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

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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. We engage political, business, academic, and other leaders of society in collaborative efforts to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. Together with other stakeholders, we work to define challenges, solutions, and actions in the spirit of global citizenship. The Forum 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, we carry out a wide range of activities covering digital policy issues, from telecom infrastructure and cybersecurity to the digital economy and the future of work. We have 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. We also publish reports, studies, and white papers on our focus areas, and feature discussions on the policy implications of digital technologies in the framework of the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos and other events organised around the world

Digital policy issues

Telecommunications infrastructure

The Forum’s work in the area of telecom/digital 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 and support the growth of digital economies. 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. The Forum also promotes the role of digital public infrastructures in enabling digital inclusion and advancing sustainable development. 

A specific focus area for the Forum is 5G. We have identified 5G as an issue of global importance and work on analysing the impacts of 5G on industry and society. In our report titled The impact of 5G: Creating new value across industries and society, we note 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. The role of satellites in delivering connectivity and the challenges associated with growing competition in Earth orbit are other areas explored by the Forum. The Global Future Council on the Future of Space explores ways in which international cooperation and public-private partnerships can drive sustainable and inclusive use of space resources.

Artificial intelligence

The Forum is carrying out multiple activities in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The AI Governance Alliance brings together industry leaders, governments, academic institutions, and civil society to shape the future of AI governance. In April 2023, the Forum hosted the Responsible AI Leadership: A Global Summit on Generative AI event, which resulted in the Presidio Recommendations on Responsible Generative AI – a set of recommendations for responsible AI development, open innovation, and social progress. In addition, the Global Future Council on the Future of AI focuses on exploring the opportunities and risks associated with strong forms of AI.  

Examples of publications issued by the Forum with a focus on AI include a Blueprint for equity and inclusion in AI, a briefing paper on Data Equity: Foundational Concepts for Generative AI, and a guidebook on Harnessing the AI Revolution in Industrial Operations

The Forum also explores issues related to AI safety, security, and standards; AI ethics and values; and machine learning and predictive systems in relation to global risks and international security. We publish 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 globalising world. We are also assisting policymakers in devising appropriate AI-related policies. For instance, we 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 our annual meetings in Davos. AI is also the focus of dedicated events such as the AI Governance Summit organised in November 2023. 

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

The Forum works on governance issues related to the equity, interoperability, security, transparency, and trust of blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT). We also analyse the relationship between blockchain and cybersecurity and international security, as well as the future of computing. We publish papers on issues such as blockchain data storage, the challenges blockchain faces and its role in security, as well as guides such as the Blockchain Development Toolkit to guide organisations through the development and deployment of blockchain solutions.

Internet of things

The Forum’s Centre for Urban Transformation explores various issues related to the implications of connected devices and smart technologies. For example, the Council on the Connected World focuses on strengthening innovation and the global governance of connected technologies to maximise the positive benefits and minimise harm for all. One specific area of work for the Council is the security of IoT devices; in 2022, the Forum facilitated a joint Statement of Support on consumer IoT device security outlining key security requirements for consumer-facing devices. In 2023, the Council published the State of the Connected World report, which tracks governance gaps related to IoT. 

The Global New Mobility Coalition explores issues related to sustainable mobility, including when it comes to the governance of shared, electric, and automated mobility. 

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 cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we 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, organisational development, and ecosystem governance. 
We also lead 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’s Global Future Council on Virtual and Augmented Reality focuses on raising awareness of the positive and negative aspects of the widespread adoption of VR/AR technologies. We carry 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.

The Forum also pays attention to developments related to the metaverse and issues various publications on this topic. For instance, Exploring the Industrial Metaverse: A Roadmap to  the Future provides a framework for discussing steps towards a valuable ecosystem for the industrial metaverse, while the reports on Social Implications of the Metaverse and Privacy and Safety in the Metaverse explore the implications of metaverse adoptions for individuals and society at large. These and similar publications are issued in the context of the Defining and Building the Metaverse Initiative, whose focus is on ‘guiding the development of a safe, interoperable, and economically viable metaverse’.  

Quantum computing

The Forum has created the Global Future Council on the Future of Quantum Economy, which looks into how various actors (governments, businesses, etc.) can take action to maximise the potential offered by quantum technologies. In addition, the Quantum Economy Network offers a platform for governments, businesses, and academia to shape the development of quantum technologies and prepare for their introduction into the economy. The Quantum Security initiative brings together stakeholders from governments, the private sector, academia, and non-profit organisations to exchange ideas and cooperate on issues related to promoting the secure adoption of quantum technologies. 

The Forum publishes regularly on matters related to quantum computing and quantum technologies. A few examples include the State of Quantum Computing: Building a Quantum Economy, Quantum Computing Governance Principles, and Transitioning to a Quantum-Secure Economy.

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 organisations, cybersecurity companies, and other actors) to combat cybercrime. Outputs of the partnership include, for instance, the Recommendations for Public-Private Partnership against Cybercrime and the Cybercrime Prevention Principles for Internet Service Providers

We host a Cybercrime Atlas Initiative dedicated to strengthening coordination between the private sector and law enforcement in fighting cybercrime. 

Cybercrime also constitutes the focus of various studies and articles we have published, which delve into issues such as emerging threats and ways to tackle them. 

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 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 us. 

