Inter-Parliamentary Union

Acronym: IPU

Address: Chemin du Pommier 5, Case postale 330 , 1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland

Website: https://www.ipu.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The IPU is a global organisation of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organisation in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national member parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies.

It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced, and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of members of parliament (MPs) from around the world.

Digital activities

The  IPU’s digital activities have significantly increased over the past few years with the creation of the dedicated IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament. The Centre researches the impact of digital technologies on parliaments and coordinates a network of parliamentary hubs on innovation in parliaments. It also publishes the landmark World e-Parliament Report and hosts a biennial World e-Parliament Conference.

The IPU holds many of its inter-parliamentary meetings either in a virtual or hybrid format as part of its strategy to bring together as many parliamentarians from around the world as possible while reducing the carbon footprint of international meetings.

Digital policy issues

Capacity development

In line with its objective to build strong and democratic parliaments, the IPU assists parliaments in building their capacity to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) effectively, both in parliamentary proceedings and in communication with citizens. The IPU has also been mandated by its member parliaments to carry out capacity development programmes for parliamentary bodies tasked with overseeing the observance of the right to privacy and individual freedoms in the digital environment.

The IPU also encourages parliaments to make use of ICTs as essential tools in their legislative activities. To this aim, the IPU launched the Centre for Innovation in Parliament in 2018 to provide a platform for parliaments to develop and share good practices in digital transformation strategies, as well as practical methods for capacity building. The IPU holds the World e-Parliament Conference, a biannual forum that addresses, from both policy and technical perspectives, how ICTs can help improve representation, law-making, and oversight. Every two years it publishes the World E-Parliament Report, providing insights into innovation strategies and good practices, based on survey data from around 120–140 national parliaments.

As of August 2020, eight regional and thematic parliamentary hubs were operating under the Centre for Innovation in Parliament, covering IT governance, open data and transparency, Spanish-speaking countries, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Each hub is co-ordinated by a national parliament and brings together parliaments to work on subjects of common interest, such as remote working methods during COVID-19.

Sustainable development

The IPU works to raise awareness about the sustainable development goals (SDGs) among parliaments, and provides them with a platform to assist them in taking action and sharing experiences and good practices in achieving the goals.

Privacy and data protection

One of the IPU’s objectives is to promote and protect human rights. Its Committee on Democracy and Human Rights is involved in activities aimed at contributing to ensuring privacy in the digital era and the use of social media as effective tools to promote democracy. A 2015 resolution – Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms – calls on parliaments to create adequate mechanisms for the protection of privacy in the online space, and to ensure that legislation in the field of surveillance, privacy, and data protection is based on democratic principles.

Digital tools

Freedom of expression

The IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights works on promoting the protection of freedom of expression in the digital era and the use of social media as an effective tool to promote democracy. In 2015, the IPU adopted a Resolution on Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms encouraging parliaments to remove all legal limitations on freedom of expression and the flow of information, and urging them to enable the protection of information in cyberspace, so as to safeguard the privacy and individual freedom of citizens.

It offers virtual training sessions for parliamentarians. Its IPU Parline database is an open data platform on national parliaments, which includes data on the age of people in parliament as well as a monthly ranking of women in national parliaments.

Social media channels

Facebook @InterParliamentaryUnion

Instagram @ipu.parliament_official

LinkedIn @Inter-Parliamentary Union

Twitter @IPUparliament

YouTube @Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development

Acronym: BCSD

Established: 2010

Address: Place des Nations, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland

Website: https://www.broadbandcommission.org/Pages/default.aspx

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Broadband Commission is a high-level public-private partnership fostering digital cooperation and developing actionable recommendations for achieving universal meaningful connectivity as a means of advancing progress on the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Established in 2010 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), HE President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Mr Carlos Slim Helú of Mexico, its mission is to boost the importance of broadband on the international policy agenda and expand broadband access to every country. Today, the Commission is composed of more than 50 Commissioners who represent a cross-cutting group of top CEOs and industry leaders; senior policymakers and government representatives; and experts from international agencies, academia, and organisations concerned with development.

The Commission acts as a UN advocacy engine for the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, leveraging the strength of its membership and collective expertise to advocate for meaningful, safe, secure, and sustainable broadband communications services that reflect human and children’s rights.

Digital activities

The Commission develops policy recommendations and thought leadership focused on the use of broadband connectivity to accelerate progress towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and universal and meaningful connectivity. To mobilise efforts to bring the life-changing benefits of digital transformation to everyone, the Broadband Commission puts broadband connectivity at the forefront of global policy discussions.

The Commission’s efforts are detailed in our flagship annual collaborative State of Broadband Report and Year in Review, and throughout the year, take the form of thematic Working Groups and their publications, regular meetings, and advocacy activities on the margins of other key events such as SDG Digital, GSMA’s MWC, HLPF, WSIS, and UNGA. 

The Broadband Commission outlines its seven objectives in its 2025 Broadband Advocacy Targets. These targets reflect ambitious and aspirational goals and function as a policy and programmatic guide for national and international action in sustainable and inclusive broadband development.

Each year, the Commission hosts Working Groups to dive deeper into prominent issues affecting broadband access, affordability, and use. Working Groups are proposed and led by Commissioners, with the support of external experts. The culmination of the discussion and research of these groups is a consensus-based collaborative report which provides policy recommendations for achieving the issues examined, in alignment with the Commission’s targets and elements of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Digital policy issues

Telecommunications infrastructure

The Commission promotes the adoption of best practices and policies that enable the deployment of broadband networks at the national level,  especially among developing countries. We engage in advocacy activities aimed at demonstrating that broadband networks are fundamental to modern societies and the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). Each year, the Broadband Commission publishes a State of Broadband Report, providing a global overview of the current state of broadband network access and affordability and use, an update on the Commission’s 7 Advocacy Targets, and insights/impact stories from Commissioners on multistakeholder actions for accelerating the achievement of universal meaningful connectivity. 

The Commission has launched a number of Working Groups focused on connectivity infrastructure and financing, including the World-Bank-led Digital Infrastructure Moonshot for Africa and the Working Group on 21st Century Financing Models for Sustainable Broadband Development. These initiatives aim to provide governments and policymakers, and the private sector and development partners, with a set of holistic policy recommendations to accelerate broadband connectivity, close digital gaps, and foster innovative financing and investment strategies to achieve the Commission’s targets for broadband and to provide universal and affordable access to the internet​. The Working Group on School Connectivity, also identified a set of core principles to help governments and other interested stakeholders to develop more holistic school connectivity plans.

Access

When advocating for the rollout of broadband infrastructure and bridging the digital divide, the Commission underlines the increasing importance of internet access and adoption as an enabler of inclusive sustainable growth and development.

We pay particular attention to aspects related to infrastructure deployment in developing countries, inclusive and relevant digital content creation and education, connectivity for small businesses, and access to broadband/internet-enabled devices. 

Recent broadband reports covering these topics include the Commission’s Working Groups on Connectivity for MSMEs, Smartphone Access, and Data for Learning. These Working Groups aim to advance progress on the Commission’s 2025 Advocacy Targets on micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), universal connectivity and digital skills development. 

The Broadband Commission has also developed the Broadband Transforming Lives campaign to further illustrate the global use of broadband in everyday life, and its potential to bridge the gender digital divide, empower youth and small businesses, and improve public services like healthcare and government services.

Sustainable development

The Commission advocates for actions to be taken by all relevant stakeholders with the aim of closing the digital divide, a crucial step towards achieving the SDGs. The Commission’s annual State of Broadband Report looks at the progress made in implementing broadband networks in various countries around the world, which it regards as an essential element in addressing the digital divide. In addition, the Working Group on Smartphone Access examines the smartphone access gap and provides strategies for achieving universal smartphone ownership so that all communities may benefit from access to digital services.

