4. Mechanisms for Global Digital Cooperation

No single approach to digital cooperation can address the diverse spectrum of issues raised in this report – and as technologies evolve, so will the issues, and the most effective ways to cooperate. We should approach digital cooperation using all available tools, making dynamic choices about the best approach based on specific circumstances. In some cases, cooperation may be initiated and led by the private sector or civil society, and in some cases by governments or international organisations.184

Most current mechanisms of digital cooperation are primarily local, national or regional. However, digital interdependence also necessitates that we strengthen global digital cooperation mechanisms to address challenges and provide opportunities for all.

Most current mechanisms of digital cooperation are primarily local, national or regional. However, digital interdependence also necessitates that we strengthen global digital cooperation mechanisms to address challenges and provide opportunities for all.

This chapter identifies gaps and challenges in current arrangements for global digital cooperation and summarises the functions any future cooperation architecture could perform and what principles could underpin them. It then outlines three possible options for digital cooperation architectures and concludes with a discussion of the role the United Nations can play. There was not unanimity of opinion among the Panel members about the shape, function and operations of these different models. Instead, they are presented as useful alternatives to explore in the spirit of digital cooperation and as an input for the broad consultations we call for in Recommendation 5A.

Ultimately, success of any proposed mechanisms and architecture will depend on the spirit in which they are developed and implemented. All governments, the private sector and civil society organisations need to recognise how much they stand to gain from a spirit of collaboration to drive progress toward the achievement of the SDGs and to raise the costs of using digital technologies irresponsibly. The alternative is further erosion of the trust and stability we need to build an inclusive and prosperous digital future.


The international community is not starting from scratch. It can build on established mechanisms for digital cooperation involving governments, technical bodies, civil society and other organisations. Some are based in national and international law,185 others in “soft law” – norms, guidelines, codes of conduct and other self-regulatory measures adopted by business and tech communities.186 Some are loosely organised, others highly institutionalised.187 Some focus on setting agendas and standards, others on monitoring and coordination.188 Many could evolve to become better fit for purpose.

The need for better digital cooperation is not so much with managing the technical nuts and bolts of how technologies function, as mechanisms here are generally well-established, but with the unprecedented economic, societal and ethical challenges they cause. How to tell, in context, when conversations on social media cross the line into inciting violence? How to limit the use of cyber weapons possessed not only by states but non-state actors and individuals?189 How to adapt trade systems designed for a different era to the newly emerging forms of online commerce?

The 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue.190 Global, national and regional IGF meetings have contributed to many important digital debates. But the IGF, in its current form, has limitations in addressing challenges that are now emerging from new digital technologies.

The need for strengthened cooperation mechanisms has been raised many times in recent years by broad initiatives – such as the NetMundial Conference,191 the Global Commission on Internet Governance192 and Web Foundation’s Contract for the Web193 – and more narrowly focused efforts such as the Broadband Commission, the Alliance for Affordable Internet, the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, the Charter of Trust, Smart Africa, and the International Panel on AI recently announced by Canada and France.194

In our consultations, we heard a great deal of dissatisfaction with existing digital cooperation arrangements: a desire for more tangible outcomes, more active participation by governments and the private sector, more inclusive processes and better follow-up. Overall, systems need to become more holistic, multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder, agile and able to convert rhetoric into practice. We have identified six main gaps:

First, despite their growing impact on society, digital technology and digital cooperation issues remain relatively low on many national, regional and global political agendas. Only recently have forums such as the G20 started regularly to address the digital economy.195 In 2018, the UN Secretary- General for the first time delivered an opening statement in person at the IGF in Paris.196

Second, digital cooperation arrangements such as technical bodies and standard-setting organisations are often not inclusive enough of small and developing countries, indigenous communities, women, young and elderly people and those with disabilities. Even if they are invited to the table, such groups may lack the capacity to participate effectively and meaningfully.197
Third, there is considerable overlap among the large number of mechanisms covering digital policy issues. As a result, the digital cooperation architecture has become highly complex but not necessarily effective. There is no simple entry point. This makes it especially hard for small enterprises, marginalised groups, developing countries and other stakeholders with limited budgets and expertise to make their voices heard.198

Fourth, digital technologies increasingly cut across areas in which policies are shaped by separate institutions. For example, one body may look at data issues from the perspective of standardisation, while another considers trade, and still another regulates to protect human rights.199 Many international organisations are trying to adjust their traditional policy work to reflect the realities of the digital transformation, but do not yet have enough expertise and experience to have well-defined roles in addressing new digital issues. At a minimum there needs to be better communication across different bodies to shape awareness. Ideally, effective cooperation should create synergies.

