IGF 2023 Day 0 Event #79 A Global Compact for Digital Justice: Southern perspectives

Time
Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (07:00 UTC) - Sunday, 8th October, 2023 (10:00 UTC)
Room
WS 9 – Room C-2

IT for Change, member organization of the Global Digital Justice Forum
Nandini Chami, IT for Change and Global Digital Justice Forum Luca Belli, Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility Marianne Franklin, Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles

This IGF pre-event is proposed by the Global Digital Justice Forum, the Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility and the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles. The Global Digital Justice Forum is a multi-sectoral group of development organizations, digital rights networks, trade unions, feminist groups, corporate watchdogs, and communication rights campaigners working towards centering a digital justice vision in the multilateral system, straddling digital governance debates, SDGs review, and transversal intersections of digital policy with traditional debates in trade and development. Its members include: Campaign of Campaigns, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Equidad, ETC Group, Global Policy Forum, Groupe de Recherche Pour Une Stratégie Économique Alternative (GRESEA), IT for Change, Just Net Coalition (JNC), Latin American Information Agency (ALAI), Oxfam International, Public Services International (PSI), Social Watch, The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Third World Network, Transnational Institute (TNI). The Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility aims at fostering a cooperative multistakeholder effort in order elaborate concrete and interoperable solutions to protect platform-users’ human rights. The Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition (IRP Coalition) is an open network of individuals and organisations based at the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) committed to making human rights and principles work for the online environment.

Speakers

The 180 minute pre-event will be structured as a roundtable with three free-wheeling conversation rounds with briefing inputs and open discussion from the floor (of 60 minutes each) on the following: - Principles for a just and equitable digital compact for the majority world - Platform accountability for a trustworthy, open and free Internet of tomorrow - Development visions in the data and AI epoch More details about the format are indicated in the next question. The event will be interactive in order to maximise participant inputs through a vibrant multistakeholder dialogue, but it will also have speakers from different stakeholder constituencies and regional groups, to make input presentations – on site and online. An indicative list of speakers is provided below. Co-organizers will follow up and arrive at the details of offline/online participation closer to the dates of the IGF. 

  • Amandeep Singh Gill, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology
  • Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador, German Federal Foreign Office
  • Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa
  • Renata Avila, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
  • Helani Galpaya, CEO, LIRNE Asia
  • Alexandre Costa Barbosa, Fellow for the Weizenbaum Institute & Homeless Workers Movement - Technology Sector, Brazil
  • Nandini Chami, Deputy Director, IT for Change
  • Megan Kathure, Fellow, Lawyers Hub, Kenya
  • Dennis Redeker, University of Bremen & Digital Constitutionalism Network
  • Ana Cristina Ruelas, Senior Programme Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • Anriette Esterhuysen, Senior Advisor, APC
  • David Kaye, Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine
  • Emma Gibson, Global Coordinator, Alliance for Universal Digital Rights for Equality Now.
  • Luca Belli, Professor, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro
  • Rishab Bailey, Public Citizen

 

 

 

Onsite Moderator

Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change and Global Digital Justice Forum

Online Moderator

Sadaf Wani, IT for Change

Rapporteur

Amay Korjan, IT for Change and Global Digital Justice Forum

SDGs

5. Gender Equality
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: The pre-event will discuss how to center the vision of digital justice for the majority world in the global Digital Compact, with a specific focus on the sustainable development agenda. It will touch upon the following SDG targets: - reducing the gender digital divide and building pathways to a gender just digital economy (Target 5.5) - addressing the uneven geographies of development, reducing inequality between and within countries (Target 10.2) - promoting universal access to the Internet, inclusive public digital innovation and robust pathways to creation of public digital infrastructure for domestic industrialization (Target 9b and 9c) - ensuring a future of decent work for all with foundational labour guarantees in the digital economy (Target 8.5) - mapping pathways for development cooperation to support digital capabilities development and intersections of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism with Global Digital Compact, WSIS +20 (Target 17.6)

Format

Gathering – a workshop with 4 rounds and with hybrid participation modalities

Language
English
Description

As the UN Secretary General has observed, we are in a world characterized not just by the digital divide, but in an unfolding data epoch, equally by a development divide. The gains of connectivity are skewed, with a few transnational corporations and nation-states being able to embrace the digital revolution.