In support of SDG Digital, an event hosted by ITU and UNDP with the aim of bringing digital SDG solutions to scale, Broadband Commissioners offered insights into the various use cases for digital technologies to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs, highlighting the crucial importance that everyone plays in harnessing the power of digital for a brighter future.

Interdisciplinary approaches: Digital cooperate

The work of the Commission contributes to the UN Secretary General’s Global Digital Compact, which outlines shared principles for an ‘open, free and secure digital future for all’. The Commission prepared a contribution to the Global Digital Compact, in which we call for the Compact to be anchored in the vision of a connected, inclusive, and sustainable world and expresses the need to ensure consistency between existing multilateral and multistakeholder forums and mechanisms, avoiding duplication and ensuring that efforts complement, build on, and reinforce existing frameworks and successful activities, which have proven to be impactful.

Through our various Working Group initiatives and the advocacy of our Commissioners, the Broadband Commission is an exemplary example of SDG 17: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development’ in action. The Commission’s policy recommendations advocate implicitly for global digital cooperation, providing considerations for all sectors to enhance collaboration to reach the goal of universal meaningful connectivity.  

Digital tools and initiatives

Resources

The Broadband Commission’s website, social media, and various online channels feature landmark reports, which are available for free:

The Broadband Commission has also been instrumental in launching the following global initiatives and is an active participant in:

Social media channels

Facebook @broadbandcommission

Flickr @Broadband Commission

LinkedIn @broadband-commission

X @UNBBCom

YouTube @Broadband Commission

Commission on Science and Technology for Development

Acronym: CSTD

Established: 1992

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://unctad.org/en/Pages/cstd.aspx

The CSTD is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Commission met for the first time in April 1993 in New York, USA. Since July 1993, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been hosting the CSTD secretariat, which holds an annual intergovernmental session for the discussion of timely and pertinent issues affecting science, technology, and development. CSTD members are national governments, but debates also involve representatives from academia, the private sector, and civil society. Strong links exist with other UN bodies (including the Commission on the Status of Women, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Regional Commissions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)). Outcomes of the CSTD include providing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues.

Digital activities

The CSTD reviews progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels. It also discusses frontier technologies, which are largely linked with digitalisation. Based on reviews and discussions, the CSTD prepares draft resolutions for ECOSOC. These draft resolutions tackle issues ranging from access to the internet, information and communications technologies (ICTs), and frontier technologies to the use of these technologies in achieving sustainable development, particularly under the 2030 Agenda, including mitigating and adapting to climate change. At each of its annual sessions and intersessional panels, the CSTD addresses two priority themes regarding the use of STI including digital technologies, in different areas, for example, sustainable cities and communities; inclusive social and economic development; good health and well-being; opportunities and challenges associated with blockchain technology; capacity development; Industry 4.0 for inclusive development; and access to safe water and sanitation.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence (1)

As part of its work on assessing the impact of technological change on inclusive and sustainable development, the CSTD is also exploring the role of frontier technologies including AI. At its 22nd session, the CSTD pointed out that AI and other frontier technologies offer significant opportunities to accelerate progress in the SDGs, while also posing new challenges (e.g. disrupting labour markets, exacerbating or creating new inequalities, and raising ethical questions). The CSTD focused its 2019–2020 intersessional work on digital frontier technologies, such as AI, big data, and robotics. For 2021, the CSTD chose another digital technology – blockchain for sustainable development – as a priority theme for its work. In 2022, the CSTD deliberated on Industry 4.0 technologies (such as AI, big data, IoT, and robotics) for inclusive development.

Access (2)

During its annual sessions and intersessional panels, as well as in its draft resolutions for ECOSOC, the CSTD tackles aspects related to the digital divide, and outlines the need for further progress in addressing the impediments that developing countries face in accessing new technologies. It often underlines the need for coordinated efforts among all stakeholders to bridge the digital divide in its various dimensions: access to infrastructure, affordability, quality of access, digital skills, gender gap, and others. To this aim, the CSTD recommends policies and actions to improve connectivity and access to infrastructure, affordability, multilingualism and cultural preservation, digital skills and digital literacy, capacity development, and appropriate financing mechanisms.

Sustainable development

As the UN focal point for STI for development, the CSTD analyses the impact of digital technologies on sustainable development (assessing opportunities, risks, and challenges), including from the perspective of the ‘leaving no one behind’ principle. The CSTD also works to identify strategies, policies, and actions to foster the use of technology to empower people (especially vulnerable individuals and groups) and ensure inclusiveness and equality. In addition, it acts as a forum for strategic planning, sharing of good practices, and providing foresight about emerging and disruptive technologies.

Capacity development

Capacity development is one of the recurring themes that appear in draft resolutions prepared by the CSTD on the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes. The CSTD often emphasises the need for countries and other stakeholders to focus on capacity development policies and actions to further enhance the role of the internet as a catalyst for growth and development. Strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to participate in internet governance processes is another objective the CSTD has been calling for, especially in regard to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

Digital tools

Interdisciplinary approaches: Internet governance

The CSTD was mandated to review the IGF process and suggest improvements. To this aim, the Working Group on Improvements to the IGF was established and a report recommending several action items regarding the IGF was delivered in 2012. The CSTD was also entrusted with the mandate to initiate discussions about enhanced cooperation in internet governance. It convened two working groups on enhanced cooperation (2013–2014 and 2016–2018); although consensus seemed to emerge on some issues, a divergence of views persisted on others and the Working Group could not find consensus on recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation as envisioned in the Tunis Agenda.

UNCTAD is in charge of servicing the CSTD. As such, digital tools used by UNCTAD, for example, platform for online meetings, and social media for communications purposes are also employed for CSTD-related purposes. For instance, the 23rd and 24th CSTD annual sessions as well as the intersessional panel of the 24th CSTD were purely virtual, using the Interprefy platform. The intersessional panel and the annual session of the 25th CSTD were hybrid, combining online and in-person participation. The online platforms used were Interprefy and Zoom, respectively.

Social media channels

Facebook @UNCTAD

Flickr @UNCTAD

Instagram @unctad

LinkedIn @UNCTAD

Twitter @UNCTAD

YouTube @UNCTADOnline

1-Within the work of the CSTD, AI is placed under the term ‘frontier technologies’, which also includes big data analytics, biotech and genome editing, and IoT, https://unctad.org/en/Pages/CSTD/CSTDAbout.aspx

2-In the CSTD’s work, disparities related to access to the internet are referred to as the ‘digital divide’.

World Meteorological Organization

Acronym: WMO

Established: 1950

Address: Av. de la Paix 7 bis, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Website: https://www.wmo.int/pages/index_en.html

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

WMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations dedicated to international cooperation and coordination on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the land and oceans, the weather and climate it produces, and the resulting distribution of water resources. It boasts a membership of 193 member states and territories. Weather, climate, and water respect no national boundaries, and so cooperation is key.

National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) work around the clock to provide early and reliable warnings of severe weather. WMO also measures and forecasts air quality and monitors and projects climate change. The overriding priority is to save life and property, protect resources and the environment, and support socio-economic growth. With this work, WMO supports NMHSs and meets their international commitments in disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable development.

Digital activities

Data is in WMO’s DNA. Data is gathered from one of the most diverse data-gathering systems worldwide, consisting of more than 10,000 manned and automatic surface weather stations, national radar networks, ocean observing stations, and weather satellite constellations. Data exchange underpins all WMO core functions from weather forecasting to climate,  hydrological, and ocean monitoring. Supercomputers and global telecommunication systems power the ever-growing appetite for data.

WMO also explores the role of new technologies and their relevance for public weather services including the use of AI approaches. AI complements complex numerical weather prediction algorithms that process vast amounts of data and calculate the behaviour of weather patterns, providing short-term weather forecasts and long-term climate predictions.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

To use its gathered data, WMO makes weather-related predictions via an observation system such as the Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP). With more attention being paid to AI, WMO’s decades-long experience with the NWP can help understand both the potential and limitations of AI in dealing with nature, which is the most complex logical system.

