77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77)

13 Sep 2022 - 27 Sep 2022

New York City, US

Event report

Read the final report from the UNGA 77! The report is available here. Daily reports are available below.

26 September

Reducing digital inequalities 

Digital on Day 6

The gap that is widening day by day, between two worlds—one of which entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the era of artificial intelligence, while the second, due to ignorance and poverty, suffers under the weight of underdevelopment—calls us to think carefully, and collectively in solidarity, about ways to effectively address the challenges of the times to ensure the achievement of balanced, comprehensive, sustainable development that puts human beings and their happiness at the centre.

In the quote of the day, Mauritania summarised the significant challenges posed by the unequal distribution of new technologies and by the widening divide between nations that reap the benefits of advanced technologies and those that are lagging behind.

This is an image on Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug,  Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Mauritanians abroad of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, addressing the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session.
Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug,  Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Mauritanians abroad of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

Other countries, in particular those from the Global South, addressed the inequalities arising from the uneven distribution of digital technologies. Angola referred to persistent disparities in the economic and technological development of different regions as a permanent threat, but also an opportunity for ‘humanity to join forces’ to address those challenges.

To address the imminent challenges and achieve the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, Bhutan urged the assurance of adequate and predictable financial, technological, and capacity support for developing countries. Utilising innovative technologies to address climate challenges was also voiced by Cameroon.

Tunisia referred to the upcoming Francophone Summit, hosted by the island of Djerba on 19-20 November 2022. Tunisia hopes that this summit’s recommendations, on ‘Digital technology as a tributary of development and solidarity’, will reinforce ways to achieve common goals in the digital, technological, and developmental fields.

A word cloud in shades of green shows the word ‘people’ in large bold letters, followed by peace, countries, global, continue, international, support, effort, security, and many other words in order of emphasis.
Most frequent terms on Day 6 of the UNGA77

Cybersecurity

As countries’ dependence on new technology deepens, cybersecurity emerges as one of the greatest challenges demanding the collective effort of the international community, Nepal noted, echoing a point made by India the day before. Nepal also called for necessary safeguards to curb the malicious use of new technologies.

Uruguay noted its commitment in the fight against cybercrime, underlining that the primary responsibility for this fight lies with the UN. Nonetheless, Uruguay has formalised its request to the Council of Europe to adhere to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, currently the most widely spread cybercrime legislation.

 

Investing in digital health

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of countries addressing the need to develop an e-health system grew significantly. In this regard, Nauru drew attention to the importance of having a climate-resilient health system, with the capacity for viral risk management through e-medicine and digital technology. The realisation of this plan is contingent on international support and technical expertise. Likewise, Bhutan referred to the importance of technology in preparation for future health risks.

Bar chart shows the most frequently-used noun chunks used on Day 6, with ‘peace’ in highest use at 68 instances, followed by security with 44, climate change with 33, Syria with 29, and the international community with 27 instances.
Most frequently-used noun chunks on Day 6.

On the last day of the UNGA77, six out of twenty countries referred to ‘Our Common Agena’ in their respective national statements.

According to Benin, the world is at a crossroads, either to remain passive and favour the continuation of disintegration or to act resolutely to build a better, greener, and safer future.

Bhutan underlined that it had closely followed the discussions around the ‘Our Common Agenda’ and its recommendations, further adding that it would engage constructively, including preparations for the ‘Summit of the Future’ and work towards the elaboration of a Global Digital CompactWhat Cameroon lacks the most at the moment for the execution of the Agenda are financial and technological means, and the synergy between the partners involved in its execution.

Nepal stated its support for the Secretary-General’s agenda, while cautioning that the 2030 Agenda and its sustainable development goals are at risk.

According to Tunisia, ‘Our Common Agenda’ offers a path toward common solutions within a framework of solidarity and parity, so that no one is left behind.

23 & 24 September

Hopes for the digital future 

Digital on Days 4 and 5

‘I remain an optimist and believe that we are actually on the cusp of an era of profound technological breakthroughs, one that will equip humanity with unimaginably powerful tools. It is in the world’s interest – and in our own long-term interests – to set aside our differences, address the challenges of the global commons, and harvest the emerging opportunities provided by technology’.

