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DRAPAC23 Assembly: Highlights and ways forward

From left: EngageMedia Digital Rights Project Manager and DRAPAC23 Event Lead Vino Lucero, EngageMedia Communications Senior Manager Sara Pacia, Association for Progressive Communications Asia Digital Rights Lead Pavitra Ramanujam, Access Now Asia-Pacific Campaigner Golda Benjamin, EngageMedia Executive Director Phet Sayo, ARTICLE19 Asia Digital Programme Manager Michael Caster, Chiang Mai University-School of Public Policy Director Ora-orn Poocharoen, Swedish Embassy in Bangkok​​​​​​​ Regional Team for Asia Director AnnaMaria Oltorp, Swedish Embassy in Bangkok First Secretary Joacim Carlson, Swedish Embassy in Bangkok National Programme Officer Sejin Kim, and EngageMedia Programme and Advocacy Director Red Tani

Last May 22-26, hundreds of changemakers from across the Asia-Pacific and beyond convened for DRAPAC23 – the Digital Rights Asia-Pacific Assembly – in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to build knowledge, collaborations, and momentum around digital rights. The DRAPAC23 Assembly provided a vibrant and inclusive space for networking, learning, and collaboration around digital rights, with a focus on amplifying the voices of those often underheard (or unheard) in digital rights spaces.

DRAPAC23, along with the previous country and regional forums, is only one step in EngageMedia’s co-created efforts to shape how Asia-Pacific civil society can continue to come together to advance the digital rights movement in the region.

To all those who participated in person and online, allow us to share our heartfelt gratitude for your time, effort, and patience throughout a busy yet fulfilling week.

EngageMedia will soon be releasing a full public report on DRAPAC23. While we work to finalise this, we share with you some key figures and highlights.

544 total participants from 35 countries in attendance

Over the course of the week, a total of 544 participants from 35 countries converged in Chiang Mai. The participants included digital and human rights advocates, journalists, media-makers, artists, designers, technologists, youth advocates, and representatives from marginalised communities.

While DRAPAC23 focused on participants from the region (about 510 attendees, including EngageMedia staff, are based in the Asia-Pacific), over 30 changemakers from the rest of the globe attended.

In the lead-up to the Assembly, participants were also invited to pre-DRAPAC23 huddles to co-create the Assembly’s policies. These fostered open dialogue and allowed for the exchange of ideas, giving participants a sense of ownership in shaping the event. They were also instrumental in establishing norms and laying the groundwork for the DRAPAC Network.

124 DRAPAC23 Fellows from 20 countries supported

Of the 544 total participants, 124 attendees were able to attend the Assembly through the DRAPAC23 Fellowship. The chosen Fellows came from marginalised and underrepresented groups in the region,  ensuring the diversity of attendees and the presence of a broader range of allies.

44.3% of the fellows identify as female, 46% identify as male, and 9.7% identify as gender-diverse.

161 total sessions held over five days

DRAPAC23 offered a comprehensive program comprising 161 sessions on a range of formats and topics. Participants had the opportunity to engage in 30 roundtables and focus group discussions (FGDs), 30 workshops, 49 panels and talks, 28 film screenings, 8 art exhibits, 4 parallel events, 9 cross-type sessions, and 3 evening cultural/musical and networking events. This diverse lineup ensured there was something for everyone, fostering meaningful discussions and knowledge exchange.

Session hosts and facilitators were drawn from 31 different countries, providing a truly global perspective to the event. With a rich mix of backgrounds and expertise, hosts and facilitators contributed to the diverse and inclusive nature of DRAPAC23. Moreover, a diverse team of 34 volunteers with linguistic proficiency in English, Thai, Burmese, and other languages boosted on-the-ground support.

28 films showcased at Cinemata Big Screen

The Cinemata Big Screen program was a parallel mini-film festival that explored the complexities of digital rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Over the course of a week, participants were immersed in a curated selection of 28 thought-provoking films that tackled critical issues in an increasingly digitised world. The program addressed themes of online freedom, surveillance, and data justice. Highlights included “Terror Contagion” (on the use of Pegasus malware), “John Denver Trending“(on social media’s impact), and “People’s Republic of Desire” (on the influence of livestreaming in China).

Selected screenings featured talkback sessions that provided participants with the opportunity to interact with filmmakers, educators, and human and digital rights activists. These sessions created a space for in-depth discussions, allowing attendees to delve into the themes and messages portrayed in the films.

Cinemata Big Screen was a testament to the profound impact of storytelling and the importance of using film as a catalyst for dialogue, awareness, and collective action in advancing digital rights in the Asia-Pacific.

15 Pretty Good Podcast Live episodes recorded

EngageMedia interviewed 15 participants and organisations to share more about their work and the ways DRAPAC23 has helped to forward their respective advocacy. “PGP Live at DRAPAC23” will be released on and on Cinemata starting mid-June 2023.

DRAPAC23 Statement of Solidarity started and collaborated on

The first draft of the DRAPAC23 Statement of Solidarity was presented to participants during the two DRAPAC Network sessions, with the aim of capturing the spirit of the Assembly and sharing it with a wider audience. A collaborative draft was presented to participants for feedback and collation of signatures.

The Statement of Solidarity was published on June 28 and signed by over 100 organisations and individuals.

Read the Statement of Solidarity

The first draft was worked on together by the DRAPAC steering committee, comprised of the following organisations:

  1. ARTICLE 19
  2. APC
  3. Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy
  4. EngageMedia
  5. Foundation for Media Alternatives
  6. Global Network Initiative
  7. Media Matters for Democracy
  8. Myanmar Internet Project
  9. The Open Culture Foundation
  10. OPTF
  11. Safenet
  12. Sinar Project

Beyond the statement, the Assembly also brought forth many possibilities and ways forward. Whatever comes next, know that co-creation, diversity, and inclusion will continue to guide our efforts. We look forward to working with our current and newfound collaborators on advancing digital rights in the region.

1 thought on “DRAPAC23 Assembly: Highlights and ways forward”

  1. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to work with time we going together for more work with digital security and freedom of expression .

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