Digital standards

WMO maintains one of the most comprehensive standardisation systems with a detailed explanation of each step in the data cycle. WMO guidelines range from issues such as the position or the type of surface (e.g. grass) over which weather observation stations should be placed to uniform and structured standards on data sharing.

Data governance

WMO Unified Data Policy

The 2021 Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress approved the WMO Unified Data Policy to dramatically strengthen the world’s weather and climate services through a  systematic increase in much-needed observational data and data products across the globe.

The Unified Data Policy was painstakingly developed through extensive consultation with thousands of experts and other global stakeholders to meet the explosive growth in demand for weather, climate, and water data products and services from all sectors of society.

Approval of the Unified Data Policy provides a comprehensive update of the policies guiding the international exchange of weather, climate, and related Earth system data between the 193 WMO member states and territories. The new policy reaffirms the commitment to the free and unrestricted exchange of data, which has been the bedrock of WMO since it was established more than 70 years ago.

Why has WMO updated its data policy?

Recent decades have seen explosive growth in the demand for weather, climate, and water monitoring and prediction data to support essential services needed by all sectors of society, as they face issues such as climate change, increasing frequency and impact of extreme weather, and implications for food security.

The free and unrestricted exchange of observational data from all parts of the world and of other data products among all WMO members must be updated and strengthened to accommodate this growing demand. As the responsibilities of NMHSs continue to expand, a growing list of application areas beyond the traditional weather, climate, and water activities needs to be supported by WMO observing and data exchange and modelling systems. WMO data policy must evolve to accommodate atmospheric composition, oceans, the cryosphere, and space weather.

What are the benefits of updating the WMO data policy?

The new WMO Unified Data Policy will help the WMO community to strengthen and better sustain monitoring and predicting all Earth-system components, resulting in massive socio-economic benefits. It will lead to an additional exchange of all types of environmental data, enabling all WMO members to deliver better, more accurate, timely weather- and climate-related services to their constituencies.

In addition to data sharing, the overall importance of data has been further highlighted by the WMO’s Guidelines on Climate Data Rescue, published in 2004. The document tackles why data rescue (i.e. preservation of vast amounts of collected climate data and digitalisation of current and past datasets for easy access) is crucial. It explains that practitioners of data rescue might encounter obstacles such as the high cost of data rescue operations and the lack of digital skills and competencies to use the necessary tools in data preservation. The Guidelines were updated in 2016 to reflect the changes in digital technologies since they were first published. They now outline some of the necessary steps in the data rescue process, such as creating digital inventories and digitising data values.

Over the years, WMO has also engaged in the following data governance developments:

  • Cooperation on data in scientific circles through cooperation between the International Science Council (ISC) and the WMO World Data Centres and discussion on data at the World Conference on Science.
  • Cooperation with the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), whose Resolution 6 specifies that ‘member states shall provide timely, free, and unrestricted access to all data, associated metadata, and products generated under the auspices of IOC programmes.’
  • Discussion with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on WMO datasets and competition provisions in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
  • Cooperation with the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which was established in 2003 to derive data policies for the Global Earth

Observation System of Systems based on the WMO

data exchange system.

Sustainable development

Climate change is an increasingly recognised global threat. But what risks does it pose exactly? And how will climate change and its impacts affect sustainable development? The complexity of the global climate system often contributes to significant gaps between scientific and policy-oriented understandings of how climate-change-related risks cascade through environmental, social, and economic systems.

WMO has addressed these gaps by connecting changes in the global climate system, as measured by the state of the climate indicators, to the SDGs based on extensive data collection. The aim is to improve risk-informed decision-making by aiding policymakers, the scientific community, and the public to grasp the interconnected and complex nature of climate change threats to sustainable development, thereby encouraging more comprehensive and immediate climate action.

Digital technologies have also played an essential role in the advancement of the World Weather Watch, a flagship WMO programme that allows for the development and improvement of global systems for observing and exchanging meteorological observations. The programme has evolved thanks to developments in remote sensing; private internet-type networks; supercomputing systems for data analysis; and weather, climate, and water (environmental) prediction models.

World Weather Watch consists of the following main building blocks:

  • National Meteorological Services collect data on land, water, and air worldwide. The WMO Information System (WIS) coordinates the data collection and transmission through its national, regional, and global centres.
  • Regional organisations that act as global hubs include, for example, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

To produce a successful weather forecast, it is essential to ensure the timely delivery of observational data from as many stations worldwide as possible in the shortest time. What follows is an example of the Global Basic Observing Network (GBON) showing a map of observation stations worldwide.

Digital tools and initiatives

The Global Telecommunication System (GTS), as part of the WIS, carries data from observation stations to national, regional, and global actors. Most of the data is exchanged via the GTS in real time. Given the critical relevance of this data in dealing with crises, the GTS must be highly reliable and secure.

Smart data for evidence-based decision-making

In recent years, WMO has digitised its performance monitoring through the development of strategic and thematic dashboards as well as through the increased use of infographics and story maps, all tools conducive to evidence-based decision-making. In addition to a Key Performance Indicators Dashboard, WMO has launched a Hydro Dashboard, which provides valuable information on operational hydrological services worldwide. It is developing similar thematic dashboards on climate services and global data processing and forecasting. Internally, WMO has created a centralised data repository that brings together data from various systems, surveys, and sources, providing easy access to reliable data and related data analytics. The data repository is essential to facilitating the flow of objective, evidence-based, timely performance information.

Digital WMO community

WMO established the WMO Community Platform, which consists of several digital tools that allow for cross-analysis and visualisation of information from all WMO member states regarding weather, climate, and water to provide better insights into the work and needs of the community and to contribute to greater participation in good governance. The WMO e-Library is another tool that gathers and maintains different publications, including reports and WMO standards.

Green WMO

WMO has both virtual and in-person events. WMO experts are also working to reduce the impact of global observing systems and other operations on the environment. WMO is among the first UN organisations to do completely paperless sessions (all governance meeting documentation has been digital for many years). We experimented at the latest Executive Council meeting (EC-75) with translating the INF documents (information documents) using AI tools. It may also be relevant to mention that the draft Strategic Plan 2024-2027 has a new strategic objective (SO) targeted at environmental sustainability, including green IT and green meetings.

Useful documents where you can find many links:

Social media channels

Facebook @World Meteorological Organization

Flicker @World Meteorological Organization

Instagram @wmo_omm

LinkedIn @world-meteorological-organization

Twitter @WMO

YouTube @worldmetorg

International Trade Centre

Acronym: ITC

Established: 1964

Address: 54-56 rue de Montbrillant, Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.intracen.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

ITC  supports developing countries to achieve trade-led growth, fosters inclusive and sustainable economic development, and contributes to achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

ITC offers small businesses, policymakers, and business support organisations in developing countries an array of trade-related practical training and advisory services, and a wealth of business intelligence data. It helps micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) become more competitive and helps to create better regulatory environments for trade. ITC works to empower women, youth, and refugees through its programmes, projects, services, and data and helps drive digital connectivity and a global transition to green, sustainable trade.

Established in 1964, ITC is a multilateral agency with a joint mandate with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) through the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Digital activities

ITC activities in e-commerce and digital trade:

  • Focus on the digitalisation of trade and solving the constraints faced by MSMEs regarding the e-commerce of goods and services, at the enterprise, business ecosystem, and policy levels.
  • Develop small business digital capabilities and improves e-commerce accessibility in developing countries for sustainable and inclusive growth through its ecomConnect programme.
  • Support the development of a conducive policy and regulatory environment for e-commerce at the national, regional, and multilateral levels, including facilitating domestic policy reforms, informing policymakers on the needs of MSMEs in relation to e-commerce and digitalisation, and building capacity for e-commerce-related trade negotiations.
  • Support digital connectivity by improving telecommunications regulations and working with partners who provide access to technologies and services.
  • Improve business ecosystems by collaborating with market partners and equipping business service organisations (BSOs) with the capacity to support MSMEs in the digital economy.