This is an image of Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, addressing the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session.
Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-seventh session. Source: UN.

The statement from Singapore echoed many calls to focus on the digital future and on the potential that technology offers. Yet, this narrative for the future has been balanced with cybersecurity, resilience, and risk narratives in many statements delivered on the 4th (Friday) and 5th (Saturday) days of the UNGA High-Level Segment.

The UN Sustainable Development statement, ‘Our Common Agenda’, got overwhelming support from 19 states. These states also nuanced specific angles of the SDG initiative. Many focused on the interplay between ‘Our Common Agenda’ and the 2030 Agenda. For many countries, especially those from the EU, ‘Our Common Agenda’ should focus on strengthening multilateralism, global governance, and the UN. Statements from small states highlighted aspects pertinent to youth and future generations.

Digital issues are featured in statements from China, India, and Russia.

 A word cloud in shades of green shows the word ‘people’ in large bold letters, followed by countries, global, security, country, peace, need, Ukraine, and many other words in order of emphasis.
Most frequent terms on Days 4 and 5 of the UNGA77.

 

The hottest digital topic: cybersecurity

The promise of technology has multiplied countries’ capabilities, but also added to their vulnerabilities, India’s national statement reads. Albania, a country where 95% of services to citizens and businesses are offered online, as noted by the country’s Prime Minister, experienced a large-scale cyberattack in July targeting the entire government’s digital infrastructure.   

A number of countries noted that cybersecurity requires collaboration. Albania urged the UN to focus more seriously and concretely on cybersecurity issues, by investing in prevention and by helping member states build resilience. Tonga stated we must work together to enhance cybersecurity. Samoa also called for a greater multilateral effort to eliminate destabilising activities and ensure that ‘cyberspace is safe for all’. Sri Lanka, which is implementing the nation’s first Information and Cyber Security Strategy, has identified the importance of establishing a partnership-based approach to protect cyber space and to confront multinational cyber threats. Togo underscored its contribution to regional cybersecurity efforts by clarifying that Togo had hosted the first Pan-African Cybersecurity Summit in Lomé in 2022; this summit resulted in the Lomé declaration on cybersecurity and the fight against cybercrime. Bulgaria also called for increased international cooperation by supporting partnerships in digitalisation, in security and defence, and in countering disinformation.

The efforts of the OEWG were welcomed by Russia and Togo, with Togo welcoming the adoption of the annual progress report of the OEWG Working Group on digital use in the context of international security.

‘Trust and transparency are legitimate expectations of a more digitised world’, India noted. The importance of trust was also stressed in the statement by Singapore, which pointed out that ‘erosion of trust and an atmosphere of confrontation will only breed cyber threats and malicious cyber activities’. 

Cybercrime was also brought up on days 4 and 5, as Support for the Ad hoc Committee on cybercrime was voiced by several countries, including Togo, Russia, and the Holy See. They expressed their commitment to engage constructively in its work towards a comprehensive international convention on combating the use of information and communication technologies for criminal purposes.

Efforts to fight terrorism and violent extremism in cyberspace were noted by Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, Russia, and New Zealand. UAE underlined that it is imperative to adopt international rules and regulations that prevent terrorists from obtaining advanced weapons and technology. As one of the co-sponsors of the Christchurch Call, New Zealand dedicated a significant portion of its speech to urging countries to join the call to fight violent extremism and terrorist content online. The Call Community has improved crisis response, prevented live streamed attacks, and put in place crisis protocols to prevent proliferation. It has also made efforts to understand those interactions between the online environment and the real world that can lead to radicalisation. New Zealand also mentioned the launch of the Christchurch Call Initiative on Algorithmic Outcomes, to understand the consequences of algorithms on people’s online experiences.

