IGF 2023 WS #327 Advocacy to Action: Engaging Policymakers on Digital Rights

Monday, 9th October, 2023 (23:30 UTC) - Tuesday, 10th October, 2023 (00:30 UTC)
WS 1 – Annex Hall 1

Organizer 1: Daniel OMaley, 🔒
Organizer 2: Sarah Moulton, National Democratic Institute
Organizer 3: Morgan Frost, 🔒

Speaker 1: Fernanda Kalianny Martins Sousa, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Liza Garcia, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Sarah Opendi, Government, African Group


Nick Benequista, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Daniel OMaley, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Sarah Moulton, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What are the key challenges and opportunities for civil society engagement with policymakers on digital governance, and how can civil society organizations overcome these challenges to ensure that their voices are heard in policymaking processes? B. How can civil society organizations work with other stakeholders, including private sector actors and independent media, to influence digital governance policymaking so that the policies are responsive to the concerns of the public? C. What role can parliamentarians play in making multistakeholder governance more fruitful, and how can better engage with stakeholders to ensure diverse perspectives are integrated into digital governance decision-making processes?

What will participants gain from attending this session? This session will bring together speakers with diverse backgrounds and expertise, which will serve as a foundation for the broader IGF community to outline key ways to improve sustained cooperation on digital governance. Moreover, participants will have the chance to collaborate with other stakeholders, including government officials and private sector actors, to foster new partnerships and develop concrete recommendations that explore potential areas for further collaboration. Participants will leave the session with a strengthened network of contacts and increased knowledge and skills to support their efforts to promote inclusive, transparent, and effective digital governance policies.



In the past year, a record 26 countries took measures to strengthen internet freedom, according to Freedom House. The momentum to uphold institutions and strengthen good governance appears to be accelerating as policymakers, regulatory bodies, and other government agencies find themselves at a crucial moment for digital policy legislation, spurred in large part by the rapid developments of emerging technologies. Amidst the ongoing expansion of internet-related regulations, it is vital to explore how digital rights advocates can enhance collaborative engagement with policymakers, especially parliamentarians who play a key role in shaping these policies. Given that policymakers also significantly contribute to developing international norms for internet governance, it is essential to establish and maintain engagement mechanisms with civil society, the private sector, media, and academia. This engagement is essential to ensure that the viewpoints of these stakeholders are duly considered in the final outcomes. Yet, too often it is lacking or insufficient. Drawing upon successful multistakeholder engagement models, such as the UN Global Digital Compact process, as well as IGF Best Practice Forums, and Dynamic Coalitions, this participatory session will bring together diverse perspectives from Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia to explore how to better foster and sustain effective collaborations on digital governance beyond IGF, with a focus on cooperation with policymakers. Speakers will identify gaps in building impactful partnerships between civil society and policymakers at local, regional, and international levels. They will also offer concrete examples of effective multistakeholder global partnerships on digital governance topics, address methods for inclusion of marginalized voices into these discussions, and explore effective strategies for civil society organizations to engage with policymakers. Participants be encouraged to share their ideas on how to improve cooperation with policymakers to ensure that digital policies, as well as the future of internet governance, are shaped by democratic processes.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcome of this session is to provide participants with practical insights and strategies for effective civil society engagement with policymakers on digital governance issues. By exploring different political contexts and the perspectives of parliamentarians, media, big tech, local private sector, and governments, participants will gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities for multistakeholder collaboration and engagement in digital governance decision-making processes. Ultimately, the goal is to identify concrete actions that civil society organizations and government policymakers can take to promote transparency, accountability, and participation in digital governance, particularly in light of the UN Secretary General's Global Digital Compact and planning for the Summit of the Future. The co-organizers of the session will publish a blog post on the Open Internet for Democracy website (openinternet.global), which will capture key takeaways from the session.