ITC is one of the co-facilitators of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action lines in the area of e-business, as well as a partner agency in UNCTAD’s e-trade for all initiative.

Digital policy issues

E-commerce and trade

ITC provides capacity building for policymakers on current issues in the e-commerce policy debate through training, workshops, and publications contributing to a conducive policy environment for e-commerce and digital trade. ITC projects also support developing countries in reviewing and updating e-commerce-related regulations and building capacity for effective implementation of policy reforms.

ITC assists enterprises, in particular MSMEs, in acquiring the necessary skills and capabilities to trade on e-commerce channels. Through the ecomConnect programme, it is engaged in the sustainable development of small businesses online by facilitating shared learning, innovative solutions, collaboration, and partnerships.

ITC’s e-commerce tools help MSMEs assess the readiness of their business to engage in international e-commerce,   understand the options and costs of selling on e-commerce platforms, find available payment solutions, and track sales and site traffic across different e-commerce platforms in a single dashboard.

ITC’s digital entrepreneurship projects also support developing countries and MSMEs to build competitiveness in the rapidly growing global information technology and business process outsourcing markets.

Capacity development

ITC’s SME Trade Academy offers a series of online courses and access to educational material on an array of trade topics. It aims to assist SMEs, policymakers, and BSOs in building skills for trade development.

ITC also offers training for policymakers on building a conducive environment for e-commerce and engaging in negotiations on e-commerce and digital trade.

Digital tools

ITC addresses the challenge of a lack of reliable trade information on markets by offering market analysis tools and related market data sources. The Global Trade Helpdesk provides a one-stop shop for detailed information about imports, market dynamics, tariffs, regulatory requirements, potential buyers and more.

ITC market intelligence tools provide users with export and import statistics from more than 220 countries and territories and consist of the following: Trade Map, Market Access Map, Investment Map, Procurement Map, Export Potential Map, and Sustainability Map.

The ecomConnect community platform, managed by the ITC’s ecomConnect programme, links entrepreneurs, industry experts, and business support institutions in e-commerce to build up connections; acquire digital expertise through free online courses, e-commerce tools, and live webinars; and discuss the latest e-commerce news. The community brings together more than 5,000 active users from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

In addition, the ITC library offers a specialised information resource on international trade as well as its online catalogue, which is available to all users.

Future of meetings

See the ITC news and events page.

Social media channels

Facebook @InternationalTradeCentre

Instagram @internationaltradecentre

LinkedIn @@international-trade-centre

Twitter @ITCnews

YouTube @International Trade Centre

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Acronym: OHCHR

Address: Palais Wilson 52, Rue des Pâquis, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.ohchr.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other related UN human rights entities, namely the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures, and the Treaty Bodies are considered together under this section.

The UN Human Rights Office is headed by the OHCHR and is the principal UN entity on human rights. Also known as UN Human Rights, it is part of the UN Secretariat. UN Human Rights has been mandated by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to promote and protect all human rights. As such, it plays a crucial role in supporting the three fundamental pillars of the UN: peace and security, human rights, and development. UN Human Rights provides technical expertise and capacity development in regard to the implementation of human rights, and in this capacity assists governments in fulfilling their obligations.

UN Human Rights is associated with a number of other UN human rights entities. To illustrate, it serves as the secretariat for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Treaty Bodies. The UNHRC is a body of the UN that aims to promote the respect of human rights worldwide. It discusses thematic issues, and in addition to its ordinary session, it has the ability to hold special sessions on serious human rights violations and emergencies. The ten Treaty Bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

The UNHRC established the Special Procedures, which are made up of UN Special Rapporteurs (i.e. independent experts or working groups) working on a variety of human rights thematic issues and country situations to assist the efforts of the UNHRC through regular reporting and advice. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), under the auspices of the UNHRC, is a unique process that involves a review of the human rights records of all UN member states, providing the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries. UN Human Rights also serves as the secretariat to the UPR process.

Certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions participate as observers in UNHRC sessions after receiving the necessary accreditation.

Digital activities

Digital issues are increasingly gaining prominence in the work of UN Human Rights, the UNHRC, the Special Procedures, the UPR, and the Treaty Bodies.

A landmark document that provides a blueprint for digital human rights is the UNHRC resolution (A/HRC/20/8) on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the internet, which was first adopted in 2012, starting a string of regular resolutions with the same name addressing a growing number of issues. All resolutions affirm that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. Numerous other resolutions and reports from UN human rights entities and experts considered in this overview tackle an ever-growing range of other digital issues including the right to privacy in the digital age; freedom of expression and opinion; freedom of association and peaceful assembly; the rights of older persons; racial discrimination; the rights of women and girls; human rights in the context of violent extremism online; economic, social, and cultural rights; human rights and technical standard-setting; business and human rights; and the safety of journalists.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

In 2018, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression presented a report to the UNGA on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technologies and Implications for the Information Environment. Among other things, the document addresses the role of AI in the enjoyment of freedom of opinion and expression including ‘access to the rules of the game when it comes to AI-driven platforms and websites’ and therefore urges for a human rights-based approach to AI.

For her 2020 thematic report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance analysed different forms of racial discrimination in the design and use of emerging technologies, including the structural and institutional dimensions of this discrimination. She followed up with reports examining how digital technologies, including AI-driven predictive models, deployed in the context of border enforcement and administration reproduce, reinforce, and compound racial discrimination.

In 2020, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published its General Recommendation No. 36 on preventing and combating racial profiling by law enforcement officials (CERD/C/GC/36), which focuses on algorithmic decision-making and AI in relation to racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

Child safety online (1)

The issue of child safety online has garnered the attention of UN human rights entities for some time. A 2016 resolution on Rights of the Child: Information and Communications Technologies and Child Sexual Exploitation adopted by the UNHRC calls on states to ensure ‘full, equal, inclusive, and safe access […] to information and communications technologies by all children and safeguard the protection of children online and offline’, as well as the legal protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. The Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography, and other child sexual abuse material, mandated by the UNHRC to analyse the root causes of sale and sexual exploitation and pro- mote measures to prevent it, also looks at issues related to child abuse, such as the sexual exploitation of children online, which has been addressed in a report (A/ HRC/43/40) published in 2020, but also in earlier reports.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child published its General Comment No. 25 on Children’s Rights in Relation to the Digital Environment (CRC/C/GC/25), which lays out how states parties should implement the convention in relation to the digital environment and provides guidance on relevant legislative, policy, and other measures to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the convention and optional protocols in the light of opportunities, risks, and challenges in promoting, respecting, protecting, and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment.

Data governance

UN Human Rights maintains an online platform consisting of a number of databases on anti-discrimination and jurisprudence, as well as the Universal Human Rights Index (UHRI), which provides access to recommendations issued to countries by Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures, and the UPR of the UNHCR.

UN Human Rights also published a report titled A Human Rights-Based Approach to Data – Leaving no one Behind in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that specifically focuses on issues of data collection and disaggregation in the context of sustainable development.

UN Human Rights has worked closely with partners across the UN system in contributing to the Secretary-General’s 2020 Data Strategy, and co-leads, with the Office of Legal Affairs and UN Global Pulse, work on the subsequent Data Protection and Privacy Program.

Capacity development

UN Human Rights launched the Guiding Principles in Technology Project (B-Tech Project) to provide guidance and resources to companies operating in the technology space with regard to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs on BHR). Following the publication of a B-Tech scoping paper in 2019, several foundational papers have delved into a broad range of business-related issues, from business-model-related human rights risks to access to remedies. At the heart of the B-Tech project lies multistakeholder engagement, informing all of its outputs. The B-Tech project is enhancing its engagement in Africa, working with technology company operators, investors, and other key digital economy stakeholders, including civil society, across Africa in a set of African economies and their tech hubs to create awareness of implementing the UNGPs on BHR.

