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Report of the UN Secretary-General’s ‎High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation


About the Report

The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, convened the High-Level Panel on ‎Digital Cooperation to advance proposals to strengthen cooperation in the digital space among ‎Governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, academia, the technical ‎community and other relevant stakeholders.‎

The 20-member panel, co-chaired by Ms. Melinda Gates and Mr. Jack Ma, was expected to raise ‎awareness about the transformative impact of digital technologies across society and the ‎economy, and contribute to the broader public debate on how to ensure a safe and inclusive ‎digital future for all, taking into account relevant human rights norms.‎
During its work, the panel broadly consulted with various stakeholders, including the IGF ‎community.‎

The Panel submitted the final report to the Secretary-General on 10 June 2019. During the ‎launch, the Secretary-General called for a broad consultation process on the topics covered in ‎the report. ‎

While the consultation launched below focuses mainly on Digital Cooperation and the IGF/IGF ‎Plus, the full report is also available for consultation (here) and there are many important topics ‎and recommendations that deserve consideration and careful review.‎


Digital Cooperation at the IGF 2019 

The IGF 2019 Annual Meeting will feature a main session dedicated to Digital Cooperation, ‎scheduled to be on 26 November, from 10:00-13:00 p.m. CEST, Main Hall. This session will ‎reflect on the HLPDC Report recommendations, with special focus on the Recommendation 5 ‎and the proposed model for global digital cooperation called: The Internet Governance Forum Plus ‎‎(IGF Plus). ‎

In preparation for this session, the IGF community is invited to provide feedback to the Recommendation 5 - Global Digital Cooperation and the IGF Plus model. Relevant sections of the Report are extracted further below. Comments can be provided through 14 October 2019. Respondents can also email written contributions to [email protected]. These contributions will be posted on the IGF website.

All received inputs will be synthesized in a written output document and this will be posted in late October as an input to the above-mentioned main session during the 14th IGF in Berlin, where we will facilitate online as well as physical participation.

It is very important that this report and subsequent discussions have a very broad outreach. We ‎need to do all we can to include those voices not historically engaged in discussions on Internet ‎Governance or Digital Cooperation. This is a great opportunity to reach out and increase ‎engagement from marginalized groups as well as other ‎disciplines. Concrete and actionable feedback will help all our improvement efforts. ‎

Please log into the IGF website and post your comments by clicking on 'Add new comment at this ‎section'. ‎
 


Received contributions, in addition to the below in-line comments:

  1. Microsoft
  2. Web Foundaton
  3. Government of Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  4. Government of France, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs 
  5. République Française, Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères
  6. Government of Finland, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
  7. Governance Primer, Brazilian Association of Software Companies (ABES), AR-TARC Certification Authority
  8. Mercari Inc.
  9. RIPE NCC
  10. Government of Denmark, Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs
  11. Government of Switzerland

CALL FOR FEEDBACK: Section 1

GLOBAL DIGITAL COOPERATION
Recommendation 5A

We recommend that, as a matter of urgency, the UN ‎Secretary-General facilitate an agile and open consultation ‎process to develop updated mechanisms for global digital ‎cooperation, with the options discussed in Chapter 4 as a ‎starting point. We suggest an initial goal of marking the UN's ‎‎75th anniversary in 2020 with a “Global Commitment for ‎Digital Cooperation” to enshrine shared values, principles, ‎understandings and objectives for an improved global digital ‎cooperation architecture. As part of this process, we ‎understand that the UN Secretary-General may appoint a ‎Technology Envoy.

Recommendation 5B
We support a multi-stakeholder “systems” approach for cooperation and regulation that is adaptive, agile, inclusive and fit for purpose for the fast-changing digital age.

Proposed questions for your feedback (suggestions only, all feedback welcome):

  1. How would you improve the current existing frameworks for digital cooperation?
  2. ‎What/if any new frameworks/mechanisms would you recommend?‎
  3. ‎How might we strengthen the practices/impacts of digital governance mechanisms?‎
  4. ‎How can we properly resource and fund multi-stakeholder processes to ensure:‎
    • Broad, inclusive and adequate participation
    • Ability to implement desired programmes
    • On-going improvement efforts are successful
  5. How do we further enhance our collaboration to advance our shared values, principles, understandings ‎and objectives for digital cooperation? ‎

Enhancing digital cooperation will require both reinvigorating existing multilateral partnerships and potentially creating new mechanisms that involve stakeholders from business, academia, civil society and technical organisations. We should approach questions of governance based on their specific circumstances and choosing among all available tools.