Hybrid Format: To ensure that the workshop accommodates both in-person and virtual participants, the session will be designed to allow for maximum engagement from all participants in a hybrid format. The session will be moderated in a way that ensures that all speakers have equal opportunities to contribute, and that virtual participants have equal access to the discussion. The moderator will also actively encourage interaction between in-person and virtual participants through Q&A sessions or live polls, to ensure that everyone is engaged and invested in the discussion. Additionally, the session should be recorded and made available online for later viewing, to ensure that those who were unable to attend the workshop can still benefit from the content.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Multi-Level Engagement for Digital Policy: Civil society organizations should leverage local governance as a testing ground for digital policies, especially in countries with bureaucratic hurdles at the national level. This approach can create a ripple effect, inspiring other municipalities and eventually influencing national policy.

Evidence-Based Advocacy with Parliamentary Allies: To effectively influence digital governance, civil society must focus on evidence-based advocacy and identify parliamentary allies who understand the nuances of digital rights. This dual approach can lead to more robust and informed legislation.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Call to Action for Parliamentarians and Civil Society: Parliamentarians should form digital rights forums for evidence-based advocacy. Civil society must provide comprehensive research to support these efforts.

Call to Action for Local Governments and Civil Society: Local governments should pilot digital policies in collaboration with civil society. These can serve as models for national policies.

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

Session title: Advocacy to Action: Engaging Policymakers on Digital Governance

Date: Tuesday, October 10th, 2023

Time: 8:30-9:30 (Japan Standard Time, UTC +9)

Workshop Organiser: Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), USA

Chairperson/Moderator: Nicholas Benequista, CIMA, USA

Rapporteur/Note Taker: Daniel O'Maley, CIMA, USA

List of Speakers and their institutional affiliations:

  • Honorable Sarah Opendi, Uganda Parliament, African Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance (APNIG), Uganda
  • Fernanda Martins, InternetLab, Brazil
  • Lisa Garcia, Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), Philippines
  • Camilo Arratia Toledo, InternetBolivia & Open Internet for Democracy Leaders

Key Issues raised:

  • Importance of evidence-based advocacy
  • Role of local governance in digital policy
  • Need for parliamentary allies in digital rights
  • Challenges of digital literacy among policymakers
  • Importance of multi-stakeholder engagement

If there are Presentations during the workshop session, please provide a 1-paragraph summary for each Presentation:

Each panelist presented their perspectives on engaging policymakers in digital governance. They shared case studies, challenges, and strategies from their respective countries, emphasizing the need for evidence-based advocacy, local governance initiatives, and parliamentary allies.

Please describe the Discussions that took place during the workshop session:

The panelists discussed the importance of evidence-based advocacy, with Lisa Garcia sharing a case study where a collective effort led to a presidential veto on a SIM card registration law. Fernanda Martins emphasized the changing political landscape in Brazil and its impact on digital rights legislation. She also discussed the role of coalitions in monitoring legislative movements and the importance of having allies in parliament who understand digital rights.

Honorable Sarah Opendi talked about the role of parliament as a bridge between the public and the executive, noting the lack of digital literacy among parliamentarians. She mentioned plans to create an unofficial parliamentary forum on internet governance in Uganda. Camilo Arratia Toledo advocated for the role of municipalities in digital policy, stating that local governance can serve as a testing ground for policies that can later be scaled nationally.

Please describe any Participant suggestions regarding the way forward/potential next steps/key takeaways:

Participants suggested that civil society organizations should focus on local governance as a starting point for digital policies, especially in countries with bureaucratic hurdles at the national level. This approach can create a ripple effect, inspiring other municipalities and eventually influencing national policy.

Another suggestion was for civil society to focus on evidence-based advocacy and identify parliamentary allies who understand the nuances of digital rights. This dual approach can lead to more robust and informed legislation. Participants also emphasized the need for multi-level engagement, from local communities to national and international policymakers, to influence digital governance effectively.

The session concluded with two Calls to Action: one urging local governments and civil society to collaborate on piloting digital policies, and another calling on parliamentarians and civil society to form digital rights forums for evidence-based advocacy.