DC main session: Our digital future: How dynamic coalitions support the Global Digital Compact

30 Nov 2022 10:50h - 12:20h

Session page

Event report

IGF Dynamic Coalitions (DCs) emerged from the need discussed since the first IGF in 2006, to sustain discussions between annual IGFs. Today, 24 DCs work in an autonomous, open and inclusive manner. DCs provide tangible outputs such as new policy recommendations and approaches, standards proposals, and the like. DCs have different levels of maturity and effectiveness in terms of providing outputs and results. DCs engage experts on a voluntary basis, without financial or substantial support by the IGF.

Several examples of DC work were provided. The DC on Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment (DC-Children) holds that children are both early adopters of technologies and rights-holders – as are adults. Children’s rights were emphasised as an issue intrinsically linked to other internet governance (IG) topics. The Internet Standards, Security and Safety Coalition (IS3C) focuses on security by design in the internet of things (IoT), education and skills, and the data governance of security. 

The Youth Coalition on Internet Governance (YCIG) engaged youth to submit workshop proposals and get involved with the IGF: 11 of 13 IGF workshop proposals by youth delegates were selected. The Global Youth Summit 2022 addressed the importance of (compulsory) digital literacy, including the need to train teachers. There is a need to assist youth to close the knowledge gaps related to IG, building on webinars that the YCIG organises throughout the year on different topics. The YCIG still needs to become more effective in achieving tangible outputs beyond capacity building, but the YCIG process itself is an important output in itself if it is accessible to many young people. 

The DC on Gender and Internet Governance (DC-Gender) has three priorities: to discuss gender more broadly (beyond man/woman perspective), to broaden views of gender challenges beyond online violence, and to demystify IG for marginalised gender groups. IG is a hard concept to understand, because it differs from traditional models of governance, and the IGF plays an important role here. The DC on Data Driven Health Technologies (DC-DDHT) organises events and develops educational materials for various stakeholders (like doctors, technologists, persons with disabilities, etc.), and provides inputs to other processes. The DC on Internet & Jobs (DC-Jobs) founded at the IGF in Paris in 2018 produces an annual report on the internet and jobs. It advances the project CREATE, which puts people rather than profit at the heart of technological development, and aims at contributing to making the internet provide livelihood for all, supporting job creation instead of job losses.

The DC on Internet Rights and Principles (DC-IRP), established at the IGF in 2009, works to foster a diverse and inclusive internet by design, addressing climate change and justice. The DC’s most significant achievemnt is the development, translation, and dissemination of the Charter of the Internet Rights and Principles, containing 21 articles on human rights for all groups of people, and translated into 12 languages (and counting). The DC engages communities to increase recognition of the IRP Charter, including integration into all discussions on IG (especially by the tech sector). The DC on Schools of Internet Governance (DC-SIG) develops syllabuses to bring IG and policies (like gender, AI, etc.) to grassroots organisations, and brings grassroots input to forums like the IGF. 

An important question was raised: How can the DCs contribute to the IGF+ set out by the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation?

The IGF+ could more formally recognise the tangible outputs of DCs (like policy recommendations, guidelines, and best practices), increase their impact by putting them under a spotlight, and assist with implementing them (e.g. through capacity building, or dissemination at regional IGFs). The IGF+ should find ways to support recommendations coming from the IGF, leading through the process towards implementation at scale. Mr Amandeep Singh Gill, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology (Tech Envoy) and Ex-Officio Member of the IGF Leadership Panel (LP), explained that the IGF+ model, as well as the other models suggested by the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, has a network approach at its core, and should become a policy incubator that utilises opportunities coming from DCs. He added that the core function of the IGF LP is to give more visibility to the outcomes of the IGF. Participants argued that if the IGF+ aims to be a policy incubator, DCs must become a more substantive part of it by being involved in the preparatory work of the IGF as well as its strategic discussions. One suggestion was that DCs get formal representation in MAG.

The session asked what could be the structure of IGF support to the DCs, to enhance the impact of their work? Who should DCs address with their outputs? The MAG, the Tech Envoy, the IGF LP? IGF+ needs to respond to this.

While this question remained open, there were suggestions that DCs should cooperate better among themselves, and support each other. This can produce a multiplier effect and increase the impact of DCs’ work. For instance, other DCs can help the YCIG to become more output-oriented, and provide learning opportunities like webinars on specific topics to the youth newcomers. In their work, DCs should look at what’s in the interest of children. There are good examples already: The DC-SIG already contributes content to some other DCs, while the YCIG has strong cooperation with other groups like the ISOC youth group. DCs were invited to involve more young people in their work.  IGF Secretariat support for the work of DCs was mentioned as very important and the DC Coordination Group was highlighted as a great example. Looking ahead, a participant suggested that the IGF+ should provide a range of support to DCs – from hands off to full support, as needed.

How can the work of DCs contribute to the development of the Global Digital Compact (GDC), which is to be agreed at the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024, and the consultations during the UN General Assembly’s ‘WSIS+20’ Review in 2025?

Singh Gill outlined a twofold involvement of DCs within the GDC process. First, in the consultation phase preparing for the GDC, DCs can provide inputs. Second, DCs can help with the dissemination of the GDC guidelines to stakeholders, and the implementation after GDC’s adoption. In that respect, DCs can focus on issues that have not been sufficiently explored and provide quality inputs to the process. Others agreed, emphasising the value of the inputs of DC members that have hands-on experience. 

Representatives of DCs provided specific examples of their possible contributions to the GDC and its process. The DC-SIG can formally submit proposals for practicums (practical work) on current topics on the UN level, elaborated by the participants of the schools on IG. The DC-Gender can provide shared principles for free, open internet, which is relevant for gender; it invites the GDC to consider multiple social markers, including gender. The DC-Jobs asked for the GDC to encourage the creation of more jobs. The DC-IRP can engage communities around the GDC process and the Summit of the Future, and submit its IRP Charter articles; it also hopes that the GDC will link human rights and environmental stability with the design of future IG and tech. The YCIG can engage youth to contribute. 

Among the main take-aways were the need to demystify IG, enhance digital literacy, engage youth, ensure digital environmental sustainability (including risks related to resources, the circular economy, human rights, etc.), and reflect on multiple social markers as a risk management strategy. As next steps, the IGF+ and the IGF LP should establish ways to engage DCs and enhance the impact of their outcomes. DCs can provide valuable inputs to the shaping and implementation of the GDC, and the tech envoy can further elaborate on modalities.  

By Vladimir Radunovic