Liechtenstein, a small country relying on the rule of law, sees the enforcement of international law in cyberspace as one of the vital challenges the international community must face. Sri Lanka noted that the absence of a regulatory supervisory regime concerning the use of new technologies in cyberspace and AI needs to be addressed urgently. A number of countries, including Belgium, Liechtenstein, St Vincent and the Grenadines, North Macedonia, and Sri Lanka addressed the challenge of hybrid warfare. The spread of disinformation and hate speech, and cyberattacks, must not be observed idly. New Zealand noted that countries have an opportunity to ensure that these particular weapons of war do not become an established part of warfare. 

 

Digital education: a significant challenge for island states

COVID-19 made it difficult for many countries to ensure the continuation of education. Small island and developing states, such as Samoa, Vanuatu and St Kitts and Nevis, in particular, have addressed the aforementioned challenges. For Samoa, investment in education, skills, and digital literacy is paramount. Vanuatu stressed that without a concerted global effort toward digital inclusion, ‘the many goals spelled out in the 2030 Agenda may not be realised’.

St Kitts and Nevis has embarked on educational reform that includes, among other projects, incorporating STEAM specialist spaces in all schools and reintroducing the i-Literacy one-to-one laptop programme. Sri Lanka also aims to bridge the digital divide, ensuring that no child will be left behind. 

 

Towards an inclusive digital society and economy

Bridging the digital divide within and between countries is paramount for a more inclusive digital economy. ‘Digital connectivity cannot be achieved without addressing poverty and underdevelopment’, as noted by the Holy See

Cambodia is paying greater attention to inclusive digital policies and regulatory frameworks that will lead to greater investment in digital infrastructure, and that will bridge the divides and generate new sources of growth. Samoa will continue to prioritise investment in digital technologies and promote a digital economy and connectivity. Lesotho has also recognised the need to make concerted efforts to enable citizens worldwide to use innovation and digital technologies to achieve sustainable recovery. 

Empowering women and youth for the digital age is also paramount. St Kitts and Nevis will therefore continue to put women and youth at the forefront of the country’s social development programs and advancement of the digital economy.

Fiji shared very positive statistics about mobile phone connectivity and the cost of data and underscored its determination to create new jobs in technology and in the blue and green economy. India’s focus is also, among others, on green growth, better connectivity, and digital delivery.

E-health is a priority for Samoa, which recently launched an e-Health System to improve medical record keeping and strengthen health information and vital statistics. The E-health system is part of Samoa’s national resilience program, which will protect citizens from future health security threats. In Togo, the digital platform WEZOU, which is part of universal health insurance, should reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. 

Samoa uses e-agriculture applications for information sharing among farmers. 

noun chuks 04
Most frequently-used noun chunks on Days 4 and 5.

 

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Most frequently-used names and entities on Days 4 and 5.

 


Our Common Agenda

This survey highlights the overwhelming support for ‘Our Common Agenda’ (OCA) expressed by the member states during days 4 and 5 of UNGA77. 

The collective and holistic approach of OCA in the wider context of the 2030 Agenda was supported by many. In particular, many small countries (those with populations under 1 million) strongly supported this linkage between ‘Our Common Agenda’ and Agenda 2030: Andorra, the Bahamas, Iceland, the Maldives, Montenegro, Saint Lucia, Samoa, and San Marino

Most European countries’ statements (10 out of 18) on Days 4 and 5 referred to either SDGs and/or OCA. Reform of the UN and multilateralism was the main focus of EU member states’ support for OCA. Bulgaria called for the UN reform of three closely interrelated areas: governance, peace and security, and sustainable development. Chad, Montenegro, Lesotho, Iceland, North Macedonia, San Marino, Samoa, and Sweden called for a ‘reform focus’ of OCA by calling for strengthening multilateralism, reform of the global governance system, and modernisation of the UN. The EU expects the result of these processes and the Summit of the Future in 2024 to serve as ‘a game changer’. 

Youth and future generations aspects of OCA featured highly in statements from small island states. Saint Lucia called for comprehensive youth empowerment via political representation, transforming education, and skills training. This approach resonates well with Saint Lucia’s approach to the Youth Economy. The Bahamas called for youth engagement. For Iceland, strengthening the multilateral system should better serve future generations. The Maldives, Sweden, and Saint Lucia encouraged the formation of a UN Youth Office. Saint Lucia also supported the appointment of a Special Envoy for Future Generations.

