IGF 2020 WS #266 Sustainable #netgov By Design: Environment & Human Rights

Monday, 16th November, 2020 (14:00 UTC) - Monday, 16th November, 2020 (15:30 UTC)
Room 2
About this Session
The objective is to map out concrete steps to ensure how the principle of environmental sustainability as fundamental to the SDGS and, in turn, their basis in human rights law and norms, can be fully integrated into the design, manufacturing, implementation, and procurement of Internet-dependent technologies; from raw materials, to data storage and energy consumption, to disposal at the end of hardware lifecycles.

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, African Group
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Michael J. Oghia, ,
Speaker 2: Weronika Koralewska, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Alexandra Lutz, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Pia Wiche, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How to reconcile environmental sustainability within technological innovation? 2. What role do regulators have to enforce Green Policy frameworks moving forward? 3. In addition to the private sector, what role does the technical community have to ensuring environmental sustainability at the design stage, manufacture, and service delivery? 4. How can consumers, individuals, communities, and institutions be encouraged to consider the environmental impact of their own internet access and use habits? 5. What form should oversight and enforcement take, at the national and international level, that respect and enhance fundamental rights and freedoms?

The question of whether or not the environmental sustainability of ICTs in general, and the internet in particular, has moved on in recent years. However, a robust understanding of why cross-sectoral collaboration is vital to making the Internet and ICTs more sustainable is still in its early stages. The vast majority of sustainability efforts as it relates to technology tend to focus on narrow, siloed approaches, but generally fail to consider the compounding effects that the design, manufacturing, consumption, and discarding of multiple Internet technologies have on the environment. This session will provide an opportunity to break out of this siloed approach to illustrate why any meaningful progress to make the Internet more sustainable and ultimately realise the SDGs must include not only consumers but also the technical community, the private sector, and governments.


GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
GOAL 13: Climate Action


This workshop builds on two workshops unpacking how Internet governance, environmental sustainability, and human rights are interconnected: the 2018 IGF in Paris addressed Digital City Initiatives from the point of view of environmental impacts and their human rights implications (IGF 2018 DC Internet Rights and Principles: Sustainable Futures: The Internet, Human Rights, and Environmental Issues - https://www.intgovforum.org/content/igf-2018-dc-internet-rights-and-principles-sustainable-futures-the-internet-human-rights-and). The 2019 IGF Berlin session addressed the carbon footprint issues emerging from the continued dependence on non-renewable energy sources that run internet services (IGF 2019 IRPC Meeting- Sustainable Futures II - https://www.intgovforum.org/content/igf-2019-irpc-meeting-sustainable-futures-ii). For IGF 2020, this workshop will bring together representatives from stakeholder groups in order to move forward in light of these initial conversations. The objective is to map out concrete steps to ensure how the principle of environmental sustainability as fundamental to the SDGS and, in turn, their basis in human rights law and norms, can be fully integrated into the design, manufacturing, implementation, and procurement of Internet-dependent technologies; from raw materials, to data storage and energy consumption, to disposal at the end of hardware lifecycles.

Expected Outcomes

1. Agreement on the fundamental question of how environmental sustainability aligns with the mission of Internet governance fora and related multi-stakeholder processes. 2. Compilation of three-five priorities from each stakeholder group. 3. An action Plan for Draft principles on how to reduce the Internet's carbon footprint of the Internet in line with the principles of the IRPC's existing charter.

We plan to draw on the IRPC's network to gather those perspectives and stakeholder groups who are not present through targeted outreach ahead of the event so that we can ensure multiple points of view are heard. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we will also have a back-up plan should the session be moved to a remote setting – notably drawing on the experience we will gain from EuroDIG's Plenary 4 (as we are currently co-organising it as well).

Relevance to Internet Governance: Although now seemingly validated by the MAG as an Internet governance issue, the relationship between the environment and Internet governance has a rocky history, with many (both in the past and present) questioning the need to include such discussion within Internet governance fora. Yet, the Internet is now integral to the physical world. Its architecture, transmission lines, and data-storage facilities have an enormous impact on carbon emissions, energy uses, and global warming. Therefore, Internet governance and increasing concerns about the links between ICTs, climate change, and environmental degradation are inseparable – especially since multi-stakeholder collaboration are imperative to long-term, holistic, and sustainable solutions. The Internet and the planet are part of an integrated whole and the environmental impacts of any aspect to how the Internet is governed needs urgent attention.