Fifth, there is a lack of reliable data, metrics and evidence on which to base practical policy interventions. For example, the annual cost of cybercrime to the global economy is variously estimated at anything from $600 billion200 to $6 trillion.201 Estimates of the value of the AI market in 2025 range from $60 billion202 to $17 trillion.203 The problem is most acute in developing countries, where resources to collect evidence are scarce and data collection is generally uneven. Establishing a knowledge repository on digital policy, with definitions of terms and concepts, would also increase clarity in policy discussions and support consistency of measurement of digital inclusion, as we have noted in our Recommendation 1D.

Sixth, lack of trust among governments, civil society and the private sector – and sometimes a lack of humility and understanding of different perspectives – can make it more difficult to establish the collaborative multi-stakeholder approach needed to develop effective cooperation mechanisms.

Inter-governmental work must be balanced with work involving broader stakeholders. Multi-stakeholder and multilateral approaches can and do co-exist. The challenge is to evolve ways of using each to reinforce the effectiveness of the other.


As noted in the discussion of values in Chapter 1, we believe global digital cooperation should be: inclusive; respectful; human-centred; conducive to human flourishing; transparent; collaborative; accessible; sustainable and harmonious. Shared values become even more important during periods of rapid change, limited information and unpredictability, as with current discussions of cooperation relating to artificial intelligence.

It would be useful for the private sector, communities and governments to conduct digital cooperation initiatives by explicitly defining the values and principles that guide them. The aim is to align stakeholders around a common vision, maximise the beneficial impacts and minimise the risk of misuse and unintended consequences.

Alongside these shared values, we believe it is useful to highlight operational principles as a reference point for the future evolution of digital cooperation mechanisms. The principles we propose for global digital cooperation mechanisms include that they should: be easy to engage in, open and transparent; inclusive and accountable to all stakeholders; consult and debate as locally as possible; encourage innovation of both technologies and better mechanisms for cooperating; and, seek to maximise the global public interest. These are set forth in more detail in Annex VI, based on the experience of internet governance and technical coordination bodies – such as the WSIS process, UNESCO and the NetMundial conference.204

Defining values and principles is only the first step: we must operationalise them in practice in the design and development of digital technology and digital cooperation mechanisms. Where the reach of hard governance is limited or ambiguous – for example, at the stage of innovation or when the long-term impact of technologies is hard to predict – values-based cooperation approaches can play a vital role.

We should look for opportunities to operationalise values and principles at each step in the design and development of new technologies, as well as new policy practices. For example, educational institutions could encourage software developers, business executives and engineers to integrate values and principles in their work and use professional codes of conduct akin to the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath. Businesses can integrate values into workflows, use values-based measures to assess risk and institute a suitable incentive structure for staff to follow shared values. Self-assessments and third-party audits can also help institutionalise a business culture based on shared values.


The Panel had many discussions about possible practical next steps to improve the architecture of global digital cooperation and the merits of proposing new mechanisms or updating existing ones. Some suggested that many cooperation challenges could be best addressed by strengthening implementation capacities of current agencies and mandates.

There was broad agreement that improved cooperation is needed, that such cooperation will need to take multiple diverse forms, and that governments, the private sector and civil society will need to find new ways to work together to steer an effective path between extremes of over-regulation and complete laissez-faire.

While no single vision emerged, there was broad agreement that improved cooperation is needed, that such cooperation will need to take multiple diverse forms, and that governments, the private sector and civil society will need to find new ways to work together to steer an effective path between extremes of over-regulation and complete laissez-faire. Based on our consultations, the Panel felt that presenting options for digital cooperation architectures would best contribute to the discourse on global digital cooperation.

Annex VI sets out functions that a digital cooperation architecture could be designed to improve. These include generating political will, ensuring the active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, monitoring developments and identifying trends, creating shared understanding and purpose, preventing and resolving disputes, building consensus and following up on agreements.