Following a multistakeholder consultation held on 7–8 March 2022, the High Commissioner presented her report on UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Technology Companies (A/HRC/50/56), which demonstrated the value and practical application of the UNGPs in preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts by technology companies.

Extreme poverty (2)

The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has in recent years increased his analysis of human rights issues arising in the context of increased digitisation and automation. His 2017 report to the General Assembly tackled the socio-economic challenges in an emerging world where automation and AI threaten traditional sources of income and analysed the promises and possible pitfalls of introducing a universal basic income. His General Assembly report in 2019 addressed worrying trends in connection with the digitisation of the welfare state. Moreover, in his 2022 report to the UNHRC on non-take-up of rights in the context of social protection, the Special Rapporteur highlighted, among other things, the benefits and considerable risks associated with automation of social protection processes.

Content policy

Geneva-based human rights organisations and mechanisms have consistently addressed content policy questions, in particular in the documents referred under Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. Other contexts where content policy plays an important role include Rights of the Child, Gender Rights Online, and Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Moreover, the use of digital technologies in the context of terrorism and violent extremism is closely associated with content policy considerations.

UN Human Rights, at the request of the UNHRC, prepared a compilation report in 2016, which explores, among other issues, aspects related to the prevention and countering of violent extremism online, and underscores that responses to violent extremism that are robustly built on human rights are more effective and sustainable.

Additional efforts were made in 2019 when the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism published a report where she examined the multifaceted impacts of counter-terrorism measures on civic space and the rights of civil society actors and human rights defenders, including measures taken to address vaguely defined terrorist and violent extremist content. In July 2020, she published a report discussing the human rights implications of the use of biometric data to identify terrorists and recommended safeguards that should be taken.

Interdisciplinary approaches

Collaboration within the UN system

UN Human Rights is a member of the Secretary-General’s Reference Group and contributed to the development of his Strategy on New Technologies in 2018. The OHCHR was co-champion of the follow-up on two human-rights-related recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The outcomes of this process were the basis of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation, presented in June 2020.

As part of the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, UN Human Rights launched the UN Hub for Human rights and Digital Technology, which provides a central repository of authoritative guidance from various UN human rights mechanisms on the application of human rights norms to the use and governance of digital technologies.

Moreover, as requested by the Secretary-General’s Roadmap to Digital Cooperation and the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, UN Human Rights is leading a UN system-wide process to develop a human rights due diligence guidance (HRDD) for digital technology. The HRDD guidance in development pertains to the application of human rights due diligence and human rights impact assessment related to the UN’s design, development, procurement, and use of digital technologies, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

UN Human Rights participated in the UNESCO-led process to develop ethical standards for AI. With its aim to protect human rights and serve as an ethical guidance compass in the use of AI, UNESCO recommendation on the Ethics of AI was adopted by UNESCO member states at UNESCO’s General Conference in November 2021. As a strong contributor to the Inter-Agency Working Group on AI, UN Human Rights also provided feedback on the ethical principles of AI for the UN system.

In addition, UN Human Rights is a member of the Legal Identity Agenda Task Force, which promotes solutions for the implementation of SDG target 16.9 (i.e. by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration). It leads its work on exclusion and discrimination in the context of digitised identity systems.

Neurotechnology

Rapid advancements in neurotechnology and neuroscience, while holding promises of medical benefits and scientific breakthroughs, present a number of human rights and ethical challenges. Against this backdrop, UN Human Rights has been contributing significantly to an inter-agency process led by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General to develop a global roadmap for effective and inclusive governance of neurotechnology.

Secretary-General’s Report on Our Common Agenda

Since the adoption of A/RES/76/6 on Our Common Agenda in November 2021, the follow-up by the UN system has been underway. UN Human Rights is co-leading several proposals in collaboration with other entities, notably on the application of the human rights framework in the digital sphere, mitigation and prevention of internet shutdowns, and disinformation.

Privacy and data protection

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age, such as surveillance, communications interception, and the increased use of data-intensive technologies, are among some of the issues covered by the activities of UN Human Rights. At the request of the UNGA and the UNHRC, the High Commissioner prepared four reports on the right to privacy in the digital age. The first report, presented in 2014, addressed the threat to human rights caused by surveillance by governments, in particular mass surveillance. The ensuing report, published in September 2018, identified key principles, standards, and best practices regarding the promotion and protection of the right to privacy. It outlined minimum standards for data privacy legal frameworks. In September 2021, the High Commissioner presented a ground-breaking report on AI and the right to privacy (A/HRC/48/31), in which she called for a ban on AI applications that are incompatible with international human rights law, and stressed the urgent need for a moratorium on the sale and use of AI systems that pose serious human rights risks until adequate safeguards are put in place. In September 2022, the High Commissioner presented a report focusing on the abuse of spyware by public authorities, the key role of encryption in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights in the digital age, and the widespread monitoring of public spaces.

The UNHRC also tackles online privacy and data protection. Resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights on the internet have underlined the need to address security concerns on the internet in accordance with international human rights obligations to ensure the protection of all human rights online, including the right to privacy. The UNHRC has also adopted specific resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age, addressing issues such as mass surveillance, AI, the responsibility of business enterprises, and the key role of the right to privacy as an enabler of other human rights. Resolutions on the safety of journalists have emphasised the importance of encryption and anonymity tools for journalists to freely exercise their work. Two resolutions on new and emerging technologies (2019 and 2021) have further broadened the lens, for example by asking for a report on the human rights implications of technical standard-setting processes.

The UNHRC has also mandated the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to address the issue of online privacy in its Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age from 2015 (A/HRC/RES/28/16). To illustrate, the Special Rapporteur has addressed the question of privacy from the stance of surveillance in the digital age (A/HRC/34/60), which becomes particularly challenging in the context of cross-border data flows. More recently, specific attention has been given to the privacy of health data that is being produced more and more in the day and age of digitalisation, and that requires the highest legal and ethical standards (A/HRC/40/63). In this vein, in 2020, the Special Rapporteur examined data protection and surveillance in relation to COVID-19 and contact tracing in his preliminary report (A/75/147), in which he provided a more definitive analysis of how pandemics can be managed with respect to the right to privacy (A/76/220) in 2021. In another 2020 report (A/HRC/43/52), the Special Rapporteur provides a set of recommendations on privacy in the online space calling for, among other things, ‘comprehensive protection for secure digital communications, including by promoting strong encryption and anonymity- enhancing tools, products, and services, and resisting requests for “backdoors” to digital communications’ and recommending that ‘government digital identity programs are not used to monitor and enforce societal gender norms, or for purposes that are not lawful, necessary, and proportionate in a democratic society.’

The Special Rapporteur also addressed the challenges of AI and privacy, as well as children’s privacy, particularly the role of privacy in supporting autonomy and positive participation of children in society, in his report in 2021 (A/HRC/46/37).

Lastly, in 2022, the Special Rapporteur examined developments in privacy and data protection in Ibero- America in her report titled Privacy and Personal Data Protection in Ibero-America: A Step Towards Globalization? (A/HRC/49/55).

Freedom of expression

The High Commissioner and her office advocate for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, including in the online space. Key topics in this advocacy are the protection of the civic space and the safety of journalists online; various forms of information control, including internet shutdowns and censorship; addressing incitement to violence, discrimination, or hostility; disinformation; and the role of social media platforms in the space of online expression.

Freedom of expression in the digital space also features highly on the agenda of the UNHRC. It has often been underlined that states have a responsibility to ensure adequate protection of freedom of expression online, including when they adopt and implement measures aimed at dealing with issues such as cybersecurity, incitement to violence, and the promotion and distribution of extremist content online. The UNHRC has also been firm in condemning measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or the dissemination of information online, and has called on states to refrain from and cease such measures.

In 2021, at the request of the UNHRC A/HRC/47/22, the High Commissioner prepared a report on internet shutdowns (A/HRC/50/55), which looks at trends in internet shutdowns, analysing their causes, their legal implications, and their impact on a range of human rights, including economic, social, and cultural rights. She called on states to refrain from the full range of internet shutdowns and for companies to uphold their responsibilities to respect human rights. She stressed the need for development agencies, and regional and international organisations to bridge their digital connectivity efforts with efforts related to internet shutdowns.

