IGF 2023 WS #391 Creating an interoperable system for cross-border data flows


Data Governance & Trust
Cross-border Data Flows and Trust

Organizer 1: Roxana Legezynska, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology
Organizer 2: Shrafeddin Amena, 🔒
Organizer 3: Thiona Philips, UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Speaker 1: Sheetal Kumar, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Timea Suto, Private Sector, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Rosie Seville, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Bojana Bellamy, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 5: Vincent Olatunji, Government, African Group


Shrafeddin Amena, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Thiona Philips, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Roxana Legezynska, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

(Q1) How can we promote high data protection standards in all countries - and therefore create inclusive access to the benefits of global data flows?
(Q2) What are the most promising mechanisms to create an “interoperable” global data system? e.g. shared principles (OECD Principles on TGA, APEC CBPRs, C108), transfer tools (SCCs), Privacy Enhancing Technologies
(Q3) How can we use UN initiatives (e.g. Secretary-General’s ‘Our Common Agenda’, Global Digital Compact) to promote our findings?

What will participants gain from attending this session? Participants will influence a set of “key messages”, for consideration within UN initiatives (e.g. Secretary-General’s “Our Common Agenda”, Global Digital Compact). Attendees will draw on their practical experiences to discuss how to build national data protection capacity, and flag which mechanisms are best suited to creating an “interoperable” global system for data transfers e.g. Contractual Clauses, shared global standards (like OECD Trusted Government Access Principles, C108 or APEC CBPRs), Privacy Enhancing Technologies. This will also give participants a platform to showcase innovative solutions for interoperability, as developed within their own countries and organisations.

Participants will share their experiences navigating the international transfers system, taking home lessons in best practice and building peer relationships for future collaboration. This is also a chance for non-government participants to establish dialogue with government officials on how policy decisions affect them in practice.


Data underpins the digital economy- creating jobs, supporting response to global challenges (e.g. climate change, pandemics), and enhancing north-south cooperation on technology and innovation. Data is key to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, by enabling economic growth (Goal 8), and promoting industrialization and innovation (Goal 9).

Data protection is therefore critical to ensuring that data is accessed and shared in a responsible, resilient manner- underpinned by human rights. Countries have, therefore, created national regimes which set rules and safeguards governing how their citizens’ data can be transferred internationally. However, this has created a complex and fragmented regulatory landscape, which risks excluding specific groups from the social and economic benefits of data: for example, countries with no (or new) data protection legislation, or businesses who lack the expertise/resources to navigate the complex web of international rules. These barriers limit the potential benefits of data, and risks further entrenching the existing “digital divide” - where developing countries are unable to harness the full potential of their data (e.g. due to a lack of digital skills), instead becoming providers of raw data to others.

This roundtable builds on the 2022 IGF panel “Governing Data & Protecting Privacy”, advancing the discussion by considering concrete mechanisms to enable the inclusive flow of data. How can we raise global data protection standards, so all countries can benefit from cross-border data flows? How can we create “interoperability” between national frameworks, so data can flow seamlessly across borders while remaining protected?

Participants will discuss levers to create this “interoperable” international system. These levers include tools for international transfers (e.g. Standard Contractual Clauses), shared principles (e.g. OECD’s Declaration on Trusted Government Access, Council of Europe’s C108+, APEC CBPR System), and Privacy Enhancing Technologies that allow data sharing while protecting privacy and intellectual property.

Expected Outcomes

Outcome 1: A “key messages” paper to be shared for consideration under the Secretary-General’s ‘Our Common Agenda’, the Global Digital Compact, and the 2024 “Summit of the Future” - we are keen to work with IGF organisers to discuss the best format/audience for this paper. The paper will focus on how we can leverage UN initiatives to promote discussion suggestions on creating an interoperable and inclusive regulatory landscape, including:
(a) Suggestions for ways to increase data protection standards globally, particularly for countries with nascent or no data protection regimes.
(b) Based on attendee’s practical experience, a list of the most promising mechanisms available to help move reduce regulatory fragmentation and move towards an “interoperable” system for cross-border data transfers.

Outcome 2: The workshop will build relationships between stakeholders (e.g. governments, businesses, civil society), deepening understanding of each others’ priorities and experiences, and providing an arena to share best practice.

Hybrid Format: We will support the online moderator to ensure online contributions are tracked and considered throughout.

We will use Slido to create interactive polling at the start of the event to understand more about the participants and establish common ground. We will release further polling questions as the discussion continues, using both prepared material and live questions reflecting the current discussion. We will also use Jamboard, to provide an online page for all participants to volunteer their thoughts on each policy question- engaging remote participants, and providing a non-verbal avenue for all participants to utilise.

We chose the “roundtable” format to create a welcoming environment encouraging participation, and to emphasise the equal standing of all participants. We have chosen engaging and diverse experts, whose presence will encourage participation from broad stakeholders. We will support the experts with guiding questions to help organically steer the discussion if needed.