Below three possible models are proposed that could address some of these functions. The first enhances and extends the multi-stakeholder IGF. The second is a distributed architecture which builds on existing mechanisms. The third envisions a ‘commons’ approach with loose coordination by the UN. All have benefits and drawbacks. They are put forward here to provide concrete starting points for the further discussion and broad consultation which we recommend the UN Secretary-General initiate in our Recommendation 5A.


A note on inclusive representation

All three models highlighted below would need to take special steps to ensure that they are broadly representative and develop specific mechanisms to ensure equitable participation of developing countries, women and other traditionally marginalised groups who have often been denied a voice.


The proposed Internet Governance Forum Plus, or IGF Plus, would build on the existing IGF which was established by the World Summit on Information Society (Tunis, 2005). The IGF is currently the main global space convened by the UN for addressing internet governance and digital policy issues. The IGF Plus concept would provide additional multi-stakeholder and multilateral legitimacy by being open to all stakeholders and by being institutionally anchored in the UN system.

The IGF Plus would aim to build on the IGF’s strengths, including well-developed infrastructure and procedures, acceptance in stakeholder communities, gender balance in IGF bodies and activities, and a network of 114 national, regional and youth IGFs206. It would add important capacity strengthening and other support activities.

The IGF Plus model aims to address the IGF’s current shortcomings. For example, the lack of actionable outcomes can be addressed by working on policies and norms of direct interest to stakeholder communities. The limited participation of government and business representatives, especially from small and developing countries, can be addressed by introducing discussion tracks in which governments, the private sector and civil society address their specific concerns.

The IGF Plus would comprise an Advisory Group, Cooperation Accelerator, Policy Incubator and Observatory and Help Desk.

The Advisory Group, based on the IGF’s current Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, would be responsible for preparing annual meetings, and identifying focus policy issues each year. This would not exclude coverage of other issues but ensure a critical mass of discussion on the selected issues. The Advisory Group could identify moments when emerging discussions in other forums need to be connected, and issues that are not covered by existing organisations or mechanisms.

Building on the current practices of the IGF, the Advisory Group could consist of members appointed for three years by the UN Secretary-General on the advice of member states and stakeholder groups, ensuring gender, age, stakeholder and geographical balance.

The Cooperation Accelerator would accelerate issue-centred cooperation across a wide range of institutions, organisations and processes; identify points of convergence among existing IGF coalitions, and issues around which new coalitions need to be established; convene stakeholder-specific coalitions to address the concerns of groups such as governments, businesses, civil society, parliamentarians, elderly people, young people, philanthropy, the media, and women; and facilitate convergences among debates in major digital and policy events at the UN and beyond.

The Cooperation Accelerator could consist of members selected for their multi-disciplinary experience and expertise. Membership would include civil society, businesses and governments and representation from major digital events such as the Web Summit, Mobile World Congress, Lift:Lab, Shift, LaWeb, and Telecom World.

The Policy Incubator would incubate policies and norms for public discussion and adoption. In response to requests to look at a perceived regulatory gap, it would examine if existing norms and regulations could fill the gap and, if not, form a policy group consisting of interested stakeholders to make proposals to governments and other decision-making bodies. It would monitor policies and norms through feedback from the bodies that adopt and implement them.207

The Policy Incubator could provide the currently missing link between dialogue platforms identifying regulatory gaps and existing decision-making bodies by maintaining momentum in discussions without making legally binding decisions. It should have a flexible and dynamic composition involving all stakeholders concerned by a specific policy issue.

The Observatory and Help Desk would direct requests for help on digital policy (such as dealing with crisis situations, drafting legislation, or advising on policy) to appropriate entities, including the Help Desks described in Recommendation 2; coordinate capacity development activities provided by other organisations; collect and share best practices; and provide an overview of digital policy issues, including monitoring trends, identifying emerging issues and providing data on digital policy.

The IGF Trust Fund would be a dedicated fund for the IGF Plus. All stakeholders – including governments, international organisations, businesses and the tech sector – would be encouraged to contribute. The IGF Plus Secretariat should be linked to the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General to reflect its interdisciplinary and system-wide approach.


