UN open forum

29 Nov 2022 13:05h - 14:05h

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The current challenges faced by the international community indicate the need for all UN member states to participate in an open dialogue. The recent COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and ongoing wars have greatly affected the access of people to the digital world. Considering that 2.7 billion people globally have remained unconnected, the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) aims to facilitate member states in the digital transition and digital transformation, while looking towards the Global Digital Compact. Ensuring inclusivity and protection of human rights while enhancing physical infrastructure, cybersecurity standards, and cybersecurity capacity to support that connectivity, is among the main goals.

One field which could benefit from digital transformation is food systems. The fragility of agriculture and food systems are among the many areas that have been affected by global challenges, which have forced the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to urgently reconsider their priorities and the need for sustainable societies. As such, digital technology has been found to have the potential to reduce global inequalities and enable farmers to access information and fill the gap between consumers and producers. Adopting digital technology to agriculture and food systems would maximise the benefits for farmers, especially for those located in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). 

Regarding the field of disarmament and counterterrorism, there has been ongoing research on issues related to the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) as weapons. The Open-ended working group on ICT security has facilitated dialogues between states and have thus helped in exploring managements to de-escalate international cyber incidents, and to secure a safe world both online and offline. 

At the same time, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has been working for years to build its technical expertise globally, to ensure safe and secure connectivity for everyone around the world. Considering that its latest data reveals that almost 2.9 billion people are still offline, with 96% coming from low-income countries, the ITU’s goal is to find a rapid way to bridge the chronic digital divides. An example of such an initiative is the partnership with UNICEF whose programme seeks to connect every school to the internet. Another example is the creation of the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition in 2021, which focuses on catalysing action and commitment around universal connectivity.  

From a human rights perspective, digital transformation should be done in a more human and gender-centric approach. Human rights organisations should work closely with governments, businesses, and civil society organisations to navigate them in the digital world and ensure effective human rights protection. This means that governments should end internet shutdowns and protect the right to freedom of expression while creating safe online spaces that are available and accessible to everyone. 

Lastly, for the Global Digital Compact, states must work together in enhancing synergies, information sharing, and internet universality. It is also important to ensure effective capacity development for developing states, while the common denominator is the protection of human rights.

By Bojana Kovac


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IGF 2022 UN Open Forum