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IGF 2018 DC Internet Rights and Principles: Sustainable Futures: The Internet, Human Rights, and Environmental Issues


Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition

Round Table - 90 Min


Sub-theme description: Emerging Technologies


Data-Gathering and cross-border information- sharing are increasingly central to international consensus-building around climate change and approaches to tackle specific factors that contribute to global warming and local environmental degradation such as carbon emissions, toxic waste, and water pollution. These high-level consultations have taken place as the expansion of cloud computing and data-centres create their own environmental burden, e.g. need for sources of power, contribution to global indicators of global warming such as heat emissions, environmental impact when located in environmentally sensitive regions such as the arctic circle or warmer climates. Related to these more recent concerns are longstanding issues around the amount of E-waste at a global level that is produced when consumer electronics, and now personal computers, mobile devices, and other network-dependent equipment are discarded without due care to toxic metals or fumes from burning . Mining of precious metals and minerals that are part of consumer electronics also have their own environmental cost, the wide use of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials for computing and network infrastructures notwithstanding. As smart cities and smart grids become part of urban planning and related R&D the relationship between these large-scale infrastructures, which are based on internet access, and equipment built to manage 'big data' applications that collect and monitor consumer-uses, are linked to the protection and enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms online in ways that have, to date, not yet been fully considered as part of internet governance agendas.

Relevance to the IGF

As the UN SDGs look to connect the next billion the relationship between recognition of emerging rights such as that of internet access and existing rights (e.g. the right to information, education) and the environmental burden of cloud computing services and data-processing requires our attention. Internet access as a sustainable development goal implies research into, and development of equipment, architectures, and services that are also environmentally sustainable in light of undertakings around Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. These concerns are also integral to the future of digital/smart city developments that aim to include human rights and principles as integral to decisions where internet design, access, and use are linked to the built environment, and implications for natural resources and rural areas. The technical community and private sector have in this regard a key role in terms of where they choose to invest in data-centres, and other large infrastructures when working with both vulnerable communities and in environmentally sensitive areas. 


The main objective is to develop a new agenda for internet governance that engages directly with the internet's environmental impact, by bringing together stakeholders working on addressing issues around climate change on the one hand. On the other handm to listen to those working on those environmental issues related directly to computing, digital and other emerging technologies that are dependent on the internet's physical and software architectures. Speakers and participants will brainstorm the issue-areas at the intersection of human rights frameworks for sustainable internet governance, climate change and the environmental implications of emerging technologies (e.g. robotics, the internet of things) and internet service provision based on cloud computing design. Topics covered include

- the environmental dimensions relevant to the timeline of internet-dependent devices, data-storage facilities, and transmission architectures (e.g. submarine cables, satellites, mobile phone towers) 

- the role played by extractive industries and eventual waste-disposal and recycling practices that can provide environmentally sustainable goods and services in order to fulfil the SDG goals for the internet and sustainable development.   

 -the control and impact of software applications and information-gathering techniques deployed in measuring, adapting and mitigating causes of global warming and climate change and their wider impact

 -legislation, case law and trade agreements which (could) consider the control of information or require its disclosure, and their practical impact, e.g. smart grids and compilation of complete data sets in respect of energy sources 

Policy Questions: Outcomes and Interventions

Questions that this meeting will address include, but are not restricted to:

  1. Which human rights are directly affected by the environmental hazards of internet equipment manufacture and expanding dependencies on server/data storage facilities?
  2. How can the digitalization and networking of the urban environment, such as digital/smart cities projects, take into account the principles, and practice of “human rights by design”?
  3. How can global, and national internet policymaking agendas better respond to existing and future environmental issues arising from connecting the Sustainable Development Goals with those aiming to “Connect the next billion”?
  4. In which specific areas - of public concern, geography, or internet design – can different stakeholders generate working relationships for sustainable, rights-based internet futures?

Marianne Franklin - IRPC Co-Chair, Academic

Minda Moreira - IRPC Co-Chair, Civil Society


Deepti Bharthur, ITforChange, India - CS

Aik van Eemeren/Roel Raterink - Digital City Coalition (Amsterdam, New York, Barcelona) - Governmental

Marianne Franklin, co-Chair IRPC – Civil Society/Academic

Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, Article 19/Youth Dynamic Coalition - CS

Pua Hunter, Cook Islands Government – Governmental

Maureen Hilyard, Cook Islands Internet Action Group - CS

Meghan McDermott, Mozilla Foundation - Technical Community

Michael Oghia – Youth DC - CS

Jim Puckett - Basel Action Network - CS


Moderator: Minda Moreira, Co-Chair IRPC

Rapporteur: Hanane Boujemi


Session Time: 
Monday, 12 November, 2018 - 11:20 to 12:20
Salle XII

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678