The proposed distributed co-governance architecture (COGOV) would build on existing mechanisms while filling gaps with new mechanisms to achieve a distributed, yet cohesive digital cooperation architecture covering all stages from norm design to implementation and potential enforcement of such norms by the appropriate authorities.

COGOV relies on the self-forming ‘horizontal’ network approach used by the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the World Wide Web Consortium, the Regional Internet Registries, the IEEE and others to host networks to design norms and policies. This proposal would extend this agile network approach to issues affecting the broader digital economy and society.

Given the wide range of issues which the COGOV architecture could encompass, it will be imperative to ensure there is broad representation beyond the relatively homogenous expert communities which predominate for some of the technical issues discussed above.

The COGOV architecture decouples the design of digital norms from their implementation and enforcement. It seeks to rapidly produce shared digital cooperation solutions, including norms, and publish them for stakeholders to consider and potentially adopt. These norms would be voluntary solutions rather than legal instruments. In themselves, the COGOV networks would not have governing authority or enforcement powers. However, the norms could be taken up by government agencies as useful blueprints to establish policies, regulations or laws.

The COGOV could consist of three functional elements: a) Digital Cooperation Networks; b) Network Support Platforms; and, c) a Network of Networks.

a) Digital Cooperation Networks. These networks would be issue-specific horizontal collaboration groups, involving stakeholders from relevant vertical sectors and institutions. They could be formed freely by stakeholders in a bottom-up way, self-governed, and share the same goal of cooperation – including potentially the design of digital norms. They could be created or supported by one or more governments and/ or intergovernmental organisations with the same concerns. Their functions would include developing shared understandings and goals for a specific digital issue, strengthening cooperation, designing or updating digital norms, providing norm implementation roadmaps and developing capacity to adopt policies and norms.
Participation in digital cooperation networks should be open for all relevant and concerned stakeholders, including governments, intergovernmental institutions, the private sector, civil society, academia and the technical community. Special efforts would need to be made to include and support representatives from developing countries and traditionally marginalised groups. The digital cooperation networks may be stand-alone voluntary networks or hosted by the network support platforms described below. 

b) Network Support Platforms. These platforms could host and enable the dynamic formation and functioning of multiple digital cooperation networks. While the digital cooperation networks would operate in defined and limited timeframes, the network support platforms are proposed as stable long-term elements of the architecture, supporting the digital cooperation networks and enabling them to evolve as necessary to update their cooperation and relevant digital norms.

The network support platforms should not interfere in the work product or composition of the self-governed and stakeholder-initiated digital cooperation networks; they should simply support the networks to operate efficiently. The platforms would help the networks to identify emerging issues, secure the commitment of relevant participants, provide necessary resources and facilities, and promote their outcomes.

c) Network of Networks. The network of networks would loosely coordinate and support activities across all digital cooperation networks and network support platforms. The role of the network of networks is to ensure integrity and enable coherent outcomes that account for the complex inter-dependencies across digital policy issues.

The network of networks would consist of: 1) a support function, which would organise an annual forum, a ‘research cooperative’ and a ‘norm exchange’; and 2) a voluntary peer coordination network, which would bring issues to the attention of the annual forum and follow up on its recommendations by promoting action from specific stakeholders to form digital cooperation networks.

The network of networks should avoid a controlling top-down form of administration: it is simply there to loosely coordinate the activities across the decentralized COGOV architecture; its decisions would not be binding.

Once norms are available, governing authorities may choose to establish enforcement mechanisms and may choose to use these norms as policy input or blueprints. The following table summarises the mechanisms across the norm design, implementation, and enforcement stages:

Norm Design
• Identify digital governance issues
• Form digital cooperation networks
• Support networks through digital cooperation platforms
Norm Implementation
• Develop norm design and adoption capacity
• Provide a ‘norm exchange’ to connect communities
• Offer implementation incentives
Norm Enforcement
• Develop norms into laws/regulations
• Adjudicate/resolve disputes and conflicts
• Establish clear guard rails for digital technologies


In areas such as space, climate change and the sea, the international community has entered into treaties and developed principles, norms and functional cooperation to designate certain spaces as international ‘commons’ and then govern ongoing practice and dialogue.208 For instance, the “common heritage” principle, introduced by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, imposes a duty to protect resources for the good of future generations.209