Relevance to Theme: Our organisers have been at the forefront of this issue, advocating for its greater inclusion in the IGF and related events, for years. Therefore, the history and multiple workshops from both the IGF and NRIs (i.e., EuroDIG 2017) underpin the importance of why we seek to address the policy questions and outcomes we are. In this sense, it's critical that we ensure that human rights and the impact that ICTs have on the environment from a social and political point of view are included, and we are not simply relegated to looking for solutions outside of a larger framework that incorporates the wider problematics of our political and economic systems vis-a-vis climate change and environmental degradation.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Social media based interactions, and pre-conference surveying.


1. Key Policy Questions and related issues
How to reconcile environmental sustainability technological innovation and ensure that these are harmoniously intertwined with human rights frameworks in order to achieve the SGDs?
How can the Internet Governance community in general and the IGF in particular create spaces for cross-sectoral collaboration to accelerate the development of rights-based and environmentally sustainable Internet technologies?
How can consumers, individuals, communities, and institutions be encouraged to consider the environmental impact of their own internet access and use habits?
2. Summary of Issues Discussed

The discussion focused on the interconnections between human rights, environment and Internet connected technologies and looked into concrete steps to achieve an effective multi-stakeholder collaborative effort to ensure human rights and sustainability by design.


The speakers agreed that only concerted solutions resulting from multi-stakeholder collaboration could lead to effective change and that more needs to be done to promote dialogue and shared experiences, but that spaces, such as the annual IGF and the NRIs already exist to foster this dialogue.


The panel reflected upon the causes that are currently hindering cross sector collaboration – since the solutions and the skills for a sustainable ICT already exist, but are scattered among the different stakeholder groups – and highlighted issues of culture, values, and priorities. In particular, they highlighted the lack of accountability and the failure to take responsibility, which leads to masking problems rather than solving them. Also stressed was the scattered and unclear information on sustainability, the lack of a concerted strategy of repairability, and the reliance on a business model that promotes rampant consumption and product obsolescence, which forces consumers to waste their existing and perfectly working products by replacing them for new ones. This scenario is leading to ever growing  demand of consumption and of e-waste generation and the use of precious natural resources that not only have a  huge negative impact on the sustainability of the planet, but also on the full enjoyment of human rights with disastrous consequences to populations affected by the scarcity of their natural resources, affected by the hazards of e-waste, or working in degrading conditions to provide the raw materials needed for the ever growing  demand of production of new technologies.

3. Key Takeaways
  • A better governance on ICT sustainability is needed. Multi-stakeholder collaboration is vital for effective solutions, and the IGF environment is perfect to foster robust networks and to promote closer collaboration among stakeholders. Effective collaboration is key to avoid siloed decisions, to promote the development of informed policy frameworks and create a space for sharing good practices that promote rights and sustainability by design.
  • Regulatory frameworks are needed to ensure sustainability, from the use of natural resources design and production to the consumption and disposal of technologies. It is vital to provide clear and accessible information to consumers of internet technologies. For example, eco-design directive already exists within the EU and a Digital Sustainability Index is in development and it will be integrated in public procurement.
  • The private sector and the technical community need to lead the way by including life cycle assessment experts in all teams and ensuring and promoting human rights and sustainability by design.
  • Civil society has an important role of contributing to change through education and raising awareness in their communities so that communities can find their voice and demand the change needed.
  • Education is a key element in promoting sustainability and informed choices. A holistic approach that takes into account planetary boundaries and fosters life cycle perspective of rather than the existing linear perspective needs to be embedded into education and promoted by both civil societies and governments. Education should not only be provided to younger generations, but also to those in positions of power.
6. Final Speakers

Weronika Koralewska, Civil Society, Poland
Alexandra Lutz, Government, European Parliament
Pia Wiche, Private Sector, EcoEd
Y. Z. Ya’u, Civil Soceity, APC / Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

Gender was not explicitly covered, but was referenced via the adverse affects of the lack of sustainability built into the design of ICTs on the environment and human rights. All speakers, minus one, were also women.

9. Group Photo
IGF 2020 WS #266 Sustainable #netgov