 

The inequality of the digital economy presents an urgent challenge to development and democracy. If Agenda 2030 is to be realized, bold and committed action is needed to a) take  the benefits of digitalization to all countries and peoples, b) govern digital resources democratically, c) make digital policies and laws fit for catalyzing innovation that counts. The ultimate test for a well-guided digital transition is in the public and social value it can create, and the human freedoms it can expand.

 

The political declaration adopted at the HLPF on Sustainable Development in September 2023, rightly alludes to participation of all countries in the digital economy. Its focus on infrastructure and connectivity and affirmation of digital rights of people (offline rights must also be

protected online) are noteworthy. The Global Digital Compact (GDC) will need to carry this consensus forward, nuancing it with the particularities for our common future that is indisputably digital.

 

Consensus-building on the imaginaries and meanings, norms and ethics, guardrails and pathways for digitalization, is not easy. The geo-economics of AI and emerging anxieties and aspirations of countries, as well as the anachronism of democratic institutions struggling to mediate rights and social justice in digitality make the GDC a crucial juncture. The place of dialogue and plural worldviews on the final consensus cannot be overemphasized.

 

In view of this, the proposed session at the UN IGF 2023 in Kyoto will explore the question – How can we build a Global Digital Compact that furthers digital justice, especially in the majority world? It will engage with this question through a multistakeholder dialogue in an innovative BUILD IT, BREAK IT, FIX IT format.



·     

The BUILD IT Round will examine the promise of the Global Digital Compact to fix the gaping global governance deficits in digital cooperation as seen from the prism of intergovernmental organizations in charge of the WSIS lines, governments, and civil society representatives.


·     

The BREAK IT Round will critically interrogate the efficacy and effectiveness of the proposals in the Global Digital Compact across its various dimensions, focusing on information disorder, AI and human rights, reining in Big Tech power, guaranteeing a free and open Internet, and IGF reform for effective digital governance mechanisms at the global level. In these critical views put forth by leading civil society organizations and academics, the emphasis will be to front a Global South perspective and political economy analysis of the digital governance field.


·     

The final FIX IT Round will elicit responses from civil society, former UN SRP mandate holders, and the Office of the Tech Envoy to the issues raised, in order to conclude with a forward-looking roadmap on what the Global Digital Compact needs to foreground for furthering an inclusive, people-centred, development-oriented digital future.


BUILD IT Round. 4.00 to 4.55 pm (local time)

 

Why is the UN Global Digital Compact critical to address the gaps in global digital cooperation? What is the promise?

 

Speakers (6 minutes each, followed by open discussion)

 


·        

Amandeep Singh Gill, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology


·        

Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador, German Federal Foreign Office


·        

Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


·        

Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa


·        

Renata Avila, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation

 

BREAK IT Round.5.00 to 5.55 pm (local time)

What are the gaps in the UN Global Digital Compact? Is it really transformative? Is digital justice even possible?

 

Speakers (7 minutes each, followed by open discussion)


·        

Helani Galpaya, CEO, LIRNE Asia


·        

Alexandre Costa Barbosa,  Fellow for the Weizenbaum Institute & Homeless Workers Movement - Technology Sector, Brazil


·        

Nandini Chami, Deputy Director, IT for Change


·        

Megan Kathure, AfronomicsLaw


·        

Dennis Redeker, University of Bremen & Digital Constitutionalism Network

 

FIX IT Round. 6.00 to 6.55 pm (local time)

How can we make the UN Global Digital Compact a powerful basis for a democratic global digital governance paradigm? How can we realize the spirit of the WSIS consensus for a just, inclusive, people-centric, development-oriented, rights-enabling, social order in the data and AI age?