While norm-making and guidance in digital technologies will pose different challenges, some aspects of the digital realm, such as common internet protocols, already share characteristics with ‘commons’ requiring responsible and global stewardship. ‘Digital commons’ have also been mentioned recently in the context of data and AI developments.210

The proposed “Digital Commons Architecture” would aim to synergise efforts by governments, civil society and businesses to ensure that digital technologies promote the SDGs and to address risks of social harm. It would comprise multi-stakeholder tracks to create dialogue around emerging issues and communicate use cases and problems to be solved to stakeholders, and an annual meeting to act as a clearing house.

Each track could be owned by a lead organisation – a UN agency, an industry or academic consortium or a multi-stakeholder forum, with the choice of participants governed by guiding principles of the kind listed in this report to ensure inclusiveness and broad representation. Light coordination of the tracks, and servicing of the annual meeting where their reports are considered, could be ensured by a small secretariat housed within the UN.

Analogous to processes such as the International Competition Network, the Digital Commons Architecture tracks would have flexible, project-oriented and results-based working groups. They would enable learning on governance and related capacity development to be driven by practice. Annual meetings could aggregate lessons for use in soft law or more binding approaches in the appropriate forums. This could rapidly build a repository of norms and governance practices to guide stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities.

The Digital Commons Architecture tracks could focus on issues agreed by the participants. For example, they might initially wish to address issues emerging from the preceding chapters, such as using data in support of the SDGs, using AI to improve agriculture and health, or developing a global values/ethics certification process for new technology.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration around these issues could pave the way for wider cooperation. For example, realising the potential of AI to provide insights to a global health challenge might require the pooling of reliable data, clear privacy measures, a common data architecture and interoperable standards. Successful outcomes could then be progressively extended to other areas. An additional benefit would be to promote transparency and build confidence.

The annual meeting would not make rules, but provide guidance to stakeholders, which they can use in the appropriate forums. The meeting would discuss the output of the various tracks as well as implementation of the governance guidance produced by these tracks through a ‘soft’ review of reports by stakeholders.

The Digital Commons Architecture might not specify technical solutions, but instead propose technical models, and standards of accountability and trustworthiness, which could be applied across the globe. It could also facilitate a discussion of lessons from around the globe on implementation of existing norms in specific areas.

The annual meeting could build on and connect discussions taking place in other fora and could in turn feed its results into discussions taking place in other fora. This would reduce the current burden of multiplicity of forums by clarifying who is doing what, eliminating potential overlap, and identifying partnership opportunities.

The Digital Commons Architecture could be funded through voluntary contributions. Along the lines of the International Chamber of Commerce, membership fees could be considered for private sector participation; these could be waived for certain categories such as small businesses or civil society participants. 211 A dedicated trust fund could assist with civil society and least developed country participation.

The three potential models share common elements, such as multi-stakeholder participation, dedicated trust funds to enhance inclusivity, reducing policy inflation by consolidating discussions across for a, and a light coordination and convening role for the UN. The values in Chapter 1 and principles and functions in Annex VI provide shared design elements that further emphasise inclusivity and multi-stakeholder participation.

Equally, there are differences in emphasis and approach. The COGOV, for example, foresees a larger role for new networks of experts and multi-stakeholder governance; the Digital Commons Architecture presumes more of a focus on iterative learning of governance through practice in both multilateral and multi-stakeholder tracks; and the IGF Plus adds functionalities to an existing multi-stakeholder forum with a UN mandate.

The common design elements across the models could be flexibly brought together once the broad thrust of a new digital cooperation architecture has been defined. As suggested in Recommendation 5A, a common starting point could be a Global Commitment for Digital Cooperation based on shared values and principles. 


The UN’s three foundational pillars – peace and security, human rights and development – position it well to help spotlight issues emerging in the digital age and advocate on behalf of humanity’s best interests. In our consultations, we heard that despite its well-known weaknesses, the UN retains a unique role and convening power to bring stakeholders together to create the norms and frameworks and assist in developing the capacity we need to ensure a safe and equitable digital future for all people.

the UN retains a unique role and convening power to bring stakeholders together to create the norms and frameworks and assist in developing the capacity we need to ensure a safe and equitable digital future for all people.