The Centre also issues reports and other publications covering various cybersecurity topics. Examples include the Global Cybersecurity Outlook; the insight report on Cybersecurity, Emerging Technology, and Systemic Risks; and the Principles for Board Governance of Cyber Risk.

The Forum hosts a Global Future Council on the Future of Cybersecurity, which explores modalities for strengthening cyber risk management across economies and societies. Quantum security and digital trust are among the Council’s focus areas. 

Every year, we bring together actors from the public and private sectors to foster collaboration on making cyberspace safer and more resilient, in the framework of the Annual Meeting on Cybersecurity

Data governance

The Forum has established a Data Policy Platform under our Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 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. Examples of white papers published by the initiative include Data for Common Purpose: Leveraging Consent to Build Trust and Towards a Data Economy: An Enabling Framework

The Cross-Border Data Flows project under the Forum’s Digital Trade Initiative looks at how policymakers can advance data transfer governance arrangements while ensuring policy interoperability for data flows. 

The Forum 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 our Digital Trade initiative (part of the Centre for Regions, Trade and Geopolitics), we have 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. The Digital Payments for Trade and Commerce Advisory Committee – also part of the Digital Trade initiative – is dedicated to fostering interoperability, inclusivity, and coherent regulatory reforms for digital payments.

E-commerce is also tackled in studies, white papers, and events we produce, which address issues such as e-commerce in emerging markets, the impact of e-commerce on prices, and digital currencies. 

Under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, we bring 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

The future of work is a topic that spans multiple Forum activities. For instance, under the Centre for the New Economy and Society, several projects focus on issues such as education, skills, upskilling and reskilling, and equality and inclusion in the world of work. We have also launched a Reskilling Revolution Initiative, aimed at contributing to providing better jobs, education, and skills to one billion people by 2030. Projects under this platform include, among others, Education 4.0 (focused on mapping needed reforms to primary and secondary education systems), Education and Skills Country Accelerators (dedicated to advancing gender parity, promoting upskilling and reskilling, and improving education systems), and Skills-first (focused on transforming adult education and workforce skills). Also part of the Reskilling Revolution is the Future Skills Alliance, whose main objective is to facilitate the adoption of skills-first management practices and give workers a fair and equal opportunity to excel in the labour market. 

The Forum publishes regular reports on the Future of Jobs, exploring the evolution of jobs and skills and how technology and socio-economic trends shape the workplace of the future. Other notable publications and tools developed by the Forum include the white paper on Putting Skills First: A Framework for Action and the Global Skills Taxonomy.  

Digital access

The Forum’s EDISON Alliance brings together governments, businesses, academia, and civil society to advance equitable access to the digital economy and bridge digital divides. Part of the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Alliance fosters collaboration to drive digital inclusion and accelerate the delivery of digital solutions to unserved and underserved communities, with a focus on health, education, and financial inclusion. It also provides policymakers with guidance to make informed decisions that drive financial inclusions. Tools developed by the Alliance include principles for digital health inclusion, a guidebook for digital inclusion bond financing, and a Digital Inclusion Navigator that provides access to case studies and best practices related to bridging digital divides.

Digital tools

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

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

Global Blockchain Business Council

Acronym: GBBC

Established: 2017

Address: 1440 G St NW (9th floor) Washington, DC 20005

Website: https://www.gbbcouncil.or

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

The Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) was created in 2017 with the aim to advance global understanding and adoption of blockchain technology. It does so by engaging and educating business leaders, regulators, and gloal decision makers on how to harness blockchain to create more secure, equitable, and functional societies.

The Council brings together over 30 companies that are committed to the belief that blockchain technology can change the way in which business is done. Through it activities, the GBBC intends to help maximise the benefits of blockchain for industry and society, and assist businesses, governments, and organisations understand that blockchain will enable them to ensure data integrity and create records, transactions, and systems that are secure, transparent, and more resilient againt manipulation and corruption.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Acronym: UNECE

Established: 1947

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Website: https://www.unece.org/info/ece-homepage.html

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

UNECE is one of five regional commissions of the UN. Its major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. To do so, it brings together 56 countries in Europe, North America, and Central Asia, which discuss and cooperate on economic and sectoral issues.

UNECE works to promote sustainable development and economic growth through policy dialogue, negotiation of international legal instruments, development of regulations and norms, exchange and application of best practices, economic and technical expertise, and technical cooperation for countries with economies in transition. It also sets out norms, standards, and conventions to facilitate international cooperation.

Digital activities

UNECE’s work touches on several digital policy issues, ranging from digital standards (in particular in relation to electronic data interchange for administration, commerce, and transport) to the internet of things (IoT) (e.g. intelligent transport systems). Its activities on connected vehicles and automated driving systems are essential to seize the benefits of technical progress and disruptions in that field and to operationalise new mobility concepts such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Its UN/CEFACT develops trade facilitation recommendations and electronic business standards, covering both commercial and government business processes. UNECE also carries out activities focused on promoting sustainable development, in areas such as sustainable and smart cities for all ages; sustainable mobility and smart connectivity; and measuring and monitoring progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

UNECE’s work in the field of statistics is also relevant for digital policy issues. For example, the 2019 Guidance on Modernizing Statistical Legislation– which guides countries through the process of reviewing and revising statistical legislation – covers issues such as open data, national and international data exchanges, and government data management.

