IGF 2023 #24 IRPC Human Rights Law and the Global Digital Compact

Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (06:15 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (07:45 UTC)
WS 10 – Room I

Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles

Break-out Group Discussions - 90 Min


Technology in International Human Rights Law


The Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition (IRPC) is a network of organizations and individuals working to uphold human rights in the online environment and to root internet governance processes and systems in human rights standards. The IRPC sets out to promote and provide a space for multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration and aims to be an umbrella platform for facilitating collaboration on human rights issues in the Internet Governance Forum process.

In this session participants discuss how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent human rights law can guide the further development of the Global Digital Compact (GDC). Based on the mandate created by UN Secretary General António Guterres, the GDC is intended to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all”. The IRPC, with its Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, has long worked to raise awareness and educate about how we can “apply human rights online” (Our Common Agenda, UNSG). To that end, the session engages participants in an interactive discussion with those who have already long-served to transpose human rights protection and promotion into the digital age, and those emerging civil society activists, government and international organization officials, representatives of the private sector, technical experts, and early-stage academics.

The format of the session is based on the creation of (multistakeholder) break-out groups to tackle specific rights and principles in international human rights law and how these can be better pursued through a renewed global effort, which the GDC represents. The session invites members of the Internet Governance Community to discuss a variety of principles, which are included in the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet and relevant in the GDC consultations, such as poverty reduction and human development and environmental sustainability (entailed in Principle 4 “Right to Development Through the Internet”) or the “right to access to the Internet” (Principle 1). Aiming to develop a set of recommendations from the participants’ breakout group discussion, the moderator supports the process of channeling insights into a final plenary discussion.

In addition, the session will be used to showcase the most recent translations of the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, which make its perspective on the application of human rights online available to more readers around the world. For instance, a translation project of the Charter into the Japanese language is ongoing.

A designated online moderator will coordinate the interaction with online speakers and attendees (by monitoring and interacting with chat interactions and questions) and liaise with the moderator onsite so that there is a possibility of a dialogue between the onsite and online groups. A Question and Answer slot will also be provided. All participants will be able to use this space to interact with the speakers both online and offline.


Raashi Saxena, Co-Chair IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, India
Santosh Sigdel, Co-Chair IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, Nepal
Dennis Redeker, IRPC Steering Committee, Academic, Germany
Minda Moreira, IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, Portugal
Christiana Longe, IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, Nigeria
Jacob Odame-Baiden, IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, Ghana
Richard Kafui Amanfu, IRPC Steering Committee, Technical community, Ghana


Helani Galpaya, LIRNEasia, Civil Society, Sri Lanka (on-site)
Dennis Redeker, IRPC Steering Committee and University of Bremen, Academic, Germany (on-site)
Wolfgang Benedek, University of Graz, Academic, Austria (online)

Onsite Moderator

Raashi Saxena, Co-Chair IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, India and Santosh Sigdel, Co-Chair IRPC Steering Committee, Civil Society, Nepal

Online Moderator

Dennis Redeker, IRPC Steering Committee, Academic, Germany (on-site)


Dennis Redeker, IRPC Steering Committee, Academic, Germany (on-site)


10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: The discussions linking international human rights law to the Global Digital Compact will demonstrate how the latter may represent a partnership to achieve SDGs and promote human rights (SDG 17). The Global Digital Compact in itself represents a way forward to create global institutions to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights online (SDG 16). Lastly, the session links questions of inequality and injustice to human rights demands to achieve development though the Internet by focussing on questions of development (SDG 10).

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

The DC session of the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition (IRPC) took place in two separate sections, a first presentation of remarks by speakers, and a second half of interactive group workshops. Between in-person and online attendance up to 50 people participated in the session.

Panel Phase

Helani Galpaya

The Global Digital Compact (GDC) is praised for its focus on human rights but lacks clear guidelines on implementing business and human rights principles within its framework. The voluntary nature of these principles and ineffective stakeholder integration slow progress, with separate discussions among businesses and civil society instead of meaningful interactions. The draft document does not support effective collaboration among stakeholders, and the GDC struggles to hold nations accountable for human rights violations by private companies and states. Although the GDC acknowledges the link between human rights and socio-economic rights, addressing inequality, there is a significant gap between its vision and real-world application. Proposed regulations often restrict rights, and there's urgency in their enactment, compromising the GDC’s credibility. Additionally, the GDC underscores the importance of teaching online civic responsibility, drawing parallels with environmental protection efforts to highlight the role of individual actions in creating a safe digital space. Despite efforts to make its consultation process inclusive, it remains imperfect and dominated by privileged voices. Effective ground-level actions are essential after the GDC’s establishment to ensure national policies reflect its principles and objectives. While the GDC commits to human rights and socio-economic issues, it faces challenges in clarity, stakeholder engagement, and enforcement, undermining its impact. However, emphasizing individual online responsibilities and improving consultation inclusivity are crucial for meaningful outcomes.

