IGF 2021 WS #243 Level Up: Methods for Localizing Digital Policy and Norms

Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (14:45 UTC) - Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 (15:45 UTC)
Conference Room 4

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

Speaker 1: Dr. Olga Kyryliuk, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 2: MARUSHKA CHOCOBAR, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Sheilah Birgen, Private Sector, African Group
Speaker 4: Richard Wingfield, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

Digital policy and human rights frameworks: What is the relationship between digital policy and development and the established international frameworks for civil and political rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and further interpretation of these in the online context provided by various resolutions of the Human Rights Council? How do policy makers and other stakeholders effectively connect these global instruments and interpretations to national contexts? What is the role of different local, national, regional and international stakeholders in achieving digital inclusion that meets the requirements of users in all communities?
Inclusion, rights and stakeholder roles and responsibilities: What are/should be the responsibilities of governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, the academic and research sector and community-based actors with regard to digital inclusion and respect for human rights, and what is needed for them to fulfil these in an efficient and effective manner?

The session will directly tackle the challenges and opportunities associated with how global policies and norms—including global human rights instruments as well as emerging global digital policy standards—are effectively implemented and interpreted at the national level. Implementation is often a challenge because the national context can be quite different from how a policy is developed globally.

In the case of emerging digital policy standards often first designed in Europe and North America, the context in other countries can vary significantly, and if implemented in the exact same way could produce unintended negative consequences. On the other hand, implementation can also be a way to improve standards globally when used as a process which elevates national policy and broadens human rights protection

A specific policy angle this session will address is how to make sure localization of policy and international standards is implemented in a multistakeholder fashion. While governments have certain obligations to uphold international human rights, there is a role for other stakeholders to provide input, oversight, and guidance. Governments often do not have the specific policy expertise to go it alone. Moreover, a multistakeholder approach can ensure that the perspectives of all communities are heard in the process of localizing global standards.

Key policy questions for this session include: - How do policymakers and other stakeholders effectively connect global human rights instruments and emerging digital policy standards to national contexts? -What are the best techniques to make sure that a policy is localized in a way that respects human rights and democratic values? - What role do multistakeholder processes have in localizing digital policies at the national level? - Is it possible for global internet governance frameworks to serve as a vehicle to raise the bar on human rights around the world?


16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: The topic addressed in this workshop is directly applicable to SDG #16, which aims to promote sustainable development through effective, accountable, and transparent institutions. Identifying best-practices and effective models for localization of emerging global digital norms is one way to ensure that countries around the globe are developing strong institutions that protect international protected human rights. In particular, this session will help advance targets 16.6 (Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels) and 16.7 (Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels) by promoting mutlistakeholder governance at the regional and national levels.


Localizing emerging global digital policy standards and implementing them in such a way that upholds international human rights commitments is often no easy task. For example, many of the emerging digital policy standards are being developed in Europe and North America, and often they are designed in ways that make sense within those specific cultural and legal contexts. How they are put into practice in other regions with different socio political histories, however, isn’t always so clear.

This round table workshop features panelists from government, the private sector, and civil society who will discuss the challenges and opportunities related to localizing emerging global digital standards. In particular, it will focus on the role that multistakeholder governance at the national level can help ensure that when policies are localized they continue to uphold international human rights laws and foster democratic digital governance.

For instance, a number of countries have followed the EU’s lead in developing policies regarding data protection that are quite similar to the GDPR, but how these laws have been implemented has varied greatly. While GDPR and similar data protection regulation policies are fundamentally intended to ensure citizen privacy online, when implemented incorrectly they could jeopardize human rights online. Localization that results in data sovereignty, for example, could hinder interoperability of digital policies as well as undermine international and regional framework. Furthermore, from a logistical standpoint, localization and implementation requires developing new agencies and institutions to regulate data protection, which can be challenging for countries working with few resources and which have little expertise in the area.

The global nature of the internet, and the desire to harmonize policies across jurisdictions, means that the need to localize to emerging standards is only bound to grow. Policies related to cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and content moderation are all areas where localization of global norms are also currently taking place or will take place in the near future. Thus, this panel will identify persistent challenges to this work as well as novel examples of effective multistakeholder engagement and what can be done to strengthen these processes.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcome of this session is a better understanding of how to localize digital rights policy in countries in a way that upholds human rights guarantees. Knowledge on how to do this is particularly important in countries which have had traditionally less digital policy expertise and engagement.