UNECE carries out extensive work in the area of sustainable transport leading on several UN Conventions. Accession to the conventions continues to increase as more and more member states realise the benefits in the time taken and associated costs in the movement of goods. Numerous digitised systems have been developed, and are maintained, hosted, and administered under the auspices of UNECE. For a number of other tools and mechanisms, work is underway.

Digital policy issues

Digital standards

UNECE’s intergovernmental body UN/CEFACT continues making great strides in the area of digital standards. In a recent collaboration with the International Federation of Freight-Forwarders Associations (FIATA), it developed the electronic FIATA Multimodal Bill of Lading (eFBL) data standard. The basis of the mapping of the Negotiable FIATA Multimodal Transport Bill of Lading (FBL) with the UN/CEFACT Multimodal Transport (MMT) reference data model, allows the exchange of BL data in a standardised way, facilitating interoperability between all modes of transport and industry stakeholders. Similar to other data standards developed by UN/CEFACT, the data standard is offered as open-source for all software providers and industry stakeholders to implement. UNECE’s standardisation work builds on a family of reference data models in alignment with its strategy to become the next generation of global standards for trade and transport information exchange. Other digital standards in the areas of supply chain management, agriculture, and travel and tourism (e.g. Buy Ship Pay Reference Data Model, Textile and Leather Data Model (Part 1 and Part 2), and Travel and Tourism Experience Programme Data Model) are a great step toward paperless trade and benefit all actors of the supply chain by reducing costs, increasing security, and gaining efficiency.

Internet of things and artificial intelligence

As the UN centre for inland transport, UNECE hosts international regulatory platforms in the field of automated driving and intelligent transport systems. It hosts multilateral agreements and conventions ruling the requirements and the use of these technologies (such as the UN agreements on vehicle regulations and the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic). Its activities (e.g. facilitating policy dialogue and developing regulations and norms) contribute to enabling automated driving functionalities and ensuring that the benefits of these technologies can be captured without compromising safety and progress achieved in areas such as border crossing and interoperability. It also collaborates with other interested stakeholders, including the automotive and information and communications technology (ICT) industries, consumer organisations, governments, and international organisations.

Another area of work for UNECE is related to harnessing smart technologies and innovation for sustainable and smart cities. In this regard, it promotes the use of ICTs in city planning and service provision and it has developed (together with ITU) a set of key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities. UNECE also works to facilitate connectivity through sustainable infrastructure. For instance, it assists countries in developing smart grids for more efficient energy distribution, and it administers international e-roads, e-rail, and e-waterway networks.

UNECE launched the Advisory Group on Advanced Technology in Trade and Logistics (AGAT) in 2020 on topics, such as distributed ledger technologies (DLT) including blockchain, IoT, and AI.

The UNECE High-Level Group on Modernisation of Official Statistics (HLG-MOS) has been at the forefront of modernisation initiatives in the field of official statistics. These initiatives include innovative areas such as big data, synthetic data, and machine learning (ML). A UNECE guide, Machine Learning for Official Statistics, can help national and international statistical organisations to harness the power of ML to modernise the production of official statistics. Responding to the growing interest in LLM, HLG-MOS is working on a white paper to establish a common understanding of LLM’s potential within the statistical community by exploring implications and opportunities for official statistics.

In trade, the newly released UN/CEFACT JSON-LD Web Vocabulary complements and enhances the capabilities of AI systems for trade-related exchanges. It aims to support the interoperability of trade by allowing supply chain actors to more easily integrate a common vocabulary in their business tools (e.g. software applications, AI algorithms) to ensure that data shared between different entities (e.g. suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, transporters, financiers, and regulators) is consistent and easily interpretable, reducing errors and misunderstandings.

  • Access to the text of UN Regulations UN Regulation No. 155 on Cyber Security and Cyber Security Management
  • UN Regulation No. 156 on Software Updates and Software Updates Management Systems
  • World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29)
  • Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles
  • Access to the text of UN Regulations

    Artificial intelligence for energy

    AI and other technologies are inspiring energy suppliers, transmission and distribution companies, and demand sectors (buildings, industry, transport) to establish new business models to generate, deliver, and consume energy in a more sustainable way.

    UNECE established a task force on digitalization in energy to offer a platform for cross-industry experts from the energy sector and digital innovation to develop a unified voice on digitalisation in energy.

    The group found that AI and digitalisation have the potential to reduce residential and commercial buildings’ energy use by as much as 10% globally by 2040 if applied throughout a building’s value chain and life cycle. In particular, applications of AI may help optimise a building’s orientation for solar heat gain and predict power and heat needs, thus increasing overall energy security and maximising the integration of renewable energy sources.

    The group also found that AI and digitalisation could help achieve energy savings of at least 10%–20% in the industrial sector (which consumes around 38% of global final energy and produces 24% of greenhouse gasses).

    UNECE has partnered with the University of Zürich to develop an AI-powered tool that will offer a real-time interactive compendium of information and data resources on the resilience of energy systems. The platform will equip policymakers with a cutting-edge tool that will inform their policy decisions by facilitating knowledge management and dissemination capabilities. It is also meant to help identify technology and policy breakthroughs and mobilise financial flows for resilience. The European Investment Bank, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Energy Agency, the International Telecommunication Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank, and other organisations contribute their knowledge base to support and shape this tool.