Gender equality was highlighted by St Kitts and Nevis.

The Oceans aspect of OCA was brought about by Iceland’s call to increase ‘recognition of the importance of food from the ocean in our food systems and for achieving Agenda 2030’.  Water is ‘our common bond’ in the Netherlandsreflections on OCA and Agenda 2030.

The Global Digital Compact was supported in the statement by Singapore in their endorsement of OCA. 

Our Common Agenda was also endorsed in statements of Croatia, Singapore, and Samoa

22 September

Digital and Green: two pillars of future governance

Digital on Day 3

 

Make no mistake: the future is green, the future is digital. 

 

In this quote of the day, the Prime Minister of Malta proposed the digital transformation and environmental issues as comprising two legs of the future governance journey. Similarly, Portugal underscored that the ‘transition to a prosperous future – a green and digital future – can leave no one behind’, and social policies must be at the ‘heart of our action’.

Digital issues were a prime focus of several countries on Day 3. Jamaica dedicated an entire section of its speech to digital issues, along with Spain, whose Prime Minister included digital transformation in the five major global challenges, together with global health, food crises, ecological transition, and gender equality.  Digital transformation is a goal many countries, such as the Gambia, aspire to achieve.

A word cloud in shades of green shows the word ‘peace’ in large bold letters, followed by people, global, countries, and many other words in order of emphasis
Most frequent terms on Day 3 of the UNGA77
A graph in green shows the prominence of digital policy topics on Day 3 of the UNGA 77. Interdisciplinary approaches was the most prominent topic, followed by content policy and future of work.
Most frequent digital policy topics on Day 3 of the UNGA77.

 

Digital transformation and economy

Digital transformation is driving economic change–and a number of member states addressed the interplay between digital issues and the economy in their respective national statements. To that end, Jamaica noted that a ‘country’s economic resilience is often a reflection of how digitally advanced it is’. Bridging the digital divide, both within and between countries, is, therefore, critical in the creation of ‘a level playing field and in spurring transformation of critical sectors of the economy and the society’. Ensuring a level playing field in the digital economy was also advocated by Malta, while Guinea-Bissau called for urgent measures, including restructuring international financial architecture and building digital infrastructure.

Malta shared that it had invested heavily in the country’s digital economy both in public administration and in the business and social sphere. As a result of its strategic vision regarding digitalisation and keeping citizens at the heart of its policies, Malta ranks first in the EU in terms of e-Government, and 5th in the EU Digital Economy and Society Index. 

Bahrain’s economic recovery plan includes the shift to the fourth industrial revolution, with support for the digital economy and artificial intelligence. Zimbabwe pointed to the important role of the African Continental Free Trade Area as the ‘panacea for Africa to trade and stimulate economic growth and development’, and addressed the need for liberalisation of services and the strengthening of competition policy and intellectual property rights, in addition to the adoption of digital trade.

 

Digital for more inclusive public services

Developing technological solutions for more efficient and inclusive public services relies on creativity and innovation, according to Panama. The country embarked on several ambitious projects to ensure the continuous provision of services during the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, Panama was the first country in Latin America to implement a centralised traceability and monitoring system for communicable diseases. The government used the Ester computer platform to prevent the interruption of education during the confinement period. Panama is also developing the Medicapp platform, a digital inventory that informs citizens about the existence of certain medicines and points of sale, and compares prices in real-time.

 

Digital in education

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of education. Technological solutions have made it possible to overcome the barriers that were making in-person teaching impossible, Spain stated. Spain further noted its aspiration to play a leading role in this sphere, starting with establishing the UN Technology Centre for the digitalisation of education, GIGA, in Barcelona. Georgia noted that education in the 21st century means investing in digital literacy and promoting infrastructure to bridge the digital divide. This will ensure that future crises do not create dire situations. Tanzania identified barriers to education technology as one of the major challenges and to follow through on its commitments to technology transfer.

