United Nations University Insitute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)
Sophie Hoogenboom, UNU-CRIS,VUB, Academia, WEOG Jamal Shahin, UNU-CRIS, VUB, UVA, Academia, WEOG
After an initial debate amongst the organisers, that will launch the debate, the participants will be divided into four breakout groups and will be given five minutes to briefly introduce themselves through means of an icebreaker exercise. They will discuss one or two guiding questions which are formulated by the organisers for 10 minutes. The participants will come together again and will be split into new groups of four in order to meet new people and perspectives, whilst reporting back on their previous discussion. This will be repeated once more, before resuming in plenary to feed back to the entire group. The goal of this format is for participants to meet others, learn from each other and to understand how to present the tensions inherent in both multilateral and multistakeholder models of digital governance.
Digital sovereignty is a concept that is often found in debates, policies, and research concerning digital and internet governance. However, the ways in which the concept and its importance are perceived, understood and defined differ greatly among different stakeholders across the world. Some see this as a way to foment borders across national lines, others see this as a way to manage interdependencies. At the UN-level, two strands of discussion appear to be dominant: one towards global cooperation, and the other toward effective multilateralism. How these fit together is an interesting part of the story around digital sovereignty. Given the importance of ‘sovereign actions’ in policy debates and initiatives, it is crucial to bring these perspectives together to learn about the different ideas, concerns and levels of importance the concept has for different stakeholders. This networking event is designed to introduce different stakeholders, for which digital sovereignty plays a role to each other, discuss their perspectives on digital cooperation and effective multilateralism, and raise their (potential) concerns about the concepts that are being used to justify policy in this space. The action points stemming from this discussion should present potential avenues for cooperation amongst both like-minded and less-like-minded partners who are engaged in research and policy on the topic.
This networking session will be hybrid and will allow participants on-site to network with those participating online. Those who will be attending the session online will be put into break-out rooms, each consisting of 4 people. After around 15 minutes these will be divided again in different groups consisting of 4 people. If the number of participants online are limited, participants on-site will be asked to participate with their laptops, if possible. We shall make use of mentimeter to enable participants to voice their opinions throughout the session, especially for those who feel less comfortable in speaking in public.
Digital sovereignty is a broad term to use when thinking about how to understand cooperation or tensions across states
A functional approach to understanding different parts of the digital sovereignty debate can be useful.
Bring together different understandings of digital sovereignty from different parts of the world: collaborative research is necessary!
Break down discussions using the concept of digital sovereignty into different fields; only policy specific discussions will allow us to understand how sovereignty is exercised in a digital space.
The network session ‘Digital Sovereignty and Global Cooperation’ brought together a diverse group of people to discuss the concept of digital sovereignty and how it affects global cooperation. Professor Jamal Shahin kicked off the meeting by giving a short introduction to the concept in which the variety of definitions used by actors was emphasised. Afterwards, questions were asked to both the online and on-site participants, with the help of a Mentimeter, to get insights into the group characteristics. The answers to the questions showed that the participants came from about 16 countries and all had different work backgrounds (private, public, academia, civil society), highlighting the importance and interest in the concept across regions and sectors.
After this introduction, the group was split up into three different break-out rooms (one online) where discussions were held on the basis of the following question: Do you see a tension between digital sovereignty and digital cooperation, and why? The responses to the question showed varying opinions. On the one hand, it was said that digital sovereignty hinders digital cooperation because it leads to states worldwide focusing on becoming sovereign over ‘their’ territory and citizens, which leads states to look ‘inwards’, preventing or hindering global digital cooperation. On the other hand, it was emphasised that pursuing digital sovereignty can also lead to international cooperation. This, as one can only become genuinely sovereign if this is recognised by the ‘outsiders’ and thus can foster international digital cooperation as a result of the need for external recognition.
Another critical point highlighted during the discussions in one of the groups is that the question is perhaps too general, and it might be more important to focus on specific aspects of digital governance. This is to understand further when or if the notion of digital sovereignty fosters or hinders digital cooperation about particular issues related to digital governance. In the second part of this networking session, these different fields in which tension surrounding digital sovereignty, such as data protection, online piracy, cybercrime, cybersecurity, censorship and content moderation, government data policy, satellite internet, taxation and data flow across borders were further discussed.
- Digital sovereignty is a broad term to use when thinking about how to understand cooperation or tensions across states.
- A functional approach to understanding different parts of the digital sovereignty debate can be helpful.
Call to Action
- Bring together different understandings of digital sovereignty from different parts of the world: collaborative research is necessary!
- Break down discussions using the concept of digital sovereignty into different fields; only policy-specific discussions will allow us to understand how sovereignty is exercised in a digital space.