UN Human Rights also weighs in on a range of law-making processes that are relevant to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. For example, it has engaged with the development of the EU Digital Services Act, commented extensively on global trends in regulating social media, and participated in the process of elaborating a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes.

Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression have been analysing issues relating to free expression in the digital space for more than a decade. Reports in the first half of the 2010s already addressed the importance of universal access to the internet for the enjoyment of human rights, free expression in the context of elections, and the adverse impacts of government surveillance on free expression. In 2018, the Special Rapporteur published a report on online content regulation. It tackles governments’ regulation of user-generated online content, analyses the role of companies, and recommends that states should ensure an enabling environment for online freedom of expression and that businesses should rely on human rights law when designing their products and services. The same year, he also presented to the UNGA a report addressing freedom of expression issues linked to the use of AI by companies and states. A year later, the Special Rapporteur presented a report to the UNGA on online hate speech that discusses the regulation of hate speech in international human rights law and how it provides a basis for governmental actors considering regulatory options and for companies determining how to respect human rights online.

In 2020, the Special Rapporteur issued Disease Pandemics and the Freedom of Opinion and Expression, a report that specifically tackles issues such as access to the internet, which is highlighted to be ‘a critical element of healthcare policy and practice,  public information, and even the right to life’. The report calls for greater international coordination on digital connectivity given the importance of digital access to healthcare information. Other reports addressed the vital importance of encryption and anonymity for the exercise of freedom of opinion and the threats to freedom of expression emanating from widespread digital surveillance.

The Special Rapporteur, while acknowledging the complexities and challenges posed by disinformation in the digital age, noted that responses by states and companies to counter disinformation have been inadequate and detrimental to human rights. In her 2021 report Disinformation and Freedom of Opinion and Expression (A/HRC/47/25), she examined the threats posed by disinformation to human rights, democratic institutions, and development processes, and called for multidimensional and multistakeholder responses to disinformation that are well grounded in the international human rights framework and urged companies to review their business models and states to recalibrate their responses to disinformation.

More recently, in 2022, the Special Rapporteur issued Reinforcing Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists in the Digital Age (A/HRC/50/29), a report in which she calls on states and the international community to strengthen multistakeholder cooperation to protect and promote media freedom and the safety of journalists in the digital age, and ensure independence, pluralism, and viability of the media. She also calls on digital services companies and social media platforms to respect the UNGPs on BHR.

Online hate speech and discrimination have also been addressed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief. For instance, in a report published in 2019, the online manifestation of antisemitism (including antisemitic hate speech) was underscored, and best practices from the Netherlands and Poland were shared. The report highlights that governments ‘have an affirmative responsibility to address online antisemitism, as the digital sphere is now the primary public forum and marketplace for ideas’. In another document published that same year, the Special Rapporteur assesses the impact of online platforms on discrimination and on the perpetuation of hostile and violent acts in the name of religion, as well as how restrictive measures such as blocking and filtering of websites negatively impact the freedom of expression.

The issue of online blasphemy and undue limitations on expressing critical views of religions and beliefs imposed by governments has also been addressed on a number of occasions, including in a report from 2018.

Gender rights online (3)

UN Human Rights and the UNHRC have reiterated on several occasions the need for countries to bridge the gender digital divide and enhance the use of ICTs, including the internet, to promote the empowerment of all women and girls. It has also condemned gender-based violence committed on the internet. Implementing a 2016 UNHRC resolution on the Promotion, Protection, and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet, the High Commissioner on Human Rights in 2017 prepared a report on Ways to Bridge the Gender Digital Divide from a Human Rights Perspective.

Rights of persons with disabilities

The promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the online space have been addressed on several occasions by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. A report from 2016 underscored that ICTs including the internet can increase the participation of persons with disabilities in public decision-making processes and that states should work towards reducing the access gap between those who can use ICTs and those who cannot.

Nevertheless, a report from 2019 stressed that the shift to e-governance and service delivery in a digital manner can hamper access for older persons with disabilities who may lack the necessary skills or equipment.

The Special Rapporteur also examined the opportunities and risks posed by AI, including discriminatory impacts in relation to AI in decision-making systems. In his 2021 report (A/HRC/49/52), the Special Rapporteur emphasises the importance of disability-inclusive AI and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in conversations about AI.

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association

The exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in the digital environment in recent years has attracted increased attention. For example, the High Commissioner presented to the 44th session of the UNHRC a report on new technologies such as ICTs and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests. The report highlighted many of the great opportunities for the exercise of human rights that digital technologies offer, analysed key issues linked to online content takedowns, and called on states to stop the practice of network disruptions in the context of protests. It also developed guidance concerning the use of surveillance tools, in particular facial recognition technology.

The Human Rights Committee published in July 2020 its General Comment No. 37 on Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (right of peaceful assembly), which addresses manifold aspects arising in the digital context.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in 2019 published a report for the UNHRC focusing on the opportunities and challenges facing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age. In following reports, he condemned the widespread practice of internet shutdowns and raised concerns about technologically mediated restrictions on free association and assembly in the context of crises.

Economic, social, and cultural rights

In March 2020, the UN Secretary-General presented to the UNHRC a report on the role of new technologies for the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights. He identified the opportunities and challenges held by new technologies for the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights and other related human rights, and for the human-rights-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report concludes with recommendations for related action by member states, private companies, and other stakeholders.

More recently, in 2022, the Special Rapporteur on Education presented a report on the impact of digitalisation of education on the right to education (A/HRC/50/32) to the UNHRC, calling for the integration of human rights legal framework in digital education plans in the context of increasing digitalization of education.

Digital tools

Technical standard-settings and human rights

The UNHRC adopted resolution A/HRC/RES/47/23 on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights, which requested UN Human Rights to convene an expert consultation and write a report discussing the relationship between human rights and technical standard-setting processes for new and emerging digital technologies. The expert consultation and the report will be presented in 2023 at the UNHRC.

As requested by the UNHRC, in its resolution A/HRC/ RES/47/23, the High Commissioner presented her report on UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Technology Companies (A/HRC/50/56), following the multistakeholder consultation held on 7–8 March 2022. The High Commissioner’s report demonstrated the value and practical application of the UNGPs in preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts by technology companies

The UNHRC has developed an e-learning tool to assist government officials from least-developed countries and small island developing states (SIDS) as per the mandate of the Trust Fund to develop competencies on the UNHRC and its mechanisms.

Future of meetings

For more information, visit the UN Human Rights meetings and events page.

Social media channels

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Twitter @UNHumanRights

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1-Within the work of the OHCHR, ‘child safety online’ is referred to as ‘rights of the child’ and dealt with as a human rights issue.

2-Within the work of the OHCHR, ‘extreme poverty’ is dealt with as a human rights issue.

3-Within the work of the OHCHR, ‘gender rights women rights and gender equality online’

International Organization for Standardization

Acronym: ISO

Established: 1947

Address: Chemin de Blandonnet 8, 1214 Vernier, Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.iso.org/iso/home.html

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, the world’s largest developer of international standards. It consists of a global network of 170 national standards bodies – our members. Each member represents ISO in its country. The organisation brings together global experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant International Standards. It is best known for its catalogue of almost 25,000
standards spanning a wide range of sectors, including technology, food, and healthcare.

