MRA’s Obioma Okonkwo Appointed to Advisory Board of Digital Democracy Initiative

Ms Obioma Okonkwo, Legal Head, Media Rights Agenda

Ms Obioma Okonkwo, Head of Media Rights Agenda’s Legal Department, has been appointed to the Advisory Board of Digital Democracy Initiative (DDI), a programme launched and funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the European Union (EU) to strengthen and safeguard inclusive democracy under pressure in the digital age.

Led by Denmark, the DDI, with its Secretariat in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, supports the use of digital technologies to strengthen the digital resilience and security of pro-democracy civil society actors and to increase civic engagement in restrictive contexts.

The initiative provides civil society with tools to fight disinformation and polarisation, promote freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as address the inequalities in digital access and digital marginalisation that are particularly evident for women and youth.

The Initiative, which will run from 2023 to 2026, is being implemented through a number of organisations, including CIVICUS, Global Focus, Digital Defenders Partnership and Access Now, and contributes to the global Team Europe Democracy Initiative, a collaborative platform by the EU and 14 EU Member States to promote democracy in external action.

DDI´s Advisory Board is convened and facilitated by Global Focus, which acts as its secretariat. It is designed as a “cross-culturally collaborative, future focused, inclusive, independent, and innovative consultative body integral to the governance structure of the DDI.”

The Advisory Board´s core function is to inform decisions about both the strategic direction and the operational or technical project design based on the expertise, advice and insights from civil society actors who are based in or originate from the Majority World, based on an understanding of the complexity of the challenges at stake both at the local context as well as from a global perspective.

It is expected that by providing contextual and thematic knowledge to stakeholders at all levels of the initiative, the Advisory Board will play an important role in ensuring that the initiative is relevant to local actors across regions. It therefore provides contextualised knowledge, advise on challenges, opportunities, and solutions , thereby ensuring that the voices, perspectives, and expertise of local civil society actors in the Majority World play a central role in the DDI.

Besides Ms Okonkwo, other members of the Advisory Board include Ms Babette Ngene, Director of the Public Interest Technology team at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Mr. Brian Malika is a social worker, reproductive-health counsellor, and Founder of One More Percent, a non-profit organization that works to improve the health of young women and girls; Mr. Cristian Leon, Executive Director of Foundation; Ms Esther Mwewa, President of Digital Grassroots, a youth network working to engage young people in addressing internet-related issues at the grassroots level; and Ms Fatma Ibrahim, Founder and Director of The Sex Talk Arabic, an intersectional feminist platform tackling issues of sexual violence in Arabic-speaking societies.

The others are Mr. Gaston Wright, Senior Advisor and Director at Civic Compass, a think-tank for Latin America dedicated to studying digital rights and their impact on the civic space; Ms Leah Kimathi, a social researcher and co-founder of the Kenyan non-profit, Council for Responsible Social Media; Mr. Nadim Nashif, co-founder and Executive Director of 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media; Ms Nana Nwachukwu, an information technology and intellectual property lawyer; and Mr. Richard Ngamita of the Equiano Institute, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) alignment research lab focusing on technical alignment and governance of AI in Africa and the Global South.