Randy Pond is Cisco Executive Vice President of Operations, Processes, and Systems
Today is the United Nations’ Human Rights Day and it was not so long ago that we witnessed the role of the social media revolution in the Arab Spring. This example of Internet-enabled communication in driving change illustrates the evolving impact of technology on human rights, and casts light on both the opportunities and the challenges the industry will face — the world celebrated the flow of information that facilitated change, while at the same time showing concern over efforts of governments to use the very same infrastructure to try to shut down and control communications. Over the past 20 years, we have transformed from a world communicating through paper and face-to-face interaction into communities that can share information within seconds — and innovation continues at a dramatic rate.
At Cisco, we embrace innovation, and the opportunity to expand use of the Internet as a positive force for human development. We do this primarily by working to build each of our products on open, global standards — standards that we believe are critical to overcoming censorship and keeping the world connected — and by developing architectures for using our products aimed at particular needs, such as healthcare, education, and energy efficiency.
We are also committed to not customizing our products in any way that aids repression or censorship. To provide a consolidated view of our approach to these issues, we have included a new human rights policy and roadmap in this year’s eighth annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report. With the help of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and in conformance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, the roadmap was developed to concentrate on our human rights policy, and also establish a governance model, provide training, and create an effective mechanism to review our actions on an ongoing basis.
In addition to the new policy and roadmap, Cisco’s commitment to human rights includes several additional initiatives and partnerships, such as a successful engagement with the Business and Human Rights Resource Center; our continued work with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (which we helped to found) to promote a common code of conduct among electronic manufacturers, software firms, IT firms, and manufacturing services providers; and engagement with NGOs concerned with human rights.
As we approach 2013, it will be important to continue addressing the impact of technology on human rights. Challenges to global freedom of expression through the Internet will continue, and will become more complex as innovation advances. Our long-term view and ongoing implementation of Cisco’s human rights roadmap will guide Cisco’s human rights efforts going forward and will help drive a safe Internet well into the future.