 

Cybersecurity lowers on the agenda

Cybersecurity has lost prominence in speeches compared to the first two days of the general debate. On Day 3, Jamaica underscored that steps to protect cyberspace and its physical infrastructure must be taken, to ensure the availability of the internet to all users. Cyber defence was also noted as one of Israel’s priorities. Cybercrime was identified as a threat by Jamaica and Zimbabwe, with Jamaica expressing its support for the work of the Ad hoc committee to elaborate an international convention on countering the use of ICT for criminal purposes.

Bar chart shows the most frequently-used noun chunks used on Day3, with peace in highest use with 112 instances, followed by climate change at 74 and people at 69 instances
Most frequently-used noun chunks on Day 3.
Bar chart shows the most frequently-used names and entities on Day 3 of the UNGA, with 'Ukraine' in highest use with  73 instances, followed by the 'UN Security Council' with 44 instances and 'Africa' with 40 instances.
Most frequently-used names and entities on Day 3.

 


Our Common Agenda keeps high in the high-level statements, with five nations expressing support for the UN ‘Our Common Agenda’ and noting its linkages to the SDG Summit and the upcoming Summit of the Future. Norway called The Summit of the Future an important milestone and added it expects an ambitious Declaration on Future Generations. Papua New Guinea also called for formulating ambitious, yet realistic and workable solutions to the multiple crises we are now facing at the Summit of the Future.

Gambia, Papua New Guinea and Norway voiced their support for the Secretary-General’s call for transformation and global solidarity in the landmark report ‘Our Common Agenda’. Kuwait stated that ‘Our Common Agenda’ put forward innovative, scalable solutions to chart a clearer future. Norway underlined that without a strong and effective UN, the international community would be unable to address our challenges. 

Denmark referred to ‘Our Common Agenda’ as a sobering analysis of the state of the world. Further, it called on countries to make the most of the upcoming ‘sister summits’: the SDG Summit in September 2023 and the Summit of the Future in 2024, because these two agendas – the 2030 Agenda and ‘Our Common Agenda’ – are mutually reinforcing. The twin agendas and the sister summits provide us with a sense of direction and the tools to get there. 


 

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21 September

A fresh digital breeze from Africa

Digital on Day 2

 

There was a time when the most important event at this Assembly was the speech by the world’s most powerful leaders. Now a Tweet or Instagram post by an influencer on social or environmental issues may have a greater impact.’ 

 

This is the digital quote of the day, taken from the statement of Mr Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Statements from Nigeria and other African nations gave momentum to the digital debates at the UNGA, after a rather low start on the first day of the High-Level meeting. Mr Buhari stressed the vast opportunities offered by digital technologies while referring to the challenges of regulators to keep up with the rapidly changing technologies. He also touched on the pressing issue of hate speech and disinformation, calling for a joint effort to address this challenge while defending the freedom of speech, by continuing the work on a common standard that balances rights with responsibilities.

Digital technology featured prominently in other national statements delivered by African leaders. Digital capacity development and narrowing the gap between digital haves and have nots was the focal point of Kenyan, Rwandan, and Namibian statements. To that end, Rwanda stressed the importance of public-private partnerships to create digital jobs for young people, noting that high-quality digital jobs are a practical response to the underlying drivers of irregular migration. Kenya stressed the increasing reliance of education, health, and other important sectors on digital access. The Kenyan president has, accordingly, called for greater investment in the development of ICT infrastructure worldwide and for a global partnership to enhance ICT infrastructure in developing countries and to bridge the digital divide between the Global South and Global North. The driving force behind these efforts is the conviction that these measures will provide ‘a viable shortcut to poverty reduction and the promotion of inclusive development’.

Similarly, Namibia has committed to transformative leadership to ensure access to digital technologies, to develop a strategy for innovative financing, and to narrow the country’s digital divide. Namibia’s digital transformation is bolstered by Google’s Equiano undersea cable, which has recently landed in Namibia. The government is also developing a consolidated National Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy to provide overarching direction, which will emphasise educational reform, closing of skills gaps, cybersecurity, and expansion of ICT infrastructure and services.

