De-briefing on UN Digital Cooperation Panel and Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace

25 Jan 2019

Event report

On 25 January 2018, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) hosted a de-briefing of the separate meetings of the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation (HLP) and the Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace (GCSC) that took place in Geneva on the week of 21 January.

On the initiative of Prof. Wolfgang Kleinwächter, the meeting was moderated by Mr William Drake (University of Zurich) and Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Association of Progressive Communication). The HLP’s work was presented by Ms Claire Messina (Deputy Executive-Director of the Panel’s Secretariat), while the Commission’s work was presented by Mr Alexander Klimburg (Director of the GCSC).

Drake stressed the need for greater cross-fertilisation between the Panel and Commission as well as other similar initiatives to avoid overlapping.

Messina highlighted that the HLP is at midpoint. The two-day meeting in Geneva of the Panel served two objectives. First, it allowed the panellists to take stock of what they heard during the first phase of the consultation process. Second, the HLP discussed the ideas and recommendations that should be included in the Panel’s report, expected in May 2019. Messina stressed that the UN Secretary-General gave very clear guidelines on what he would like to see in the final report. He encouraged the HLP to be frank and bold in its analysis of the risks and opportunities of the digital transformation, but also to evaluate how it can contribute to sustainable development and the protection of human rights. She emphasised that the overall aim of the Panel is to improve digital co-operation. The Panel agreed that co-operation should be multistakeholder, and build on existing mechanisms and architecture.

Klimburg stressed that the GCSC is a multistakeholder group composed of actors from different backgrounds. Even though its members have different perceptions of what security in the digital realm means, they can help address critical issues in cyberspace, develop norms and policy initiatives, but also, import voices from different communities. In fact, the GCSC’s Singapore norm package was successfully integrated in the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched by the French President Emmanuel Macron on 12 November 2018 at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

One of the objectives of the GCSC is to make sure that silos make more informed decisions while avoiding norm collision which makes systems less effective. Consequently, the Group prefers a bottom-up approach in its work. At present the GCSC has a working definition of cyber stability, however, Klimburg pointed out that this definition is being reviewed. He took the occasion to invite everyone to input suggestions and discuss cyber stability, and underlined that the GCSC is expected to make final recommendations by the end of 2019.

Esterhuysen noted that the HLP and the GCSC are connected and that both processes seek to bypass deadlock between states and come up with useful recommendations. As such, they need to make sure that their efforts are consolidated. Along these lines, she recommended that existing processes (including UN processes) to refrain from working in silos.


How will the HLP and GCSC include public comments?

The HLP received many interesting and relevant inputs on digital co-operation. Messina stressed that Panel members have already taken account of these contributions in their discussions in Geneva. It will be up to them to decide how to integrate them in the final report and recommendations. Klimburg highlighted that the GCSC wants to give a voice to everyone consulted and see what can be improved. He also noted that the GCSC should reinforce existing processes and frameworks.

What will be the follow-up to the HLP Report?

The HLP Report and recommendations will be submitted to the UN Secretary-General, who will decide on the follow-up process. Since the report will be public, all stakeholders will be encouraged to implement those recommendations that are relevant to them. The Panel is in the process of identifying potential ‘implementation champions’.

Will substantive areas such as labour be addressed by the HLP and the GCSC?

Messina highlighted that labour came up as a subject and that it will be discussed in the Panel’s report. However, the Panel will not go into the substance of the matter since the International Labour Organization (ILO) is working on that already. The HLP will instead focus on how co-operation could be improved around issues relating to labour. Klimburg noted that the GCSC will not engage in areas which are not in their domain because they stand a chance of bringing their legitimacy into question. Esterhuysen also underscored that one should not expect new digital mechanisms to have the competency to address a full range of public policy related challenges and that individuals working on labour issues should be at the forefront rather than those dealing with digital.

Will the HLP make reference to SDGs?

Messina pointed out that the UN Secretary-General is keen to receive recommendations on how digital co-operation can enhance sustainable development and the protection of human rights. She noted that digital co-operation should be seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Will the HLP share a draft of the report?

Messina said that the Report is not a negotiated document but the result of the work of the Panel members, who are independent. As such, the draft report will not be shared in its entirety but will informally ‘road-test’ the recommendations with stakeholders to ensure that they are viable.