 

Speakers (7 minutes each, followed by open discussion)

 


·        

Ana Cristina Ruelas, Senior Programme Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


·        

Anriette Esterhuysen, Senior Advisor, APC


·        

David Kaye, Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine


·        

Emma Gibson, Global Coordinator, Alliance for Universal Digital Rights for Equality Now.


·        

Luca Belli, Professor, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro


·        

Rishab Bailey, Public Citizen

 

 

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

We need to move the GDC in a manner that grapples honestly and boldly with its implementation challenges – how principles and rules can and must address inequality and injustice in the digital paradigm. Anything less will only embolden the few corporations and countries that desire to keep the status quo, This is untenable and will be unacceptable.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The inequality of the digital economy presents an urgent challenge to development and democracy. If Agenda 2030 is to be realized, bold and committed action is needed to a) share the benefits of digitalization with all countries and peoples, b) govern digital resources democratically, and c) make digital policies and laws fit for catalyzing innovation that counts. The ultimate test for a well-guided digital transition is in the public and social value it can create, and the human freedoms it can expand. The political declaration adopted at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in September 2023, rightly alludes to the participation of all countries in the digital economy. Its focus on infrastructure, connectivity, and the affirmation of digital rights of people is noteworthy. The Global Digital Compact (GDC) will need to carry this consensus forward, with nuances of the particularities required for our common digital future.

The 2023 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) pre-event in Kyoto on ‘A Global Compact for Digital Justice: Southern Perspectives’ was proposed by the Global Digital Justice Forum, the Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility, and the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles to explore the central question: how can we build a GDC that furthers digital justice, especially in the majority world?

The event brought together speakers from governments and civil society in a multistakeholder dialogue structured in an innovative ‘BUILD IT, BREAK IT, FIX IT’ format.

The BUILD IT round delved into the promise of the GDC to fix global governance deficits in digital cooperation as seen from the prism of intergovernmental organizations in charge of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) lines, governments, and civil society representatives. The following speakers made inputs during this round.

  • Amandeep Singh Gill, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology

  • Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador, German Federal Foreign Office

  • Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

  • Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa

  • Renata Avila, CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation

The session began with the UN Tech Envoy Amandeep Singh Gill’s inputs, who affirmed the idea of building through the GDC, a shared vision and a global framework for digital governance that is negotiated by governments but is open to participation by regional organizations, private sector, and civil society. He emphasized the need to a) shape a transition away from a solutions orientation to ecosystems and infrastructures for digital development, and b) go beyond the connectivity paradigm, and shift the attention towards digital public infrastructure to create inclusive innovation spaces that focus more on capacity.

Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador from the German Federal Foreign Office, began by acknowledging the continued digital gap/divide and its significant impact on the SDG process and suggested that this be an important focus of the GDC. Grienberger also advocated for the consultative process to take a local/national to global approach, and emphasized the need to engage in more cross-regional discussions, especially on issues like artificial intelligence (AI). Additionally, he made the critical observation that the GDC process needs to be anchored in the basic tenets enshrined in cornerstone UN documents, such as the Human Rights Charter.

In her input, Shamika Sirimanne from UNCTAD observed how the gains of connectivity have been skewed, with a few transnational corporations and nation-states being able to embrace the digital revolution optimally while others lag behind. Given that the structural inequalities in the digital order compound the effects of other inequalities, we are confronted increasingly by a digital inequality paradox, where, as more people are connected, digital inequality is amplified. In this context, Sirimanne underscored that the GDC process had an imperative to go beyond the connectivity paradigm and bridge the gap between actors who possess the technological and financial resources needed to harness the digital and those who don’t. She outlined the need for quality and affordability of access, skilling opportunities to navigate the digital economy, and equal participation of countries in the global regime to shape the rules of the game so that the opportunities of the digital paradigm could be reaped more equitably.

Meanwhile, Alison Gillwald from Research ICT Africa pointed to the most pressing global challenges of our time, which include the climate crisis and the issue of widening inequality, including digital inequality as a starting point to her input. These need to be addressed through a collective and collaborative renewal of the social contract that was anchored in human rights and gender equality in order to rebuild trust and social cohesion and enhance digital inclusion. Like Sirimanne, Gillwald observed that the layering of advanced digital technologies over underlying structural inequalities compounds the effects of digital inequality, especially in regions with glaring infrastructure and capacity deficits like Africa. In this regard, she noted that the GDC process needed to focus on infrastructure and digital public goods.

