancing human rights.

RightsCon is an annual summit that explores themes including free expression and the protection of global journalism, gender diversity and digital inclusion, and encryption and cybersecurity. It brings together business leaders, policy makers, government representatives, technologists, and human rights defenders to generate dialogue and facilitate collaborations. And with over 450 different sessions to attend, it’s an incredible opportunity for both learning and making connections with like-minded organizations.


Navigating the summit

A highlight from the first day of the summit was Steven’s lightning talk at Human Rights for the Digital Age: Hearing from Leaders, where he discussed implementing ICT solutions in the shadow of a hostile regime that is committed to repressing human rights inside Syria. He was in good company, joined by Hamed Behravan, the founder of, Venezuelan human rights activist Melanio Escobar, and award-winning Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul.

The remainder of the summit involved – among other things – learning about how grassroots activists are leveraging new technologies, hearing voices from the front lines in Syria and beyond, and speaking with other organizations whose work aligns with Roia’s mandate. In raising awareness about Roia’s work in Syria, Steven and Jessica were able to take part in some interesting discussions around the challenges of working with technology in restrictive environments.


Connecting human rights, technology, and development

The themes of RightsCon intertwine with the larger context of humanitarian assistance and development that Roia works to address inside Syria.

The current context in Syria means that technology is a battleground – and the unstable and insecure environment makes it difficult to ensure that the Syrian people and NGOs alike have open, reliable, and secure access to technology. Yet, it’s such a key element to doing effective work that has a real impact in the region.

RightsCon is very much about finding solutions that open up access to Internet-based technologies – even in the harshest and most restrictive environments. And as an ICT organization, this is critical to Roia’s mission. From providing telecommunications solutions and offering ICT skills training to generating software solutions to improve organizational efficiency, our work – and the work of so many other humanitarian and development actors in the region – absolutely requires secure access to both the Internet and broader technologies.


Bringing everything home

As Roia moves forward post-summit, we look forward to deepening some of the connections we made at RightsCon 2018. Though each organizational mandate is unique, we have no doubt that collaborating with other organizations will help us drive progress and create lasting change in this vulnerable region.

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