You can register here to receive updates on African digital diplomacy, including an analysis of the region’s inputs to the UNGA 77. 

Other countries have also addressed the importance of digital capacity development. For instance, Guyana noted that the government has installed internet access capabilities for indigenous communities and commenced training its workforce for 2030 and beyond. As well, new technologies are the basis for the transformation of education, Monaco stressed, pointing to the need of adapting the education system to the world of today and tomorrow. 

Latvia supported the proposal of the UN Secretary-General on a Global Digital Compact, which should reduce the digital gap between developed and developing countries.

A word cloud in shades of green shows the word ‘people’ in large bold letters, followed by, peace, country, global, support, Ukraine, war and many other words in order of emphasis.
Most frequent terms on Day 2 of the UNGA77

Below is a summary of other important digital topics that featured high on day 2 of the UNGA 77.

A graph in green shows the prominence of digital policy topics on Day 2 of the UNGA 77. Content policy was the most prominent topic, followed by violent extremism and children’s rights online.
Most frequent digital policy topics on Day 2 of the UNGA77

 

In demand: A peaceful cyberspace 

Cybersecurity featured higher on the agenda of Day 2 than on Day 1, with eight countries expressing concern over the rise in the number of cyberattacks. ‘Russia has demonstrated how state-provided malicious cyber tools are used alongside conventional weapons,’ Estonia noted, specifically making reference to the Viasat cyberattack of 23 February. Latvia underlined that cyberspace must not be turned into a battlefield, with which Monaco agreed. Cybersecurity is an essential component of the UN international peace and security agenda, Estonia noted. The USA similarly expressed its commitment to strengthening the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace through the UN, and also stated that it is working to hold accountable those who use cyberattacks to threaten international peace and security. Monaco underlined the need for a set of common rules to keep cyberspace from spiralling out of control and destroying our democracies. The potential of emerging technologies such as AI in the area of peace building and counter-terrorism was put forward by Rwanda.

Moldova and Serbia noted that they face ‘hybrid threats, from disinformation and propaganda to cyberattacks and energy pressures’, and ‘hybrid war’, respectively. 

Czechia and Kenya also referred to immense pressure exerted by threats such as cybercrime, amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Mounting threat of disinformation

The COVID-19 pandemic and current geopolitical challenges underline the importance of strengthening society’s resilience by combating disinformation, and by promoting media literacy, critical thinking skills, and media freedom, the Latvian president highlighted. To that end, Latvia is actively preparing for the upcoming 11th Global Media and Information Literacy week. Czechia, Monaco, and Moldova also referred to the ‘intolerable’ proliferation of disinformation and hate speech.

 

Digitalisation as the most important agent of change

Digital government, i.e., the digitalisation of public services, is considered one of the most important agents of change in Latvia. Therefore, the Latvian government supports innovative and proven digital solutions that promote the efficiency of public administration and public participation. Mongolia is also on the path of the accelerated digital transition. The country adopted a package of new laws on digital development and introduced the e-Mongolia platform to streamline public service delivery to citizens and other entities, to reduce corruption and bureaucracy, to increase information security, and to promote good governance. Moreover, it seeks to expand multilateral cooperation in these areas at the regional and international levels.

Digitalisation is an important driver of other services, such as agriculture. To that end, Guyana noted that investments in new technologies and smart agriculture can position the country as a leading food producer in Caricom, providing incentives and opportunities for youth and women to participate in agricultural transformation.

 

A human-centric approach to technological development

Keeping humans at the heart of technology development is essential for technologies respectful of human rights and human dignity. Therefore, Czechia promotes a concept of ‘digital humanism’ that keeps human interests and needs at the centre of emerging technologies. Similarly, Monaco stressed the importance of reconciling the development of these technologies with the protection of human rights and personal data, while Latvia called for the prevention of the use of people’s data in ways incompatible with human dignity, rights, and security. The USA launched the Trade and Technology Council with the European Union to ensure that technologies are developed and governed in a way that benefits everyone.