The concluding input of the round came from Renata Avila from the Open Knowledge Foundation who argued that for many countries of the Global South contending with a severe debt crisis and lack of resources, decisive action that could address the geopolitics of global inequality and injustice was the top priority. Avila emphasized an urgent need for financing and international commitments for the development of digital infrastructure, skills, and regulatory capacities for all countries to navigate the terrain, as well as renewed commitments from international financial institutions towards these goals. Additionally, she pointed to the unmet promise of knowledge equality and the trend of knowledge capture of think tanks, academia, and civil society by Big Tech. In this regard, she held the reform of the IP regime as an important agenda for the GDC to take up.

The BREAK IT round in turn, critically interrogated the efficacy and effectiveness of the proposals in the GDC across its various dimensions, focusing on information disorder, AI and human rights, reining in Big Tech power, guaranteeing a free and open internet, and IGF reform for effective digital governance mechanisms at the global level. The following speakers made inputs as part of this round.

  • Helani Galpaya, CEO, LIRNE Asia

  • Alexandre Costa Barbosa, Fellow for the Weizenbaum Institute and Homeless Workers Movement - Technology Sector, Brazil

  • Nandini Chami, Deputy Director, IT for Change

  • Megan Kathure, Afronomicslaw

  • Dennis Redeker, University of Bremen and Digital Constitutionalism Network

Helani Galpaya from LIRNE Asia noted in her critique of the GDC process that several developing countries when faced with an immense challenge of fiscal squeeze, focused on devoting resources to basic development needs and were unable to spare attention on digital governance issues, which compromised the dialogue and involvement within the process overall. Galpaya also highlighted the inability of the GDC to address the disparity of national regulations on critical issues such as taxation and grapple with the unacknowledged reality of a highly digitally fragmented landscape, which made consensus building a difficult proposition. Additionally, she pointed out the failures of the multilateral system in being unable to hold its own member states accountable for draconian digital laws and policies that were harmful to citizen rights, something that the GDC process had not really taken into account.

In his input, Alexandre Costa Barbosa from the Weizenbaum Institute and the Homeless Workers Movement - Technology Sector, Brazil, focused on the key aspect of sustainable digital public infrastructure (DPI) and the lack of clarity around the concept. In the absence of a multistakeholder dialogue or collective definition, this important aspect of the GDC was in danger of being defined and captured by a Big Tech spin of the discourse, rather than allow for the possibilities of interoperable, open, and accessible DPIs that are locally responsive. Barbosa additionally pointed to the silence on the critical issue of labor and contended that the GDC process must have more discussions on this topic in particular its connections to the field of generative AI.

Nandini Chami from IT for Change in her critique, underscored how the aspirations of the WSIS seem to be forgotten and waylaid in the GDC processes. She further observed that the reduction of data rights to privacy as is prone to, in current discourse simply erases data extractivism, which continues to be the fault line of geopolitical and geo-economic power. In this context the GDC process did not fully recognize that rights in data extend to people’s claims over data resources, and their right to collectively determine how they see value generation from digital intelligence.

Pointing to the inversion of basic rules for the marketplace in the way Big Tech controls public functions, recasts society and citizens into individual users and consumers, and squeezes labor in the transnational AI chains, Chami urged the audience to push back against the silent consensus that Big Tech cannot be regulated. She called on political commitment to begin the change and member states to measure up in this regard.