Digital technologies are increasingly impacting the work of the UN in three ways: changing the political, social and economic environment in the ways this report has discussed; providing new tools for its core mandates; and creating new policy issues.

UN entities have begun to embrace the digital transformation and are revamping programmes and launching initiatives to apply digital technology to further their missions. Some UN agencies – such as UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – have made a priority of exploring how the digital transformation can provide them with new approaches to achieve their mandates. The Task Force on Digital Financing of the SDGs, for example, will explore how digital technologies can be leveraged to finance the SDGs.212

When digital issues often do not fit neatly within the traditional mandates of UN agencies, some have sought to expand their mandates, causing overlaps and friction. This duplication also causes confusion for external partners and stakeholders, who find it difficult to discern among the many fora, events and initiatives hosted by various parts of the UN on science, technology and innovation issues and policy setting. Some UN entities have responded to converging mandates by launching cross-cutting initiatives. For example, in 2010 the ITU and UNESCO established the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development; in 2016 the ITU, UN Women, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the GSM Association (GSMA), UNESCO and the United Nations University set up the EQUALS partnership to tackle the digital gender gap.

UN entities have also tended to go about digital issues in their own way, often without sharing information, at times duplicating each other’s work, and not reflecting on whether the systems they are building might scale to other UN entities. UN agencies can do much more to pool their human and computing capacities and develop shared tools and common standards – for example, through joint procurement of cloud computing, to reduce price and increase interoperability, and promoting open and interoperable standards for data produced and used by the UN.

The UN has begun to engage the private sector and tech community much more directly. For example, Tech Against Terrorism, a public/private partnership launched in April 2017 by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, aims to support the technology industry to develop more effective and responsible approaches to tackling terrorists’ use of the internet, while respecting human rights. However, working with stakeholders such as the private sector and civil society is still not part of the DNA of many UN agencies. More can be done to partner with other stakeholders effectively and consistently.

How can the UN add value in the digital transformation?

As a convener – The AI for Global Good Summit, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, ITU’s Global Symposium for Regulators, the WSIS Forum, the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum).

Providing a space for debating values and norms – the IGF, the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Privacy and on the promotion and protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, UNESCO’s Artificial Intelligence with Human Values for Sustainable Development initiative, UNICEF’s efforts around children’s online safety.

Standard setting – ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector, the UN Statistical Commission and its Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics, WHO guidelines on digital health interventions, the Humanitarian Data Exchange – an open platform and standard for sharing data across crises and organisations.

Multi-stakeholder or bilateral initiatives on specific issues – EQUALS: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster hosted by WFP, the UN Global Compact’s Breakthrough Innovation for the SDGs Action Platform, the Famine Action Mechanism hosted by the World Bank and the UN in partnership with industry.

Developing the capacity of member states – UNDP’s Accelerator Labs, the Technology Facilitation Mechanism, UN Global Pulse Labs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s trainings, the Digital Blue Helmets initiative, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Programme on Cybercrime.

Ranking, mapping and measuring – the annual E-Government Survey produced by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research’s Cyber Policy Portal, an online reference tool that maps the cybersecurity and cybersecurity-related policy landscape, ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report and Global Cybersecurity Index.

Arbitration and dispute-resolution – The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet Domain Name Process, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.


Created by the innovation units of several UN agencies in 2015, the UN Innovation Network is working on sharing best practices and recommending harmonisation of policies which may help reduce fragmentation across the UN system. The UN’s highest-level coordination body, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, is trying to encourage more system-wide coordination through initiatives such as the UN Data Innovation Lab and UN data privacy principles. The High-level Committee on Programmes could also have a role to enable more knowledge sharing, efficiencies of scale and scaling up of successful practices and initiatives across the UN system.

The development of the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies, issued in September 2018, has helped identify points of overlap and convergence, and UN agencies meet regularly to track progress. The strategy notes that the Secretary-General may consider appointing a “Tech Envoy” following the work of this Panel.

The UN can play a key role in enhancing digital cooperation by developing greater organisational and human capacity on digital governance issues and improving its ability to respond to member states’ need for policy advice and capacity development.