The insights gleaned from the round table discussion will be captured and incorporated into a forthcoming Policymakers Primer being developed by the session organizers, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to help build capacity among policymakers and other stakeholders to assess the human rights implications of technology-related laws and legislation (e.g. 5G, data privacy, social media regulations). CIMA, CIPE, and NDI collectively facilitate the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative (https://openinternet.global/) which seeks to build the capacity of digital rights advocates to effectively advocate for digital rights that are essential for democracy to flourish online.

This session will also be an opportunity for diverse stakeholder groups from various geographic locations within the IGF community to connect, network, and share best practices. Cross-regional peer-learning is essential to developing robust knowledge about best practices in democratic digital governance, this session will advance those goals by connecting people and serving as a space to brainstorm future activities and collaborations.

This session will be hybrid as many of the participants will likely be unable to travel to Poland due to COVID-19 travel restrictions that may still be in place. Thus, there will be equal ability to participate for those in Poland as well as though participating virtually. The on-site moderator will coordinate with the online-moderator to ensure that anyone not present in the room is also given a chance to participate.

Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: The organizers will publicize the session in advance on Twitter. The session will also be live Tweeted by the organizers on the Open Internet for Democracy project Twitter account, which has 1,500 followers, as well as the organizers’ institutional Twitter accounts (over 66,000 followers combined).

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

While localization of policy can be important to respond to local needs and particularities, there still needs to be broader "harmonization" so that the internet remains a global, unified platform that enables the exercise of human rights.

It's is imperative that governments institute multistakeholder processes during the drafting phase in order to be truly inclusive and to develop the best policy that responds to the needs of citizens.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

The most powerful stakeholders—governments and private companies—need to make sure that civil society actors are able to meaingufully contribute in multistakeholder processes.

When localizing digital policies attention must always be paid to making sure that new policy language upholds international human rights norms

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

In a global context where new regulations are being drafted for technology companies to govern cyberspace, how can we ensure that when they are implemented in different political contexts that the end is result upholds international human rights commitments? This was the primary question for this panel, which featured speakers from 3 different stakeholder groups (private sector, government, and civil society) as well as diverse regional perspectives (Kenya, Ukraine, Peru, and the UK). 

85+ people attended via Zoom and 15+ people attended in person in Poland. Approximately 55% of the attendees were women, and 75% of the panelists were women. There was a high level of engagement in the form of questions both in-person in Poland as well as on the Zoom platform.

There were three main threads of discussion:

1) Regulation is happening and it is important that countries ensure that policies adhere to international human rights commitments — Examples of emerging global policy standards include the GDPR as well as some content regulation policies, which have thus far primarily first emerged in Europe, but have gone on to influence policy development in other regions. Two civil society legal scholars on the panel noted the dangers to internet freedom that hasty development of regulation can create when they are not vetted to make sure they adhere to international human rights standards. Done poorly, rather than strengthen digital governance, they can undermine international human rights standards and so all stakeholders need to be vigilant in these processes. The representative from the private sector noted that harmonization of these policies across borders can lead to economic gains, but only when implemented properly. Thus, there are a number of social gains that can be gleaned from this type of policy intervention, but the small details matter a great deal.

2) To truly be a global information platform, the internet's governance must be inclusive and multistakeholder — One civil society speaker noted how many people are still excluded from the internet, and that bridging the digital divide still needs to be a focus of action. Others agreed and noted that even thought many are online, they are not as actively engaged in internet governance as they should be. The representative from the government of Peru talk about the engagement work that countries must do to make sure these sectors of the population have channels to participate and give their input. Developing and implementing policy without this engagement, they argued, would lead to sub-standard policy which might not receive broad-based buy-in. Thus all speakers agreed that all stakeholders need to redouble their outreach and engagement strategies, especially governments.

3) The rise of digital sovereignty is a threat to an open internet — Poor implementation of emerging global standards may result in a patchwork of different country regulations that effectively splinter the global internet into different national networks. Rather than raising human rights standards globally, this could actually lead to a race to the bottom and would threaten democratic digital governance and human rights more broadly. To avoid this scenario, panelists encouraged more broad-based multistakeholder processes foster inclusive digital governance.