Raashi Saxena

The GDC is a joint effort by the UN, governments, and civil society to integrate technology with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a multi-stakeholder approach. The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition plays a key role in the GDC by promoting digital inclusion and connectivity for marginalized groups like women, migrants, and refugees, supporting SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities. Ensuring that human rights in digital spaces match those offline, particularly in areas like freedom of expression and net neutrality, is vital for SDG 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. The influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in sectors like finance and health, and its challenges, including privacy and the rise of deep fakes, impact SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, and SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. The IRPC emphasizes partnerships and youth involvement, aligning with SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals and SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. During IRPC events, interactive group activities foster engagement and idea exchange, promoting a collaborative digital future and advancing the SDGs.

Santosh Sigdel

The Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles is committed to upholding human rights online, creating the multilingual Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, now available in 28 languages, to facilitate global and regional stakeholder engagement. The IRPC promotes a rights-based approach to Internet frameworks and has participated in various global forums, including EuroDIG and UNESCO conferences, raising awareness about digital rights and fostering collaborations. Highlighting the importance of accurate and culturally relevant translations, the IRPC engages local stakeholders in the translation process to ensure integrity and build local understanding of the charter's principles. This not only aids in language translation but also inculcates a deep understanding of human rights among local communities, empowering them to advocate and enforce these principles. However, balancing the regulation of online misinformation with freedom of speech presents challenges, particularly as governments may use regulatory measures to suppress free expression. This issue is prevalent e.g. in South Asia, where Internet regulations often threaten freedom of speech. Moreover, awareness of the United Nations' Global Digital Compact remains low in South Asia and other developing regions, impacting its effectiveness. Ensuring broad stakeholder involvement from diverse regions is crucial for the GDC’s success. In summary, the IRPC's work in translating and promoting human rights online, while building local capacities and raising awareness, is vital. Nonetheless, ongoing efforts to maintain freedom of speech in the face of regulatory challenges and to enhance global engagement with initiatives like the GDC are essential for a rights-centric digital world.

Wolfgang Benedek

Wolfgang Benedek criticizes what we know about the Global Digital Compact for its limited progress in advancing human rights. He points out two main flaws: the compact's lack of enforcement mechanisms and the difficulty in achieving consensus among stakeholders. These weaknesses, Benedek argues, hinder the GDC's ability to effectively promote and protect digital human rights. He emphasizes the need for stronger enforcement and more collaborative decision-making to enhance the GDC’s impact on digital human rights.

Dennis Redeker

As far as work of the Coalition is concerned, key developments included the translation of the 10 Principles document into Japanese to engage more local stakeholders and there are concrete plans to translate the entire Charter into Japanese until IGF 2024. To support this, a task force is seeking experts in Internet governance or international law. Dennis also pointed out that the Platform Governance Survey, conducted at the University of Bremen, highlighted a discrepancy between the expected and actual influence in shaping the GDC, with technical experts viewed as ideal leaders but businesses seen as overly dominant. In addition, the general population of 41 countries does not appear to be aware of the important role of governments in the negotiation of the GDC. The results underscore the need for broader public consultation, involving citizens, NGOs, and academics to create a more inclusive digital governance framework. The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition is advancing this inclusivity by collaborating on translations with universities and student groups, enriching students' understanding of digital rights.

Group Phase

Dennis Redeker led a group discussion as part of the workshop, encouraging participants to analyze and discuss future challenges related to specific IRPC Charter articles. This activity aimed to deepen understanding and disseminate knowledge about the charter's relevance.


The audience discussed and emphasized the following topics:

1.  Youth and diversity in Internet governance emphasizing the importance of involving young people in updating and translating governance documents to reflect diverse perspectives.

2.  Freedom of expression: Discussed the need to balance regulation and protection of free speech, emphasizing principles like legitimacy, necessity, and proportionality to prevent government overreach.

3. Responsibilities in the digital space, stressing the importance of clearly defining roles for states, businesses, and stakeholders in upholding human rights when regulating online content and protecting against harmful information.

4. Inclusivity and accessibility, acknowledging advancements and ongoing challenges in making technology accessible for individuals with disabilities, including variations in regional sign languages and Internet accessibility.

5. Protection of children and their rights, addressing the need for careful regulation to protect children online, the potential impacts of digital certificates on human rights, and the necessity of strategic litigation to safeguard digital rights against overreaching government actions.

Vint Cerf (in the audience) emphasizes the need for users and providers in the digital space to understand and fulfill their responsibilities alongside rights. He links this to Rousseau's social contract concept, which balances individual freedoms with societal obligations. This approach, including the role of social norms, aims to foster a responsible, secure online environment. Ultimately, recognizing and upholding our duties can enhance harmony both online and in broader society.