The IGF and UN Processes

WSIS+20 & IGF+20 Review 

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is one of the major outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and was established as part of the Tunis Agenda during WSIS’s second phase in 2005.

The IGF came under review and had its mandate renewed for five years in 2010 (2011-2015) and again in 2015 for another ten years (2016-2025) during the WSIS+10 review. WSIS+10 saw the passage of General Assembly resolution 70/125 and the IGF mandate's renewal according to Tunis Agenda paragraphs 72 to 78. Currently in its third mandate, the IGF and its extension will once again be a critical aspect of the upcoming WSIS+20 review process in 2025. 

More information on the history of IGF and the upcoming WSIS process is available here.

As a WSIS outcome, the IGF's progress and activities have been annually recorded by the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD). The IGF is an annual contributor to CSTD reports as well as a regular participant in CSTD meetings.  All IGF-relevant CSTD reporting is published here

IGF & Core UN Agendas

The IGF has been closely interlinked with, and is a central component of, recent UN initiatives aimed at tackling digital issues of global concern and fostering digital cooperation. Below are operative paragraphs highlighting the IGF's role within both the UN Secretary-General's Our Common Agenda report and Roadmap for Digital Cooperation

oca   Our Common Agenda: Report of the Secretary-General (2021)

93. It is time to protect the online space and strengthen its governance. I would urge the Internet Governance Forum to adapt, innovate and reform to support effective governance of the digital commons and keep pace with rapid, real-world developments. Furthermore, building on the recommendations of the road map for digital cooperation (see A/74/821), the United Nations, Governments, the private sector and civil society could come together as a multi-stakeholder digital technology track in preparation for a Summit of the Future to agree on a Global Digital Compact. This would outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all. Complex digital issues that could be addressed may include: reaffirming the fundamental commitment to connecting the unconnected; avoiding fragmentation of the Internet; providing people with options as to how their data is used; application of human rights online; and promoting a trustworthy Internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content. More broadly, the Compact could also promote regulation of artificial intelligence to ensure that this is aligned with shared global values.

dig coop  Report of the Secretary-General: Roadmap for Digital Cooperation (2020)

To address gaps in global digital cooperation, the Panel suggested three potential models: a strengthened and enhanced Internet Governance Forum Plus, a distributed co-governance architecture and a digital commons architecture.

While discussions on the different digital architecture models proposed by the Panel are ongoing amongst stakeholders, the following ideas have emerged with a view to making the Internet Governance Forum more responsive and relevant to current digital issues. These include:

(a) Creating a strategic and empowered multistakeholder high-level body, building on the experience of the existing multi-stakeholder advisory group, which would address urgent issues, coordinate follow-up action on Forum discussions and relay proposed policy approaches and recommendations from the Forum to the appropriate normative and decision-making forums;

(b) Having a more focused agenda for the Forum based on a limited number of strategic policy issues;

(c) Establishing a high-level segment and ministerial or parliamentarian tracks, ensuring more actionable outcomes;

(d) Forging stronger links among the global Forum and its regional, national, sub-regional and youth initiatives;

(e) Better integrating programme and intersessional policy development work to support other priority areas outlined in the present report;

(f) Addressing the long-term sustainability of the Forum and the resources necessary for increased participation, through an innovative and viable fundraising strategy, as promoted by the round table;

(g) Enhancing the visibility of the Forum, including through a stronger corporate identity and improved reporting to other United Nations entities.

While consultations on digital architecture models will continue in the coming months, I support these measures to enhance the Forum and intend to implement them as appropriate.

Engagement within the UN System

The IGF is actively engaged with and acts as a reference point on digital policy for UN System bodies in several ways. 

  • UN Agency Participation at Annual IGFs: UN entities have regularly organized sessions at the IGF's annual meetings, either as standalone sessions to highlight their Internet governance-related work, or to address specific of-the-moment digital issues in collaboration with other organizations. In addition, since 2021, diverse UN agencies have taken part in IGF-organized "UN Open Forums" whose focus is spotlighting agencies' digital initiatives and identifying areas for great inter-System collaboration.
  • UN Agency Participation in IGF Intersessional Work: UN entities have been traditionally been active and are increasing their participation in the IGF's intersessional activities. Examples include the IGF 2021 Policy Network on Environment (PNE), where UNEP has been a contributor, and the IGF Dynamic Coalition on Internet Universality Indicators, with UNESCO as a main organizer. 
  • UN Agencies & the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG): Representatives of intergovernmental organizations, including UN System entities, are invited to participate in MAG discussions as co-equals with the body's membership. ITU, UNESCO, UN-ESCWA and WIPO are among those officially represented on the MAG. UN entities also regularly brief IGF stakeholders during the open consultations of MAG meetings [UN inputs to IGF open consultations].
  • Cross-Agency Information Sharing:  Through a regular monthly newsletter shared with a broad cross-section of UN entities, entity representatives are given, and are able to share, updates on digital news across the System under "UN Digital Stories". This is distributed through a UN-only list managed by IGF/DESA.