New Partnership: UN Human Rights Office and Wikimedia Foundation


“To claim your rights, you need to know your rights” said Laurent Sauveur, UN Human Rights’ External Outreach Director at the 2019 Wikimania Conference in Stockholm. On its opening day, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and the Wikimedia Foundation announced an innovative partnership to improve the quality and quantity of human rights content on Wikipedia – the world’s largest and most popular general reference site.

(All Smiles! (left to right) Jorge Vargas, senior Partnerships manager Wikimedia Foundation, Laurent Sauveur, head of External Outreach Service OHCHR, Katherine Mather, CEO Wikimedia Foundation, and Anna Torres, Executive Director WikiMedia Argentina)

The partnership comes at a time of backlash against human rights, and deep concerns about misinformation campaigns in the digital space. “With Wikipedia, we are determined to strengthen awareness on human rights, by emphasizing the creation of multilingual, glocal content that affirms rights for everyone, everywhere. We want to help people know their rights and claim them, engaging in public processes necessary to achieve real, positive change. This is key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Sauveur.

“At Wikimedia, we believe that access to knowledge is a fundamental right. It encompasses a number of other rights, including the right to information, to freedom of expression, and to privacy” said Katherine Maher, CEO Wikimedia Foundation. “Recently I looked up in English Wikipedia and the number one most searched article in the body of law is the article on human rights. This is really powerful when you think about the importance it signifies to the world when they are seeking information.”

Online information about human rights can vary significantly between languages. Last month, a pilot project with Wikimedia Argentina successfully addressed this situation in an “edit-a-thon”, which is an organized event where editors meet to edit and improve a specific topic or type of content. On this occasion, 19 articles – with an emphasis on gender and sexual diversity - were created and updated in the Spanish-language version of Wikipedia.

As part of the partnership, edit-a-thons on important human rights topics will be co-hosted around the world, bringing together contributors and local communities. Global campaigns around key international dates – such as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) and Human Rights Day (10 December) - will be prime opportunities to rally the Wikimedia community to build new content across languages, highlighting local contexts. 

“We’re grateful to the Wikimedia community for standing up for human rights in the online sphere, by helping to increase access to information and education about human rights, in their own languages. This is one of the best ways to act to promote peace, fight back against discrimination, and to uphold justice,” said Sauveur.

29 August 2019


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