Co-facilitators of Global Digital Compact process issue assessment from deep dives and consultations

Rwanda and Sweden, co-facilitators of the Global Digital Compact process, have released a letter outlining their assessment of the deep dives and consultations conducted so far in relation to the GDC.

In a letter dated 1 September 2023 and transmitted to all permanent representatives and permanent observers to the UN in New York, Rwanda and Sweden – as co-facilitators of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) process – shared their assessment from the GDC-related deep dives and consultations.

The co-facilitators note that they have identified ‘wide support from diverse perspectives for the establishment of a GDC that rests on the principles of the UN Charter, Agenda 2030, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, and that ‘joint efforts should aim to strengthen digital cooperation, close the digital divide and ensure an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital future for all, which is anchored in human rights and that enables the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’.

The letter then outlines a summary of main points drawn from the deep dives and the consultations, along several key topics:

  • The role of digital technologies in accelerating progress across all SDGs. Highlighted here are the importance of connectivity and digital public infrastructure, as role as the potential role of the GDC to support exchange of best practices among countries on digitalisation.
  • Universal, affordable, and accessible connectivity. The need to connect the unconnected, advance digital literacy and skills, build capacities, and promote greater financial investment in affordable, accessible mobile connectivity are among the key issues.
  • An open, free, and globally accessible internet. The significance of interoperable internet standards and protocols and the need to avoid internet fragmentation are highlighted. The letter also notes that stakeholders expressed support for strengthening the multistakeholder approach to the governance of the internet, and that there is broad consensus that the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) should continue to play a ‘key role in promoting the global and interoperable nature and governance of the internet’.
  • Data protection and governance. Reference is made to the need to have a GDC that outlines principles to guide regional and national approaches to data protection and governance. Such principles would relate, among other issues, to ensuring that people have control over their data and to finding a balanced approach between free flow of data and data protection.
  • Digital trust and security. The GDC could promote digital trust and security, and address disinformation, hate speech, and other types of harmful online content, while also advancing transparent and responsible design and application of digital technologies.
  • Artificial intelligence. Here the focus is placed on the ‘need to further a common understanding of the risks’ associated with AI, with reference being made to potential approaches involving forms of regulations, standards, and guardrails. Also highlighted is the need for human-centric, transparent, and equitable risk-based approaches to the development, use, and governance of AI.
  • Addressing the digital gender divides was underscored as a cross-cutting issue.
  • Sustainability. Emphasised here are the role of green technologies and digitalisation in accelerating climate ambitions and the need to address technology-related drivers of climate risk.

Another point emphasised in the summary is that, while the ‘GDC should not duplicate existing forums and processes’, ‘there is an expressed need to identify and address gaps to make the UN system and international cooperation more efficient and coordinated in responding to new and emerging challenges posed by rapid technological developments’.