World Economic Forum

Acronym: WEF

Address: Route de la Capite, 1223 Cologny, Switzerland

Website: https://weforum.org

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a not-for-profit foundation whose membership is composed of large corporations from around the world.

The WEF 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 WEF’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 fora focused on bringing together various stakeholders and initiatives to advance debates and foster co-operation 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 organised around the world.

Digital policy issues

Telecommunications infrastructure 

The WEF’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. Initiatives in this area include the Global Future Council of New Network Technologies, dedicated, among others, to exploring incentives for network development, and the EDISON Initiative (Essential Digital Infrastructure & Services Network), aimed at developing strategies to achieve 75% broadband penetration before 2025. A specific focus area for the WEF is 5G: It has identified 5G as an issue of global importance and works on analysing the impacts of 5G on industry and society. The new mobile network is tackled under initiatives such as the WEF Platform on Internet of Things, Robotics and 5G, and the 5G Global Accelerator. In its report titled The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value Across Industries and Society, the WEF 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.

Artificial intelligence;

The WEF is carrying out multiple activities in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The WEF Platform on AI and Machine Learning brings together actors from public and private sectors to co-design and test policy frameworks that accelerate the benefits and mitigate the risks of AI. Project areas include standards for protecting children, creating an ‘AI regulator for the twenty-first century’, and addressing the challenges of facial recognition technology. In addition, the WEF created a Global AI Council to address governance gaps and to provide policy guidance under its Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The WEF 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. The WEF extensively 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 globalising 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 WEF’s annual meetings in Davos.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies 

The WEF Platform for Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) works to advance a systemic and inclusive approach to governing DLT, to ensure that everyone can benefit from these technologies. The WEF 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. In addition, the WEF has created a Global Blockchain Council to address governance gaps and to provide policy guidance under its Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The WEF is also active on issues related to digital currencies and their policy implications. In January 2020, it created a Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance to work on designing a framework for the governance of digital currencies, including stablecoins. It aims to facilitate access to the financial system through inclusive and innovative policy solutions. Along with the launch of the consortium, the WEF published a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Policy-Makers Toolkit, intended to serve as a possible framework to ensure that the deployment of CBDCs takes into account potential costs and benefits.

Internet of things 

The WEF Platform on Internet of Things, Robotics and 5G works with key players from the public and private sectors to accelerate the impact of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, build trust in consumer IoT, unlock the shared value of IoT data, enable an inclusive roll-out of 5G and next-generation connectivity, and promote the responsible adoption of smart city technologies. Specifically, the WEF analyses questions of IoT and data ownership, infrastructure security, and the vulnerability of IoT to cyber-attacks. In co-operation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the WEF 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. WEF also created three Global Councils related to IoT to address governance gaps and to provide policy guidance: Global Internet of Things Council, Global Drones and Aerial Mobility Council, and Global Autonomous and Urban Mobility Council.

Emerging technologies 

Virtual/augmented reality. The WEF 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 will explore and raise awareness of the positive and negative aspects of the widespread adoption of VR/AR technologies. The WEF carries out policy research and analysis related to the impact of VR/AR on the society and its security implications in publications such as the ‘Virtual Reality Discovery’ and the ‘Industry review boards are needed to protect VR user privacy’.

Quantum computing. The WEF 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 centralised and distributed processing. The forum also publishes regularly on the relationship between quantum computing and cybersecurity.

Robotics. Robotics is part of the WEF agenda under the Platform on Internet of Things, Robotics and 5G. The WEF analyses the impacts of advances in robotics in particular within the AI and IoT context. It works on co-designing, piloting, and scaling up the next generation of policies and protocols related to robotics. The WEF regularly publishes on issues such as the merging of human and machine approaches to cybersecurity and the role of robotics in warfare, and potential rules for future AI and robotics.The WEF has also created three global councils related to robotics to address governance gaps and to provide policy guidance: Global Internet of Things Council, Global Drones and Aerial Mobility Council, and Global Autonomous and Urban Mobility Council.