Where possible we can make existing inter-governmental forums and mechanisms fit for the digital age rather than rush to create new mechanisms, though this may involve difficult judgement calls: for example, while the WTO remains a major forum to address issues raised by the rapid growth in cross-border e-commerce, it is now over two decades since it was last able to broker an agreement on the subject. 

Given the speed of change, soft governance mechanisms – values and principles, standards and certification processes – should not wait for agreement on binding solutions. Soft governance mechanisms are also best suited to the multi-stakeholder approach demanded by the digital age: a fact-based, participative process of deliberation and design, including governments, private sector, civil society, diverse users and policy-makers.

The aim of the holistic “systems” approach we recommended is to bring together government bodies such as competition authorities and consumer protection agencies with the private sector, citizens and civil society to enable them to be more agile in responding to issues and evaluating trade-offs as they emerge. Any new governance approaches in digital cooperation should also, wherever possible, look for ways – such as pilot zones, regulatory sandboxes or trial periods – to test efficacy and develop necessary procedures and technology before being more widely applied.213 

We envisage that the process of developing a “Global Commitment for Digital Cooperation” would be inspired by the “World We Want” process, which helped formulate the SDGs. Participants would include governments, the private sector from technology and other industries, SMEs and entrepreneurs, civil society, international organisations including standards and professional organisations, academic scholars and other experts, and government representatives from varied departments at regional, national, municipal and community levels. Multi-stakeholder consultation in each member state and region would allow ideas to bubble up from the bottom. 

The consultations on an updated global digital cooperation architecture could define upfront the criteria to be met by the governance mechanisms to be proposed, such as funding models, modes of operation and means for serving the functions explored in this report. 

More broadly, if appointed, a UN Tech Envoy could identify over-the-horizon concerns that need improved cooperation or governance; provide light-touch coordination of multi-stakeholder actors to address shared concerns; reinforce principles and norms developed in forums with relevant mandates; and work with UN member states, civil society and businesses to support compliance with agreed norms. 

The Envoy’s mandate could also include coordinating the digital technology-related efforts of UN entities; improving communication and collaboration among technology experts within the UN; and advising the UN Secretary-General on new technology issues. Finally, the Envoy could promote partnerships to build and maintain international digital common resources that could be used to help achieve the SDGs.

CALL FOR FEEDBACK: Section 2

A possible architecture for Global Digital Cooperation
''INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM PLUS"205

The proposed Internet Governance Forum Plus, or IGF Plus, would build on the existing IGF which was established by the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 2005). The IGF is currently the main global space convened by the UN for addressing internet governance and digital policy issues. The IGF Plus concept would provide additional multi-stakeholder and multilateral legitimacy by being open to all stakeholders and by being institutionally anchored in the UN system.

The IGF Plus would aim to build on the IGF’s strengths, including well-developed infrastructure and procedures, acceptance in stakeholder communities, gender balance in IGF bodies and activities, and a network of 114 national, regional and youth IGFs206. It would add important capacity strengthening and other support activities.

The IGF Plus model aims to address the IGF’s current shortcomings. For example, the lack of actionable outcomes can be addressed by working on policies and norms of direct interest to stakeholder communities. The limited participation of government and business representatives, especially from small and developing countries, can be addressed by introducing discussion tracks in which governments, the private sector and civil society address their specific concerns.

The IGF Plus would comprise an Advisory Group, Cooperation Accelerator, Policy Incubator and Observatory and Help Desk.

The Advisory Group, based on the IGF’s current Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, would be responsible for preparing annual meetings, and identifying focus policy issues each year. This would not exclude coverage of other issues but ensure a critical mass of discussion on the selected issues. The Advisory Group could identify moments when emerging discussions in other forums need to be connected, and issues that are not covered by existing organisations or mechanisms.

Building on the current practices of the IGF, the Advisory Group could consist of members appointed for three years by the UN Secretary-General on the advice of member states and stakeholder groups, ensuring gender, age, stakeholder and geographical balance.