Digital activities

A large number of the international standards and related documents developed by ISO are related to information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) that was created in 1983 to establish a universal reference model for communication protocols. The organisation is also active in the field of emerging technologies including blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and AI. The standards are developed by various technical committees dedicated to specific areas including information security, cybersecurity, privacy protection, AI, and intelligent transport systems.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

The joint technical committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for AI is known as ISO/IEC JTC1/SC 42 Artificial intelligence and is responsible for the development of standards in this area. To date, it has published 20 standards specifically pertaining to AI with 35 others in development. ISO/IEC 42001 is the flagship AI Management System Standard, which provides requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an AI management system within the context of an organisation. ISO/IEC TR 24028 provides an overview of trustworthiness in AI systems, detailing the associated threats and risks and addresses approaches on availability, resiliency, reliability, accuracy, safety, security, and privacy. The standards under development include those that cover concepts and terminology for AI (ISO/IEC 22989); bias in AI systems and AI-aided decision-making (ISO/IEC TR 24027); AI risk management (ISO/IEC 23894); a framework for AI systems using machine learning (ISO/IEC 23053); and the assessment of machine learning classification performance (ISO/IEC TS 4213). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Cloud computing

ISO and IEC also have a joint committee for standards related to cloud computing which currently has 27 published standards and a further 5 in development. Of those published, two standards of note include ISO/IEC 19086-1, which provides an overview, foundational concepts, and definitions for a cloud computing service level agreement framework, and ISO/IEC 22123-3, which specifies the cloud computing reference architecture.Standards under development include those on health informatics (ISO/TR 21332); the audit of cloud services (ISO/IEC 22123-2); and data flow, categories, and use (ISO/IEC 19944 series). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Internet of things

Recognising the ongoing developments in the field of IoT, ISO has a number of dedicated standards both published and in development, including those for intelligent transport systems (ISO 19079), future networks for IoT (ISO/IEC TR 29181 series), unique identification for IoT (ISO/IEC 29161), Internet of Media Things (ISO/IEC 23093-3), the trustworthiness of IoT (ISO/IEC 30149), and industrial IoT systems (ISO/IEC 30162). IoT security is addressed in standards such as ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002, which provide a common language for governance, risk, and compliance issues related to information security. In addition, there are 26 standards under development, some of which provide a methodology for the trustworthiness of an IoT system or service (ISO/IEC 30147); a trustworthiness framework (ISO/IEC 30149); the requirements of an IoT data exchange platform for various IoT services (ISO/IEC 30161); and a real-time IoT framework (ISO/IEC 30165). Up-to-date information on the ISO and IEC joint technical committee for IoT (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page

Telecommunication infrastructure

ISO’s standardisation work in the field of telecommunications infrastructure covers areas such as planning and installation of networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 14763-2), corporate telecommunication networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 17343), local and metropolitan area networks (e.g. ISO/IEC/IEEE 8802-A), private integrated telecommunications networks (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 14475), and wireless networks. Next-generation networks – packet-based public networks able to provide telecommunications services and use multiple quality-of-service-enabled transport technologies – are equally covered (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 26905). ISO also has standards for the so-called future networks, which are intended to provide futuristic capabilities and services beyond the limitations of current networks, including the internet. Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee that develops these standards (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details ) can be found on the committee page.

Blockchain

ISO has published 11 standards on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies: ISO/TR 23455 gives an overview of smart contracts in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies; ISO/TR 23244 tackles privacy and personally identifiable information protection; and ISO 22739 covers fundamental blockchain terminology respectively. ISO also has a further eight standards on blockchain in development. These include those related to:  security management of digital asset custodians (ISO/TR 23576); taxonomy and ontology (ISO/TS 23258); and guidelines for governance (ISO/TS 23635). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Emerging technologies

ISO develops standards in the area of emerging technologies. 

Dozens of standards in the area of emerging technologies are those related to robotics. ISO has more than 40 different standards either published or in development that cover issues such as collaborative robots (e.g. ISO/TS 15066); safety requirements for industrial robots (e.g. ISO 10218 series); and personal care robots (e.g. ISO 13482). Autonomous or so-called intelligent transport systems (ITS) standards are developed by ISO’s ITS Technical Committee and include those for forward vehicle collision warning systems (ISO 15623) and secure connections between trusted devices (ISO/TS 21185). Standards are also being developed to address the use of virtual reality in learning, education, and training (e.g. ISO/IEC 23843).

Network security

ISO and IEC standards also address information security and network security . The ISO and IEC 27000 family of standards covers information security management systems and are used by organisations to secure information assets such as financial data, intellectual property, and employee information. For example,ISO/IEC 27031 and ISO/IEC 27035 are specifically designed to help organisations respond, diffuse, and recover effectively from cyberattacks. ISO/IEC 27701 is an extension of ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002 for privacy information management, and details requirements and guidance for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving a Privacy Information Management System (PIMS).Network security is also addressed by standards on technologies such as the IoT, smart community infrastructures, medical devices, localisation and tracking systems, and future networks. Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Encryption

As more and more information (including sensitive personal data) is stored, transmitted, and processed online, the security, integrity, and confidentiality of such information becomes increasingly important. To this end, ISO has a number of standards for the encryption of data. For example, ISO/IEC 18033-1, currently under development, addresses the nature of encryption and describes certain general aspects of its use and properties. Other standards include ISO/IEC 19772 which covers authenticated encryption, ISO/IEC 18033-3 which specifies encryption systems (ciphers) for the purpose of data confidentiality, and ISO 19092 which allows for encryption of biometric data used for authentication of individuals in financial services for confidentiality or other reasons. ISO also has standards that focus on identity-based ciphers, symmetric and asymmetric encryption, public key infrastructure, and many more related areas. 

Data governance

Big data is another area of ISO standardisation; around 80% of related standards are developed by the ISO/IEC AI committee. The terminology for big-data-related standards is outlined in ISO/IEC 20546, while ISO/IEC 20547-3 covers big data reference architecture. ISO/IEC TR 20547-2 provides examples of big data use cases with application domains and technical considerations and ISO/IEC TR 20547-5 details a roadmap of existing and future standards in this area. Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Digital identities

Digital signatures that validate digital identities help to ensure the integrity of data and authenticity of particulars in online transactions. This, therefore, contributes to the security of online applications and services. Standards to support this technology cover elements such as anonymous digital signatures (e.g. ISO/IEC 20008 series); digital signatures for healthcare documents (e.g. ISO 17090-4 and ISO 17090-5); and blind digital signatures, which is where the content of the message to be signed is disguised, used in contexts where, for example, anonymity is required. Examples of such standards are ISO 18370-1 and ISO/IEC 18370-2.

Privacy and data protection

Privacy and data protection in the context of ICTs is another area covered by ISO’s standardisation activities. One example is ISO/IEC 29101 which describes a privacy architecture framework. Others include those for privacy-enhancing protocols and services for identification cards (ISO/IEC 19286); privacy protection requirements pertaining to learning, education, and training systems employing information technologies (ISO/IEC 29187-1); privacy aspects in the context of intelligent transport systems (ISO/TR 12859); and security and privacy requirements for health informatics (ISO/TS 14441).

Digital tools

ISO has developed an online browsing platform that provides up-to-date information on ISO standards, graphical symbols, publications, and terms and definitions.

Future of meetings

Future ISO meetings can be found at ISO – meeting calendar

Social media channels

Facebook @isostandards

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LinkedIn @isostandards

X @isostandards

YouTube @iso

World Economic Forum

Acronym: WEF

Established: 1971

Address: Route de la Capite 91-93, 1223 Cologny/Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.weforum.org/

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

WEF is a not-for-profit foundation whose membership is composed of large corporations from around the world. The Forum engages political, business, academic, and other leaders of society in collaborative efforts to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. Together with other stakeholders, it works to define challenges, solutions, and actions in the spirit of global citizenship. It also serves and builds sustained communities through an integrated concept of high-level meetings, research networks, task forces, and digital collaboration.

Digital activities

The fourth industrial revolution is one of the Forum’s key areas of work. Under this focus, it carries out a wide range of activities covering digital policy issues, from telecom infrastructure and cybersecurity to the digital economy and the future of work. It has set up multiple platforms, and global forums focused on bringing together various stakeholders and initiatives to advance debates and foster cooperation on the issues explored. It also publishes reports, studies, and white papers on its focus areas, and features discussions on the policy implications of digital technologies in the framework of its annual meeting in Davos and other events organized around the world.

