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Chapter: 

Capacity Building Meeting

One of the key benefits of a workshop is that it permits for capacity-building, where we can train interested individuals and organisations on key issues around privacy.  We approached IDRC for additional funding to run a workshop to bring together all the key stakeholders we had identified in the region. We thus ran a three-day workshop in Bangkok from May 22 to May 24 with partners from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand.  To broaden out the audience, we also asked that each of our partners bring with them an additional partner who may benefit from the experience. 
We presented on the dynamics of a variety of privacy issues; shared ideas on strategies and offered guidance on building strategic partnerships in different cultural and political contexts; and just shared ideas and experiences from around the world.

The first part of the workshop consisted of capacity building sessions on privacy issues. While PI staff members ran some of these sessions, we also invited world-leading experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the American Civil Liberties Union. Some of the topics discussed included the importance of privacy and transparency as enablers of democratic processes, the value of legal protections for citizen privacy and security, identity management systems, as well as the risks associated with communications surveillance and DNA databases. Policy experts further offered comprehensive reviews of the state of international best practices and regulatory regimes, as well as an update on the APEC Privacy initiative.

These were followed by country specific presentations delivered by our partners from the region highlighting a variety of challenges for privacy protection in their countries. Partners spoke about their perception of privacy and the challenges that stem from cultural differences, as well as the legal and political systems. There was a strong interest in privacy across variety of issues such as mobile telephony, ID cards, consumer protections, media privacy and constitutional safeguards. However, some of the challenges that emerged across the region included: little awareness of privacy rights, a lack of coherent approach to ensuring that privacy is an integral part of the policy making process, and the lack of comprehensive national privacy laws.

This workshop has not only equipped us with a better understanding of the state of law but also helped us identify some of the more pressing privacy challenges in the region. Having laid the theoretical and practical foundations, we hope to begin active engagement with policy actors and civil society representatives in each country to promote privacy issues and initiate a truly constructive and informative debate in the region.