Potential questions for your feedback ‎(suggestions only, all feedback welcome):‎

  1. What are in your view criteria that the proposed Advisory Group should fulfil that are not ‎yet being taken into account by the IGF Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group in present IGF ‎setting?‎
  2. How do you address the concerns that these proposals may be considered going ‎beyond the original IGF governance structure and mandates?‎
  3. How might the current Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group be strengthened?‎
  4. What changes (if any) should be considered to the role and responsibilities of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group/Advisory Group?‎
  5. How do we ensure the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group/Advisory Group has appropriate ‎funding and support?‎
     

The Cooperation Accelerator would accelerate issue-centred cooperation across a wide range of institutions, organisations and processes; identify points of convergence among existing IGF coalitions, and issues around which new coalitions need to be established; convene stakeholder-specific coalitions to address the concerns of groups such as governments, businesses, civil society, parliamentarians, elderly people, young people, philanthropy, the media, and women; and facilitate convergences among debates in major digital and policy events at the UN and beyond.

The Cooperation Accelerator could consist of members selected for their multi-disciplinary experience and expertise. Membership would include civil society, businesses and governments and representation from major digital events such as the Web Summit, Mobile World Congress, Lift:Lab, Shift, LaWeb, and Telecom World.

Potential questions for your feedback ‎(suggestions only, all feedback welcome):‎

  1. ‎How would you envision the work of the Cooperation Accelerator in practice?‎
  2. How do we ensure the Cooperation Accelerator has appropriate funding and support?‎
  3. How could existing intersessional activities from across the IGF community ‎support/participate in a Cooperation Accelerator?  For example, Best Practice Forums ‎‎(BPFs), National, Regional, Sub-regional and Youth IGF Initiatives (NRIs), or Dynamic ‎Coalitions (DCs)?‎

The Policy Incubator would incubate policies and norms for public discussion and adoption. In response to requests to look at a perceived regulatory gap, it would examine if existing norms and regulations could fill the gap and, if not, form a policy group consisting of interested stakeholders to make proposals to governments and other decision making bodies. It would monitor policies and norms through feedback from the bodies that adopt and implement them.207

The Policy Incubator could provide the currently missing link between dialogue platforms identifying regulatory gaps and existing decision making bodies by maintaining momentum in discussions without making legally binding decisions. It should have a flexible and dynamic composition involving all stakeholders concerned by a specific policy issue.

Potential questions for your feedback (suggestions only, all feedback welcome):‎

  1. ‎How should the Policy Incubator be organized, locally and globally?‎
  2. How could existing intersessional activities from across the IGF community ‎support/participate in the Policy Incubator?  For example, Best Practice Forums (BPFs), ‎National, Regional, Sub-regional and Youth IGF Initiatives (NRIs), or Dynamic Coalitions ‎‎(DCs)?‎
  3. ‎How do we ensure the Policy Incubator has appropriate funding and support?‎

The Observatory and Help Desk would direct requests for help on digital policy (such as dealing with crisis situations, drafting legislation, or advising on policy) to appropriate entities, including the Help Desks described in Recommendation 2; coordinate capacity development activities provided by other organisations; collect and share best practices; and provide an overview of digital policy issues, including monitoring trends, identifying emerging issues and providing data on digital policy.

Potential questions for your feedback (suggestions only, all feedback welcome):‎

  1. ‎How do you see the implementation of the Observatory and Help Desk? ‎
  2. How do we connect the local and global levels through this proposed mechanism?‎
  3. How could existing intersessional activities from across the IGF community ‎support/participate in the Observatory and Help Desk?  For example, Best Practice ‎Forums (BPFs), National, Regional, Sub-regional and Youth IGF Initiatives (NRIs), or ‎Dynamic Coalitions (DCs)?‎
  4. How do we ensure the Observatory and Help Desk has appropriate funding and support?‎
  5. How do you address the concern that these proposals will go beyond the original mandate ‎add an operational workstream to IGF, with significant resource implications?‎ 

The IGF Trust Fund would be a dedicated fund for the IGF Plus. All stakeholders – including governments, international organisations, businesses and the tech sector – would be encouraged to contribute. The IGF Plus Secretariat should be linked to the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General to reflect its interdisciplinary and system-wide approach.

Potential questions for your feedback (suggestions only, all feedback welcome):‎

  1. Do you believe the IGF Plus model is implementable, given that the IGF Trust Fund is based on voluntary donations?
  2. ‎What can we do to ensure the IGF Plus has appropriate funding and support? The IGF ‎Trust Fund historically lacked sufficient funding to fulfil its current (and basic) budget.  ‎