Digital policy issues

Telecommunications infrastructure

The Forum’s work in the area of telecom infrastructure is broadly dedicated to shedding light on the need to advance connectivity and evolve towards new network technologies as a way to support the transition to the fourth industrial revolution. For instance, the Global Future Council of New Network Technologies, active between 2018 and 2020, explored, among others, incentives for network development and the role of new network systems in driving value and innovation A specific focus area for the Forum is 5G: It has identified 5G as an issue of global importance and works on analyzing the impacts of 5G on industry and society. In its report titled The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value across Industries and Society, the Forum notes that 5G will be critical because it will enable unprecedented levels of connectivity, allowing for superfast broadband, ultra-reliable low latency communication, massive machine- type communications, and high reliability/availability and efficient energy usage, all of which will transform many sectors, such as manufacturing, transportation, public services, and health. In another example, the 5G Outlook Series: Enabling Inclusive Long-term Opportunities looks at what can be done to ensure that 5G is a technology that benefits people, businesses, and society.

Artificial intelligence

The Forum is carrying out multiple activities in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The platform on Shaping the Future of Technology Governance: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning brings together actors from public and private sector co-design, test, and implement policy frameworks that accelerate the benefits and mitigate the risks of AI. Project areas include AI uses in the public sector, the responsible use of technology, AI standards for protecting children, and addressing the challenges of facial recognition technology. In addition, the Forum created a Global Future Council on AI for Humanity to work on policy and governance solutions to promote the inclusion of underserved communities in the development and governance of AI. In an example of outputs, the Council published a Blueprint for equity and inclusion in AI. The Forum also explores issues related to AI safety, security, and standards; AI ethics and values; and machine learning (ML) and predictive systems in relation to global risks and international security. It publishes articles on the need to build a new social contract to ensure that technological innovation, in particular AI, is deployed safely and aligned with the ethical needs of a globalizing world. It is also assisting policymakers in devising appropriate AI-related policies. For instance, it published a Framework for Developing a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy to guide governments in their efforts to elaborate strategies for the development and deployment of AI. In recent years, AI and its impact on national and international policy spaces have featured highly on the agenda of the Forum’s annual meetings in Davos.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

The platform on Shaping the Future of Technology Governance: Blockchain and Digital Assets works to advance a systemic and inclusive approach to governing distributed ledger technologies (DLT), to ensure that everyone can benefit from these technologies. The Forum works on governance issues related to the equity, interoperability, security, transparency, and trust of DLT. It also analyses the relationship between blockchain and cybersecurity and international security, as well as the future of computing. It publishes papers on issues such as the challenges blockchain faces and its role in security, as well as guides such as the Blockchain Development Toolkit to guide organizations through the development and deployment of blockchain solutions.

Internet of things

The platform on Shaping the Future of Urban Transformation explores various issues related to the implications of connected devices and smart technologies. For example, the Future of the Connected World initiative focuses on activities intended to help realize the potential of the internet of things (IoT) in a way that benefits all.

The platform on Shaping the Future of Mobility focuses on exploring opportunities and challenges related to technologies such as autonomous vehicles and drones.

Other IoT-related issues that the Forum has been exploring through various publications and initiatives include the industrial internet, the safety of smart home products, and challenges associated with the concept of the internet of bodies. In co-operation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Forum published a report on Realizing the Internet of Things – a Framework for Collective Action outlining five pillars for the development of IoT: architecture and standards, security and privacy, shared value creation, organizational development, and ecosystem governance.

The Forum also leads the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance, dedicated to promoting the responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies.

Emerging technologies

Virtual/augmented reality

The Forum is expanding and streamlining its work on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) by creating the Global Future Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality, which focuses on raising awareness of the positive and negative aspects of the widespread adoption of VR/AR technologies. It carries out policy research and analysis related to the impact of VR/AR on society and its security implications in publications on issues such as immersive media technologies, AR innovation in manufacturing, and privacy in the context of VR use’.

Quantum computing

The Forum has created the Global Future Council on Quantum Computing, through which it intends to explore computing-related trends, including new foundational technologies and techniques for centralized

and distributed processing. It also publishes regularly on the relationship between quantum computing and cybersecurity. Moreover, the Quantum Security initiative brings together stakeholders from governments, the private sector, academia, and non-profit organizations to exchange ideas and cooperate on issues related to promoting the secure adoption of quantum technologies.

Cybercrime

Under its Centre for Cybersecurity, the Forum runs the Partnership against Cybercrime project, focused on advancing public-private partnerships (e.g. between law enforcement agencies, international organizations, cybersecurity companies, and other actors) to combat cybercrime. Cybercrime also constitutes the focus of various studies and articles published by the Forum, which delve into issues such as emerging threats and ways to tackle them. In one example, the 2020 Cybercrime Prevention Principles for Internet Service Providers outlines actionable principles to prevent malicious activities from reaching consumers.

Network security/critical infrastructure/cybersecurity

The Forum has launched a Centre for Cybersecurity dedicated to ‘fostering international dialogues and collaboration between the global cybersecurity community both in the public and private sectors’. Multiple projects are run under this platform, such as the Cybersecurity Learning Hub, the Global Coalition to Fight Financial Crime, and the Digital Trust initiative. The cyber resilience of critical sectors, such as electricity and the oil and gas industry, is also a focus area for the Forum.

Data governance

The Forum’s platform for Data Policy is dedicated to developing innovative approaches to enable the responsible use of data. Within this platform, the Data for Common Purpose Initiative aims to support the creation of flexible data governance models, oriented around common purposes. It regularly publishes reports and papers on data governance issues such as restoring trust in data, cross-border data flows, data protection and security, among others.

E-commerce and trade and digital business models

Several activities and projects run by the Forum focus on e-commerce and broader digital-economy-related issues. Under its Digital Trade initiative (part of its Shaping the Future of Trade and Investment platform), the Forum has been exploring opportunities and challenges associated with digital trade, while also engaging in the shaping of global, regional, and industry agendas on digital trade. Projects run within the initiative include, among others, the Digital Economy Agreement Leadership Group – which aims to contribute to the growth of inclusive and sustainable digital economies, and the TradeTech project– which facilitates dialogue on public policy and regulatory practices related to digital trade. E-commerce is also tackled in studies, white papers, and events produced by the Forum, which address issues such as e-commerce in emerging markets, the impact of e-commerce on prices, and digital currencies.

The Forum has also established a platform for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, to ‘help companies leverage technology to be agile in the face of disruption and to create the new digitally enabled business models’. Under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, it brings together various stakeholders to promote new approaches to competitiveness in the digital economy, with a focus on issues such as education and skills, equality and inclusion, and improved economic opportunities for people.

Future of work

Future of work is a topic that spans multiple Forum activities. For instance, under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, several projects are run that focus on issues such as education, skills, upskilling and reskilling, and equality and inclusion in the world of work. The Forum has also launched a Reskilling Revolution Initiative, aimed to contribute to providing better jobs, education, and skills to one billion people by 2030. Initiatives under this platform include Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators, Preparing for the Future of Work Industry Accelerators, Education 4.0, and the Skills Consortium.

Digital tools

Cryptocurrencies

The Forum is also active on issues related to digital currencies and their policy implications. For instance, its Digital Currency Governance Consortium focuses on exploring the macroeconomic impacts of digital currencies and informing approaches to regulating digital currencies. The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Policy-Makers Toolkit, published in 2020, is intended to serve as a possible framework to ensure that the deployment of CBDCs takes into account potential costs and benefits. Various publications have been issued that explore topics such as the macroeconomic impact of cryptocurrency and stablecoins, cryptocurrency regulation, and the links between stablecoins and financial inclusion.

  • Strategic Intelligence: The platform provides access to ‘transformation maps’ – mappings of ‘hundreds of global issues and their interdependencies’.

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