    Automated driving

    Blockchain

    UNECE’s subsidiary body UN/CEFACT has been exploring the use of blockchain for trade facilitation. For instance, work carried out within the Blockchain White Paper Project has resulted in two white papers: One looking at the impact of blockchain on the technical standards work of UN/CEFACT and another looking at how blockchain could facilitate trade and related business processes. The ongoing Chain Project is focused on developing a framework/mechanism for the development and implementation of blockchain services infrastructure, and creating a whitepaper on strategy for the development and implementation of interoperable global blockchain technology infrastructure. Another blockchain-related project looks into the development of a standard on the creation of a cross-border inter-customs ledger using blockchain technology.

    Critical infrastructure

    UNECE achieved a transformative milestone with regard to cybersecurity in the broad automotive sector with the adoption of UN Regulation No. 155 (Cyber Security and CSMS) and UN Regulation No. 156 (Software Updates).

    Before that, cyber risks related to connected vehicles were apparent but not systematically addressed. Security researchers alerted the public of them by revealing various vulnerabilities. There were only narrow standards and guidelines for securing vehicles, such as standards for secure communication among Electronic Control Units (ECUs) and for hardware encryption.

    UNECE’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles (GRVA) WP.29) adopted two important new regulations on cybersecurity and over-the-air software updates and led to the situation where cybersecurity became non-negotiable for securing market access via type approval for those countries applying this regime. GRVA also developed recommendations on uniform provisions concerning cybersecurity and software updates for countries applying the self-certification regime.

    Under the 1958 Agreement (binding to 54 countries)

  • United Nations Human Rights Council

    Acronym: UNHRC

    Established: 2006

    Address: Palais Wilson 52, rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

    Website: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    The Human Rights Council is a United Nations intergovernmental body whose mandate is to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, and to make recommendations on cases of human rights violations. The Council is made up of 47 member states, as elected by the UN General Assembly. 

    The Council works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), headed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is the principal human rights official of the United Nation.

    Freedom of expression and privacy in the online space are two of the issues covered by the Council in its activities. These have been discussed at UNHRC sessions, and covered in resolutions adopted by the Council, as well as in reports elaborated by the special rapporteurs appointed by the Council. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has issued reports on issues such as: the use of encryption and anonymity to exercise the rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age; states’ surveillance of communications on the exercise of the human rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to freedom of opinion and expression exercised through the Internet; etc. The Special Rapporteur on the righ to privacy has within its mandate the responsibility to make recommendations for the promotion and protection of the right to privacy, including in connection with challenges arising from new technologies.

    See also: Africa’s participation in digital rights debates at the UN Human Rights Council

    United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

    Acronym: UNCTAD

    Established: 1964

    Address: Palais des Nations, Av. de la Paix 8-14, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

    Website: https://unctad.org/

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    UNCTAD is a UN body dedicated to supporting developing countries in accessing the benefits of a globalised economy more fairly and effectively. It provides analysis, facilitates consensus building, and offers technical assistance, thus helping countries use trade, investment, finance, and technology to support inclusive and sustainable development.

    UNCTAD also works to facilitate and measure progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), through a wide range of activities in areas such as technology and innovation, trade, investment, environment, transport and logistics, and the digital economy. It places special emphasis on supporting the most vulnerable developing countries, including least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), and African countries to build resilience to economic shocks and to achieve structural economic transformation.

    UNCTAD’s work often results in analyses, statistics, and recommendations that inform national and international policymaking processes, and contribute to promoting economic policies aimed at ending global economic inequalities and generating human-centric sustainable development.

    Digital activities

    UNCTAD is particularly active in the field of e-commerce, trade, and the digital economy, carrying out a wide range of activities from research and analysis to providing assistance to member states in developing adequate legislative and regulatory frameworks and facilitating international dialogue on the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy.

    UNCTAD also works to facilitate and measure progress towards achieving the SDGs, in particular through (but not limited to) its activities in the field of science, technology, and innovation (STI) for development. Consumer protection, gender equality, productive capacity building, and privacy and data protection are other digital policy areas where UNCTAD is active.

    Digital policy issues

    Data governance

    As data has become a key resource in the digital economy, data governance is a fundamental part of the work of UNCTAD. This is illustrated, for example, in the research and analysis work of the Digital Economy Report 2019, which focused on the role of data as the source of value in the digital economy and how it is created and captured and the Digital Economy Report 2021, which analysed cross-border data flows and development. Moreover, some of UNCTAD’s work on e-commerce and digital trade touches specifically on privacy and data protection issues. For instance, the eCommerce and Law Reform work dedicated to supporting developing countries in their efforts to establish adequate legal frameworks for e-commerce also covers data protection and privacy among the key issues addressed. The Global Cyberlaw Trackers offers information on data protection laws in UNCTAD member states.

    Also relevant for data governance discussions is UNCTAD’s work on statistics, as the organisation collects and analyses a wide range of data and statistics on issues such as economic trends,  international trade, investment, development, and the digital economy. UNCTAD’s statistical capacity development activities help countries enhance their statistical and data infrastructures and often address issues of data governance, such as statistical confidentiality, access to data, and privacy protection. UNCTAD also contributes actively to global work to enhance data governance in statistics and beyond and to develop universal principles to guide the collection, dissemination, use, and storage of data.

    UNCTAD makes its data and statistics available as open-source in the UNCTADstat data centre. Statistics underpin UNCTAD’s analytical work and are featured in many publications. The UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics disseminates key messages from UNCTAD’s statistics including infographics and UNCTAD’s SDG Pulse offers statistical information on developments related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, Development and Globalization Facts and Figures publications provide thematic updates on topical issues with the latest number focusing on SIDS. To provide timely information on the global economy and trade, UNCTAD Statistics publishes a weekly Trade and Economy Nowcast.