Meanwhile, Megan Kathure from Afronomicslaw observed that the historical choices in internet governance that had enabled the rise of Big Tech had also given rise to a narrative of ‘limits of multistakeholderism’ in bringing forth a global digital constitutionalism. She stressed that the fundamental issue with the current GDC process is that it risked entrenching the regulatory dilemma of global governance of the digital and affirming this narrative. In her input, Kathure highlighted two gaps in the current GDC process. The first is that it failed to acknowledge the complementarity of rights with state duties and simply expected states to refrain from certain actions without enshrining correspondent duties. She argued that the GDC must go beyond taking multilateral commitments from states and corporate actors and needed to outline a regime of consequences for inaction, thus dealing head on with the realpolitik of global digital governance. Second, Kathure observed that the GDC process did not conceptualize human rights holistically and discussed the fact that current proposals did not capture the indivisibility of human rights adequately.

In the concluding input for the round, Dennis Redeker from the University of Bremen and Digital Constitutionalism Network, highlighted emerging findings from research on how the general public in various countries viewed the consultative process. Redeker highlighted the discrepancies in agendas that dominated vis-à-vis those that people held as important and expressed wanting more involvement in, and pointed to the a consensus among general public about reduced involvement of the private sector in policy processes.

In the FIX IT round, the session rounded up responses towards the issues raised in order to conclude with a forward-looking roadmap on what the GDC needs to foreground for furthering an inclusive, people-centered, development-oriented digital future. The following speakers made inputs as part of this round.

  • Ana Cristina Ruelas, Senior Program Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

  • Anriette Esterhuysen, Senior Advisor, APC

  • Prapasiri “Nan” Suttisome, Project Officer, Digital Rights, Engage Media

  • Emma Gibson, Global Coordinator, Alliance for Universal Digital Rights for Equality Now

  • Luca Belli, Professor, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro

Ana Cristina Ruelas from UNESCO, highlighted the regulatory efforts undertaken by UNESCO for a new platform society. Ruelas observed that a lot of ground needed to be covered in the local-to-global regulation of social media platforms and the algorithmic control. Additionally, she pointed to the fact that no one actor could solve all issues and proposed the idea of a regulatory framework of networks, which would allow stakeholders to take a more interconnected approach to digital governance.

Anriette Esterhuysen from APC urged stakeholders to look at the existing norms and principles in the digital space as a starting point. She also held that the GDC was not being meaningfully informed by the current state of digital inequality and urged for this tokenism to be challenged. What is to be put at the center is not the techno-fascination of the corporate narrative but a people-created and -controlled narrative. Esterhusyen called for a feminist and radical vision of digital transformation in this regard. She stressed on the importance of granular data and public statistics to allow for a clear cognizance of the depth and breadth of economic injustice and the uneven distribution of opportunities associated with the digital.

Prapasiri “Nan” Suttisome from Engage Media, in her input, pointed out how powerful countries use free trade agreements to stifle digital rights of peoples and countries in the Global South. Trade rules are used to arm twist governments to hyperliberalize data flows, take away local autonomy of public authorities to govern transnational corporations and their algorithms, prevent the scrutiny of source code, and legitimize a permanent dependence of developing countries on the monopoly corporations controlling data and AI power. This kind of infrastructural dependence is tantamount to a neo-colonial order and Suttisome observed that unless the indecency and impunity of some actors in the digital space is countered, and countered now, any compact is bound to fail.

Meanwhile, Emma Gibson in her input presented the work being undertaken by the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi) for Equality Now, and called for the adoption of a universal digital rights framework, rooted in human rights law and underpinned by an intersectional feminist perspective. The GDC needs to be a feminist process to be truly transformative. She presented the nine principles developed by AUDRi based on equal protection from persecution, discrimination, and abuse; equal access to information, opportunity, and community; and equal respect for privacy, identity, and self-expression

In the concluding input, Luca Belli from FGV presented three structural challenges that made the GDC process ineffective. Belli pointed to the issues fragmented landscape, which went beyond geography and also extended to the trend of taking siloed regulatory approaches to digital issues; the presence of outsized political and economic interests that played against policy strategies (for instance between private sector and domestic governments) and the fact that for the private sector, the bottom line of shareholder interest always trumps public interest, making regulatory compliance a challenge at all times. By way of remedies, Belli suggested moving the GDC in a manner that grapples honestly and boldly with its implementation challenges.