 

Our Common Agenda

Many countries supported the UN SG’s ‘Our Common Agenda’ and linkages to the SDGs. Cape Verde pushed for the Summit of the Future to be held in 2023, as foreseen by the ‘Our Common Agenda’, so that it may effectively help ‘forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like, and what we can do today to secure it’. Namibia also signalled urgency for the Summit of the Future to be held ‘at the earliest of June time, to ‘reflect on challenges and opportunities that await current and future Generations’. South Africa also stressed that Our Common Agenda will ‘provide us with options to be able to put aside our differences, build trust and forge a world where future generations will prosper and thrive’.

In support of Our Common Agenda, Estonia described this work as ‘a Herculean task, because the world is torn apart; we witness the constant brutal violation of the core principles of the UN Charter on every continent’. Mongolia is embedding SDGs and ‘Our Common Agenda’ in the national Vision 2050 and the New Recovery Policy. Mongolia called for the support of the UN ‘Quintet of Change – innovation, data, strategic foresight, result orientation’ – as a way to ensure a more effective UN 2.0. 

Rwanda stressed that Our Common Agenda report ‘has only grown in value since it was launched one year ago’. In endorsing  ‘Our Common Agenda’, Serbia ‘strongly supports inclusive, networked and efficient multilateralism as the best tool for responding to the most urgent challenges for mankind.’ Sierra Leone also highlighted global governance with multilateral solidarity and collective action. The need for multilateral solidarity resounded in Zambia’s support for a pact for the future that should ‘underwrite a new form of multilateralism’. 

In their statements, Latvia, Lebanon, and Monaco highlighted linkages between Our Common Agenda and the 2030 Agenda.

20 September

Digital on Day 1: Off to a slow start 

The first day of the UNGA High-Level Segment signalled lower relevance of digital compared to other pressing issues of our time, from the Ukraine war to climate, food and energy crises.

Despite the bleak summary of the current situation, the UN Secretary-General used the term hope 13 times in his statement, including hope for technological developments (crisis was used 9 times). Specifically, hope and progress are what should shape the future of humanity. Technology should be a tool of progress and empowerment for the future. 

Yet, he balanced his tech narrative by pointing to a ‘forest of red flags’ – personal data is used to influence users’ behaviour; hate speech and misinformation are proliferating, AI can erode democracy – examples are innumerable. He also identified the lack of guide rails around new technologies including AI, big data, cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, quantum computing, and neurotechnology.

In the Secretary-General’s words, we lack ‘the beginnings of a global architecture to deal with any of this’. The search for a solution is ‘held hostage to geopolitical tensions’. It remains to be seen if the Global Digital Compact will start shaping guardrails for global digital developments. 

 A word cloud in shades of green shows the word ‘world’ in large bold letters, followed by people, peace, countries, United Nations, war, country, global, need, Ukraine, challenge and many other words in order of emphasis.
Most frequent terms on Day 1 of the UNGA77

Although moderately addressed during the first day of the general debate, 12 out of 34 countries tackled digital issues. Below is a summary of the most dominant digital topics.

An unceasing epidemic of disinformation

Slovakia addressed the mounting propaganda and disinformation spread on social media and the need for a more concerted effort from the international community. Along with the rest of the EU, Slovakia leads the way in ensuring that online space is guided by the same rules that apply offline. 

Pushing back horizons in the digital world

‘Humankind is pushing back its horizons, both in the digital world and our physical universe. Access to these domains is an inalienable right of all nations,’ the Philippines highlighted. Argentina and the Republic of Korea also noted that universalising access to ICTs is a priority. Promoting global cooperation is key, according to Korea, who noted that countries leading the way in digital innovation must extend their support for digital education, technology transfer, and investment. The UN must step up its efforts to mobilise support for these initiatives. France called for financial and technological solidarity with developing countries. Honduras underlined the de-privatisation of the internet as one of the solutions implemented in the country.

