IGF 2021 Main Session: Digital Cooperation- Quo vadis?

Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (10:15 UTC) - Wednesday, 8th December, 2021 (11:45 UTC)
Plenary Room

Moderator: Avri Doria, member of the ICANN Board

Introductory remarks: Sook-Jung Dofel, MAG


  • Maria- Francesca Spatolisano, UN Secretary General’s Tech Envoy Office    
  • Vint Cerf, Google
  • Elke Siehl, GIZ
  • Jean Paul Adam, UN
  • Nnenna Nwakanma    , Web Foundation
  • Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change
  • Milton Mueller, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Raúl Echeberría, Asociación Latinoamericana de Internet

The Internet’s contribution to social, cultural and economic growth and opportunity is recognised; as are myriad concerns that it has raised; yet key questions of governance, accountability, misuse and access still remain. As the Internet cannot be dealt with from an one-dimensional perspective, a collaborative, equitable and inclusive inclusive Internet governance is imperative and requires well-structured coordination and consolidation that, however, is challenging.

In 2020 the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation proposed a shared agenda for addressing many of the challenges posed by the digital world, building on the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation titled “The Age of digital Interdependence”. Very recently the UNSG has published his “Our Common Agenda”, which includes digital cooperation as a key topic. It builds on the Roadmap and proposes a potential “Global Digital Compact” as part of a Future Summit to be held in 2023. In parallel to such universalist, multilateral and multistakeholder efforts stemming from the UN, the last years have witnessed the emergence of many views and perspectives, and different reports, studies and proposals, which call for different approaches to Internet Governance that factor in growing geopolitical tensions.

Against this background the debate on examining the advancing global digital cooperation agenda and proposals haves to continue and be sustained.

In addition, there is also a need for further engagement on the evolution of the IGF itself as a widely distributed and inclusive platform for deliberating on equitable and inclusive Internet governance processes and ecosystems, and on various digital policy issues.

Policy Questions:

Assessing Internet governance approaches and mechanisms and fostering democratic equity and inclusiveness: What are the main strengths and weaknesses of existing Internet governance approaches and mechanisms? Is the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for digital cooperation succeeding in fostering and consolidating cooperation and promoting a less fragmented more holistic approach? What can we expect from the "Global Digital Compact", proposed in the Secretary-General’s Common Agenda

Advancing global digital cooperation: New models on future digital cooperation: what is new and different to what we already have on orientation/roadmap? Which changes do we need in order to advance digital cooperation? What is needed in order to make a new model a success? What is the role of the UN system in any digital cooperation architecture? What are the directions we have from the WSIS in this regard?

How can the IGF "adapt, innovate and reform" itself to advance global digital cooperation? And what role should the IGF play (and how) in advancing global digital cooperation?

1. 10 minutes: Introductory remarks by moderator, introducing topic “digital cooperation” and speakers

2. 20 minutes Q&A between moderator and interviewee:

  • Person/Organization/Entity that championed the Roadmap and is involved with the new plans under the Common Agenda (should be somebody from the Tech Envoy Office)
  • Private Sector engagement and perspectives on current digital cooperation
  • NGO/CSO/Academia perspective on current digital cooperation
  • universalist/multistakeholder view:
  • Representative of “Like-minded club of countries” approach
  • Common Agenda/Global Digital Compact

3. 30 Minutes: Discussion (also with questions from audience)

Questions: what is new? What is different? What will bring the change that accelerates and strengthens digital cooperation?

4. 25 Minutes: Discussion

Question: Having discussed the changes that we need for digital cooperation: how can the IGF be used to support digital cooperation; what will be the role of IGF in the future?

5. 5 Minutes: Last statement by each speaker (e.g. if you had one wish, what would you immediately change in the digital cooperation?) and closure by moderator

Inclusive Internet Governance Ecosystems and Digital Cooperation
Session Report (* deadline Monday 20 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


Key Takeaway 1

The perception on whether the Roadmap has been succeeding in fostering and consolidating cooperation and promoting a less fragmented more holistic approach was very divers, ranging from a clear no to partly yes, successful, in particular for making the cooperation within the UN more coherent. It is expected from the "Global Digital Compact", as proposed in the Secretary-General’s Common Agenda, that it will not be the breakthrough. However, due to lack of alternatives it remains imperative to support und further engage in the efforts by the UN SG.

Key Takeaway 2

More digital cooperation will happen when the world's major powers are ready cooperate, as it is widely appreciated that the applications of the Internet have simultaneously given rise to powerful, collaborative capabilities such as the development of a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and also to opportunity for harmful, cross-border behaviors.  Yet, "ready to cooperate” means to stop engaging in intrusive forms of cyber espionage, ready to stop seeing trade in ICT as a national security threat, ready to stop building walls around their digital economies and their citizens access to information.

Key Takeaway 3

The IGF is not and never will be a policy making body. It is an open forum where stakeholders of all types can meet in equal status. It affects policy indirectly by bringing networks of influencers together where they come to trust each other, learn from each other, and possibly go off and do something together. Cooperation requires trust and familiarity, and IGF can help build that.

Call to Action 1

To adapt to the future, the IGF has to boldly embrace the real policy controversies that face the Internet. This means that the MAG needs to be strengthened. Separate tracks that are run by the Secretariat and not from the bottom up need to be eliminated. The people on the MAG should be people with real ideas about what issues are important, not people selected because they conform to some category token. And those issues should be truly global internet governance issues.

Call to Action 2

To cope with a global system, one must apply global methods and thus the call for digital cooperation extends to law enforcement and the apprehension of criminals. There was recently some very effective cooperation among national and international law enforcement agencies and the private sector in aid of such work, such as tracking down and apprehending ransomware. This needs to be extended and continued.