    UNCTAD is also running several projects focused on improving the efficiency of data management for example by developing a plug-and-play system to compile Trade in Services Statistics, its activities in the Digitising Global Maritime Trade project, and by supporting customs operations with the Automated System for Customs Data. UNCTAD’s own statistical activities are governed by the UNCTAD Statistics Quality Assurance Framework, which is aligned with principles governing international statistical activities.

    E-commerce and trade

    UNCTAD’s work programme on e-commerce and the digital economy (ECDE Programme), encompasses several research and analysis, consensus-building, and technical assistance activities, as follows:

    Research and analysis

    UNCTAD conducts research and analysis on e-commerce and the digital economy and their implications for trade and development. These are mainly presented in its flagship publication, the Digital Economy Report (known as the Information Economy Report until 2017), and in its Technical Notes on ICT for Development. The Technology and Innovation Report, another flagship publication, highlights the need to build science, technology, and innovation capabilities as prerequisites to enabling developing countries and LDCs to adopt and adapt frontier technologies, including digital technologies.

    Consensus building on e-commerce and digital economy policies

    UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy meets regularly to discuss ways to strengthen the development dimension of e-commerce and the digital economy. The group’s meetings are usually held in conjunction with UNCTAD eWeek an annual event hosted by UNCTAD featuring discussions on development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy.

    UNCTAD also serves as a knowledge partner to the deliberations of the G20 Digital Economy Working Group on Data Free Flow with Trust and Cross-border Data Flows.

    Under the auspices of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), UNCTAD provides substantive work on the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) – a unique two-phase UN summit that was initiated to create an evolving multistakeholder platform to address the issues raised by information and communications technologies (ICTs) through a structured and inclusive approach at the national, regional, and international levels.

    To that end, the CSTD:

    • Reviews and assesses progress at the international and regional levels in the implementation of action lines, recommendations, and commitments contained in the outcome documents of the Summit.
    • Shares best and effective practices and lessons learned and identifies obstacles and constraints encountered, and actions and initiatives to overcome them alongside important measures for further implementation of the Summit outcomes.
    • Promotes dialogue and fosters partnerships, in coordination with other appropriate UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies, to contribute to the attainment of the Summit.
    • Monitors objectives and the implementation of its outcomes and the use of ICTs for development and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, with the participation of governments, the private sector, civil society, the UN, and other international organisations in accordance with their different roles and responsibilities.

    E-Commerce assessments and strategy formulation

    The eTrade Readiness Assessments (eT Readies) assist LDCs and other developing countries in understanding their e-commerce readiness in key policy areas to better engage in and benefit from e-commerce. The assessments provide recommendations to overcome identified barriers and bottlenecks to growth and enjoying the benefits of digital trade.

    UNCTAD’s work on ICT policy reviews and national strategies involves technical assistance, advisory services, diagnostics, and strategy development on e-commerce, and national ICT planning at the request of governments. Through an analysis of the infrastructural, policy, regulatory, institutional, operational, and socio-economic landscape, the reviews help governments to overcome weaknesses and bureaucratic barriers, leverage strengths and opportunities, and put in place relevant strategies.

    Legal frameworks for e-commerce

    UNCTAD’s e-commerce and law reform work helps to develop an understanding of the legal issues underpinning e-commerce through a series of capacity-building workshops for policymakers at the national and regional levels. Concrete actions include assistance in establishing domestic and regional legal regimes to enhance trust in online transactions, regional studies on cyber laws harmonisation, and the global mapping of e-commerce legislation through its Global Cyberlaw Tracker.

    Measuring the information economy

    UNCTAD’s work on measuring the information economy includes statistical data collection and the development of methodology, as well as linking statistics and policy through the Working Group on Measuring E-commerce and the Digital Economy, established by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-Commerce and the Digital Economy. Figures are published in the biennial Digital Economy Report and the UNCTADstat Data Centre. Technical cooperation here aims to strengthen the capacity of national statistical systems to produce better, more reliable, and internationally comparable statistics on the following issues: ICT use by enterprises, size and composition of the ICT sector, and e-commerce and international trade in ICT-enabled services.

    Smart partnerships through eTrade for all

    The eTrade for all initiative (eT4a) is a global collaborative effort of 35 partners to scale up cooperation, transparency, and aid efficiency towards more inclusive e-commerce.  Its main tool is an online platform (etradeforall.org), a knowledge-sharing and information hub that facilitates access to a wide range of information and resources on e-commerce and the digital economy. It offers a gateway for matching the suppliers of technical assistance with those in need. Beneficiaries can connect with potential partners, and learn about trends,  best practices,  up-to-date e-commerce indicators,  and upcoming events all in one place. The initiative also acts as a catalyst of partnership among its members for increased synergies. This collaboration has concretely translated into the participation of several eT4a partners as key contributors to the various UNCTAD e Week organised by UNCTAD and in the conduct and review of eTrade Readiness Assessments.