State behaviour in cyberspace

Perhaps contrary to expectation, cybersecurity was not high on the digital agenda of Day 1. However, those countries that put a spotlight on it focused on rules for state behaviour in cyberspace. Slovakia and Argentina welcomed the UN initiatives in this regard (e.g. the UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security), with Slovakia noting that the efforts towards a so-called Digital Geneva Convention are ‘justified and needed’. The Philippines highlighted forming legal rules that will prevent the weaponisation of AI, and Finland stressed the importance of strengthening arms control for new technologies.

Violent extremism was spotlighted during Day 1 at the Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The signatories spoke about incident response, the ongoing challenge of terrorist and violent extremist content, algorithms, radicalisation, gender, and the future focus of the call.

Promoting national champions on digital 

‘The Central African Republic is the first country in Africa to adopt bitcoin as a reference currency/digital payment and the first in the world to unanimously adopt the bill governing cryptocurrencies,’ CAR’s president noted in his national statement, referring to the potential of this technology to revolutionise the country’s economy. The Brazilian president also referred to his country’s successes in adopting digital technologies, noting that Brazil is the 7th most digitally advanced country in the world and a pioneer in 5G deployment in Latin America.

In e-government, Korea is implementing its ambitious initiative to transform the government into a digital platform government, to ‘upgrade democracy, public service, and welfare through digital technology’. Over the years, Korea has been sharing its e-government technology with developing countries and supporting them in adopting digital government solutions.

The promise of cutting-edge technologies

It is essential to make more use of science, innovation and science diplomacy, Switzerland’s statement stressed. To this end, Switzerland has created the GESDA Foundation, the Geneva Science Diplomacy Anticipator, which anticipates the challenges posed by new technologies to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks for humans, guaranteeing a sustainable future on our planet.

The Philippines also referred to the advantages of cutting-edge technology while being wary of its downsides. Its development agenda is therefore considering the possible displacement of human labour due to advances in automation 

Bar chart shows the most frequently-used noun chunks used on Day1, with ‘countries’ in highest use at 239 instances, followed by people with 237, world with 182, security with 182, security with 170, United Nations with 151, support with 146, Ukraine with 136, Africa with 130, climate with 125, and change with 123
Most frequently-used noun chunks on Day 1.

Our Common Agenda

In his opening remarks, the UN Secretary-General also referred to his report, Our Common Agenda. Published in September 2021, the report sets out priorities and future activities on pressing global issues, deals with emerging questions related to the rights of future generations, and the need for a new social contract for digital and other developments ahead of us. According to the Secretary-General, Our Common Agenda ‘proposes a new global deal to rebalance power and resources between developed and developing countries.’ He, therefore, expressed his hope that the UN member states will seize the opportunity to turn the ideas outlined in the report into concrete solutions.

Chile referred to Our Common Agenda and reiterated its focus areas: protection and promotion of human rights, decent work, social protection, and the fight against the climate crisis. Finland, Peru, and Japan also support the agenda, which provides a blueprint for more effective multilateralism and responses to current and future global challenges.

Kazakhstan welcomed Secretary-General’s report, and referred to it as an ‘important opportunity to reaffirm the Charter of the United Nations, reinvigorate multilateralism, boost the implementation of existing commitments, agree on concrete solutions to new challenges, and restore trust among member states.’

Join DW researchers on their deep dive into policy priorities, discussion framing, and the overall rhetorics of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly's (UNGA 77) high-level segment.

In our just-in-time reporting from the 77th UNGA, you can find 'who said what' through the prism of each country's digital priorities in AI, data, cybersecurity, online inclusion, the governance of digital public goods and commons, Our Common Agenda, and more. We're using our taxonomy of 50+ policy issues, to make it easy for you to track the subjects of interest

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UNGA 77 opened on Tuesday, 13 September 2022. The first day of the high-level General Debate will be Tuesday, 20 September 2022.

Dive into our past analysis to connect the dots and observe emergent trends:

UNGA 76 (2021): Full analysis
UNGA 75 (2020): Full analysisblogevent recording
UNGA 74 (2019): Full analysisnewsletter articleblog
UNGA 73 (2018): Full analysis
UNGA 72 (2017): Full analysis