    Market access and rules of origin for least developed countries

    LDCs are granted preferential tariff treatment in the markets of developed and developing countries under several schemes and arrangements. Since its inception, UNCTAD has assisted governments in developing preferential rules of origin (RoO). UNCTAD assists governments and regional economic communities, as well as the AfCFTA Secretariat, in negotiating and drafting their RoO. Most recently, UNCTAD’s technical assistance has focused on the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 2005 Hong Kong decision on Duty-free, Quota-free (DFQF) market access, and understanding and drafting RoO.

    UNCTAD has undertaken extensive research on DFQF and RoO. The UNCTAD Database on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides information on trade statistics, rules of origin, and tariff offers under AfCFTA at the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) subheading (6-digit) level The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System – commonly known as the Harmonized System or HS – is an internationally standardised nomenclature for the description, classification, and coding of goods.. The database enables automatic data visualisation to create a snapshot of the object of interest and matching trade statistics within the AfCFTA tariff offers, and product-specific rules of origin where available.

    The UNCTAD Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) utilisation database provides information on the utilisation of the GSP schemes as well as other trade preferences granted to developing countries and LDCs under GSP, DFQF arrangements, and trade preferences under reciprocal free trade agreements (FTAs).

    UNCTAD serves as co-lead of the

    Consumer protection Consumer protection and competition are jointly addressed in the work of UNCTAD

    Through its Competition and Consumer Policies Programme, UNCTAD works to assist countries in improving their competition and consumer protection policies. It provides a forum for intergovernmental deliberations on these issues; undertakes research, policy analysis and data collection; and provides technical assistance to developing countries. The Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Consumer Protection Law and Policy monitors the implementation of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, and carries out research and provides technical assistance on consumer protection issues (including in the context of e-commerce and the digital economy). UNCTAD’s work programme on consumer protection is guided, among others, by the UN Conference of Competition and Consumer Protection (held every five years).

    Given the significant imbalances in market power in the digital economy, competition policy is becoming increasingly relevant for developing countries. UNCTAD addresses this issue in the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy.

    UNCTAD also runs the Research Partnership Platform, aimed at contributing to the development of best practices in the formulation and implementation of competition and consumer protection laws and policies.

    UNCTAD serves as co-lead of the

    World Trade Organization

    Acronym: WTO

    Established: 1995

    Address: Centre William Rappard, Rue de Lausanne 154, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland

    Website: https://www.wto.org/

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    WTO is an intergovernmental organisation that deals with the rules of trade among its members. Its main functions include administering WTO trade agreements, providing a forum for trade negotiations, settling trade disputes, monitoring national trade policies, providing technical assistance and training for developing countries, and ensuring cooperation with other international organisations.

    WTO members have negotiated and agreed upon rules regulating international trade, fostering transparency and predictability in the international trading system. The main agreements are the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

    Digital activities

    Several internet governance and digital trade policy-related issues are discussed in WTO. E-commerce discussions are ongoing under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and among a group of 90 WTO members currently negotiating e-commerce rules under the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-commerce. Discussions focus on several digital issues, including data flows and data localisation, source code, cybersecurity, privacy, consumer protection, capacity building, and customs duties on electronic transmissions.

    As part of its outreach activities, WTO organises numerous events such as the Aid for Trade Global Review and an annual Public Forum, which brings together governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, businesses, and other stakeholders for discussions on a broad range of issues, including many relating to the digital economy.

    Digital policy issues

    Telecommunications

    In 1997, WTO members successfully concluded negotiations on market access for basic telecommunications services, which resulted in new specific commitments in the sector for a significant part of  WTO  membership.  These negotiations also resulted in the Reference Paper, a set of regulatory principles for basic telecommunication services that various members have inscribed in their schedules of commitments. Since 1997, the number of members that have undertaken market access commitments on telecommunications and subscribed to the Reference Paper has continued to increase as a result of new governments joining WTO through the process of accession. Under the JSI negotiations, participants are discussing a proposal that seeks to update the provisions of the Reference Paper.

    Digital standards The issue of digital standards is addressed as ‘standards and regulations’ within the work of WTO.

    International standards are important to the global digital economy as they can enable interconnectivity and interoperability for telecommunications and internet infrastructures. The WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT Agreement) aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures affecting trade in goods (including telecommunications products) are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The TBT Agreement strongly encourages that such regulatory measures be based on relevant international standards. The TBT Committee serves as a forum where governments discuss and address concerns with specific regulations, including those affecting digital trade. Examples of relevant TBT measures notified to or discussed at the TBT Committee include (1) measures addressing the internet of things (IoT) and related devices in terms of their safety, interoperability, national security/cybersecurity, performance, and quality; (2) measures regulating 5G cellular network technology for reasons related to, among others, national security and interoperability; (3) measures regulating 3D printing (additive manufacturing) devices; (4) measures regulating drones (small unmanned aircraft systems) due to risks for humans/consumers, interoperability problems, and national security risks; and (5) measures dealing with autonomous vehicles, mostly concerned with their safety and performance.

    Cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity issues have been addressed in several WTO bodies. For example, the TBT Committee has discussed national cybersecurity regulations applicable to information and communications technology (ICT) products and their potential impact on trade. In the TBT Committee, WTO members have raised specific trade concerns related to cybersecurity regulations. Some of the specific issues discussed include how cybersecurity regulations discriminating against foreign companies and technologies can negatively impact international trade in ICT products. Proposals on cybersecurity have also been tabled in the JSI on e-commerce where negotiations are ongoing.

    Data governance

    The growth of the global digital economy is fuelled by data. Discussions on how provisions of WTO agreements apply to data flows are ongoing among WTO members. In this context, is particularly relevant, as it applies to trade in services such as (1) data transmission and data processing by any form of technology (e.g. mobile or cloud technologies); (2) new ICT business models such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS); (3) online distribution services e.g. (e-commerce market platforms); and (4) financial services such as mobile payments. The extent to which members can impose restrictions on data or information flows affecting trade in services is determined by their GATS schedules of commitments. Under the JSI, proposals on cross-border data flows have been submitted and are being discussed. These proposals envision a general rule establishing the free flow of data for commercial activities. Proposed exceptions to this general rule are, to a large extent, similar to the existing GATS General and Security Exceptions and relate to, for example, protection of personal data, protection of legitimate public policy objectives, national security interests, and exclusion of governmental data. Issues related to data flows have also been raised by members in other contexts at the WTO, such as in the Council for Trade in Services, for instance, when national cybersecurity measures adopted have been considered by some members as trade barriers.

    Intellectual property rights

    The TRIPS Agreement is a key international instrument for the protection of IP and is of relevance to e-commerce. The technologies that underpin the internet and enable digital commerce such as software, routers, networks, switches, and user interfaces are protected by IP. In addition, e-commerce transactions can involve digital products with IP-protected content, such as e-books, software, or blueprints for 3D-printing. As IP licences often regulate the usage rights for such intangible digital products, the TRIPS Agreement and the international IP Conventions provide much of the legal infrastructure for digital trade.

    These conventions include:

    The role of IP in promoting innovation and trade in the digital age has been highlighted in recent WTO World Trade Reports.

    IP-related issues are also being discussed in the JSI. Submitted proposals include text on limiting requests to the access or transfer of source code. The source code or the data analysis used in the operation of programmes or services is often legally protected by IP law through copyright, patent, or trade secret provisions. The main goal of the JSI proposals on access to source code is to prevent members from requiring access or transfer of the source code owned by a national of another member state as a condition for market access. Some exceptions to this general prohibition have also been proposed. For example, for software that is used for critical infrastructures and public procurement transactions.

    Electronic commerce

    WTO agreements cover a broad spectrum of trade topics, including some related to e-commerce, which has been on the WTO agenda since 1998 when the ministers adopted the Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce. The Declaration instructed the General Council to establish a Work Programme on electronic commerce. In that Declaration, members also agreed to continue the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions (the ’moratorium’). The Work Programme provides a broad definition of e-commerce and instructs four WTO bodies (Council for Trade in Goods; Council for Trade in Services; TRIPS Council; and the Committee on Trade and Development) to explore the relationship between WTO Agreements and e-commerce. The Work Programme and the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions have been periodically reviewed and renewed. At its recently concluded 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022, WTO members agreed to reinvigorate the Work Programme, particularly in line with its development dimension, and to intensify discussions on the moratorium, including on its scope, definition, and impact. Furthermore, members agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC13. WT/MIN(22)/32; WT/L/1143

    At MC11 in 2017, a group of members issued the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce to explore work towards future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce. Following the exploratory work, in January 2019, 76 members confirmed their ‘intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce’ and to ‘achieve a high standard out- come that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible’. Negotiations are continuing among 90 members 90 Members as of end of October 2023: Albania; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahrain, Kingdom of; Belgium; Benin; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Côte D’Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; Finland; France; Gambia, Georgia; Germany; Greece; Guatemala;Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; Iceland; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait, the State of; Kyrgyz Republic;the State of; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malaysia; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Mongolia; Montenegro; Myanmar; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Oman; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Singapore; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States; and Uruguay and are structured under five broad themes, namely enabling e-commerce, openness and e-commerce, trust and e-commerce, cross-cutting issues, and telecommunications. JSI participants have reached a high degree of convergence on e-authentication and e-signatures, e-contracts, open government data, online consumer protection, unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam), transparency, open internet access, paperless trading, cybersecurity, electronic transactions frameworks, e-invoicing and single windows. Negotiations on electronic transactions frameworks, source code, cybersecurity, electronic invoicing, privacy, telecommunications, and customs duties on electronic transmissions continue. On the margins of the MC12, the co-convenors of the JSI (Australia, Japan, and Singapore), issued a statement underlining the importance of developing global rules on e-commerce and, together with Switzerland, launched the E-commerce Capacity Building Framework to strengthen digital inclusion and to help developing and least developed countries to harness the opportunities of digital trade.

    Access The issue of arbitration is referred to under the issue of ‘market access’ within the work of WTO.

    Information Technology Agreement (ITA-I and ITA-II)

    The ITA-I was concluded by 29 participants in 1996. Through this agreement, participating WTO members eliminated tariffs and other duties and charges (ODCs) on hundreds of ICT products – including computers, laptops, servers, routers, communication devices (i.e. mobile telephones),  semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment and parts thereof – to foster the development of ICT global value chains and facilitate greater adoption of the ICT products that lie at the core of a global digital economy and power the downstream innovative and competitive capacity of every industry that deploys them. Currently, 83 WTO members are participants in ITA-I, accounting for approximately 97% of world trade in ITA-I products. As technology continues to evolve, ICT is found at the core of an ever-increasing range of products. At the MC10 in Nairobi in 2015, over 50 WTO members concluded ITA-II negotiations and agreed to expand the ITA product coverage by around 200 products. ICT products such as GPS navigation equipment, satellites, and medical equipment were included and tariffs on these products have been eliminated among ITA-II participants. At present, the ITA-II consists of 55 WTO members, representing over 90% of world trade in ITA-II products. The ITA is being discussed in the JSI under the market access focus group.

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    Internet Governance Forum

    Acronym: IGF

    Established: 2006

    Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

    Website: https://www.intgovforum.org

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    The IGF provides the most comprehensive coverage of digital policy issues on the global level. The IGF Secretariat in Geneva coordinates both the planning of IGF annual meetings (working together with the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and the wider IGF community) and a series of intersessional activities (run all year long). These activities could be summarised in three ‘multi’ initiatives:

    • Multistakeholder participation: It involves governments, business, civil society, the technical community, academia, and other actors who affect or are affected by digital policy This diversity is reflected in IGF processes, events, and consultations.
    • Multidisciplinary coverage: It relates to addressing policy issues from technological, legal, security, human rights, economic, development, and sociocultural perspectives. For example, data, as a governance issue, is addressed from standardisation, e-commerce, privacy, and security perspectives.
    • Multilevel approach: It spans IGF deliberations from the local level to the global level, through a network of over 165 national, subregional, and regional IGF (as of November 2023). They provide context for discussions on digital policy like the real-life impact of digitalisation on policy, economic, social, and cultural fabric of local communities. The IGF Secretariat supports such initiatives (which are independent) and coordinates the participation of the overall network.

    The IGF ecosystem converges around the annual IGF, which is attended by thousands of participants. The last few IGFs include Paris (2018), Berlin (2019), online edition due to the pandemic (2020), Katowice (2021), Addis Ababa (2022), and Kyoto (2023), which engaged over 11,000 participants, and more than 1,000 speakers in over 300 sessions.

    The intersessional work includes best practice forums (on issues such as cybersecurity, local content, data and new technologies, and gender and access); dynamic coalitions (on issues such as community connectivity, network neutrality, accessibility and disability, and child safety online etc.); policy networks (on AI, environment, meaningful access and Internet fragmentation); and other projects such as Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion(s) (which ran between 2015 and 2018) as well as a number of capacity development activities.

    IGF mandate

    The IGF mandate was outlined in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS, November 2005). It was renewed for another 10 years by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 16 December 2015, (70/125).

    The main functions of the IGF are specified in Article 72 of the Tunis Agenda. The mandate of the Forum is to:

    • Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the internet.
    • Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body.
    • Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organisations and other institutions on matters under their purview.
    • Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard, make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific, and technical communities.
    • Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world.
    • Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries.
    • Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and where appropriate, make recommendations.
    • Contribute to capacity building for internet governance in developing countries, drawing on local sources of knowledge and expertise.
    • Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in internet governance processes.
    • Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical internet resources.
    • Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the internet, of particular concern to everyday users.
    • Publish its proceedings.

    In fulfilling its mandate, the Forum is institutionally supported by the UN Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum placed with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Its working modalities also include MAG and most recently the Leadership Panel, both appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

    Digital policy issues

    Until 2019, IGF annual meetings used to host sessions tackling a wide range of digital policy issues (for instance, IGF 2018 had eight themes: cybersecurity, trust, and privacy; development, innovation, and economic issues; digital inclusion and accessibility; human rights, gender, and youth; emerging technologies; evolution of internet governance; media and content; and technical and operational issues). In 2019, in an effort to bring more focus within the IGF, the MAG decided (considering community input) to structure the IGF programme around a limited number of tracks: security, safety, stability, and resilience; data governance; and digital inclusion. This approach was kept for IGF 2020, which saw four thematic tracks: data, environment, inclusion, and trust. The thematic approach did not mean that the IGF saw some digital policy issues as being less relevant than others, but rather that it encouraged discussions at the intersection of multiple issues. The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) Digital Watch hybrid reporting (IGF 2023) illustrates this trend, showing that the IGF discussed a wide range of policy issues (across all seven internet governance baskets of issues) within the limited number of thematic tracks.

    The leadership panel

    In line with the IGF mandate and as recommended in the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the UN Secretary-General established the IGF Leadership Panel as a strategic, empowered, multistakeholder body, to address urgent, strategic issues, and highlight Forum discussions and possible follow-up actions to promote greater impact and dissemination of IGF discussions.

    More specifically, the Panel provides strategic inputs and advice on the IGF; promotes the IGF and its outputs; supports both high-level and at-large stakeholder engagement in the IGF and IGF fundraising efforts; exchanges IGF outputs with other stakeholders and relevant forums; and feeds input from these decision-makers and forums to the IGF’s agenda-setting process, leveraging relevant MAG expertise.

    The 15-member Panel with ex-officios meet at least three times a year in person, in addition to regular online meetings.

    Future of meetings

    Since its first meeting in Athens (2006), the IGF has been a pioneer in online deliberation and hybrid meetings. In addition to individual online participation, the IGF has encouraged the development of a network of remote hubs where participants meet locally while following online deliberations from the global IGF. In this way the IGF has created a unique interplay between local and global deliberations through the use of technology. For hybrid meetings delivered in situ and online, the IGF developed the function of remote moderator, who ensures that there is smooth interplay between online and in situ discussions.

    The 19th annual IGF meeting will be hosted by the Government of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh in December 2024. The 2025 host is yet to be announced.

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