Data governance 

The WEF has established a Platform for Data Policy dedicated to maximising data use to benefit society while protecting users from risks associated with the data economy. Within this platform, the Building a Roadmap for Cross Border Data Flows project aims to support the development of cohesive policy frameworks and cross-border governance protocols, which ‘can accelerate societal benefits and minimise adverse risks of data flows’. The WEF regularly publishes reports on data governance issues such as restoring trust in data, cross-border data flows, data protection and security, among others.

E-commerce and trade 

Several activities and projects run by the WEF focus on e-commerce and broader digital economy-related issues. Under its Digital Trade initiative (part of its Shaping the Future of Trade and Global Economic Interdependence Platform), the WEF has proposed a set of digital economy policy proposals aimed at, among others, defining best practices for cross-border data flows and stimulating progress on e-commerce best practices. E-commerce is also tackled in studies, white papers, and events produced by the WEF, which address issues such as: e-commerce in emerging markets, the impact of e-commerce on prices, and digital currencies. The WEF has also established a Platform for Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, aimed to ‘help companies leverage technology to be agile in the face of disruption and to create the new digitally enabled business models.’ Under the Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society, the WEF 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 across multiple WEF activities. For instance, under the Platform for Shaping the Future of 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 WEF has also launched a Reskilling Revolution Platform, aimed to contribute to providing better jobs, education, and skills to 1 billion people over a 10-year period. Initiatives under this platform include: Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators, Preparing for the Future of Work Industry Accelerators, the Promise of Platform Work, and Education 4.0, which are dedicated to ‘creating and piloting replicable models for action at the national, industry, organisational, and school levels.’

Cybercrime 

Under its Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity and Digital Trust Platform, the WEF runs the Partnership against Cybercrime project, focused on developing recommendations and frameworks to enhance co-operation in cybercrime investigations between law enforcement agencies, international organisations, cybersecurity companies, and other actors. In addition, the Future Series: Cybercrime 2025 programme has been put in place to understand how new technologies will change the cybersecurity and cybercrime landscape and how to address related challenges. Another important WEF project is the High Volume Cybercrime initiative, which explores ways in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments can take action to reduce the harm from high volume cyber-attacks. Cybercrime also constitutes the focus

European Broadcasting Union

Acronym: CSTD

Address: Palais des Nations, Geneva

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

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established to advise the UN General Assembly on science and technology issues through analysis and appropriate policy recommendations. It is the centre of the UN for science, technology, and innovation for development.

Under the mandate given by ECOSOC, the CSTD leads the follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the information Society (WSIS) and advises ECOSOC accordingly, including through the elaboration of recommendations aimed at furthering the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is responsible for the substantive servicing of the CSTD.

Digital activities

The CSTD reviews progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels, and prepares draft resolutions for ECOSOC. These draft resolutions tackle issues ranging from access to the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the use of ICTs in mitigating climate change. At its annual sessions and intersessional panels, the CSTD also addresses themes such as science, technology, and innovation for sustainable cities and communities; ICTs for inclusive social and economic development; capacity development; Internet broadband for inclusive societies; and smart cities and infrastructure.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 
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 artificial intelligence (AI). At its 22nd session, the CSTD pointed out that AI and other frontier technologies offer significant opportunities to accelerate progress in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), while also posing new challenges (e.g. disrupting labour markets, exacerbating or creating new inequalities, and raising ethical questions). The CSTD is focusing its 2019-2020 intersessional work on digital frontier technologies, such as AI, big data, and robotics. For 2021, the CSTD has chosen another digital technology – blockchain for sustainable development – as a priority theme for its work.

  • Harnessing rapid technological change for inclusive and sustainable development (2020) (report for the 23rd CSTD session)
  • CSTD Dialogue which brings together leaders and experts to address the question: ‘What must be done to ensure that the potential offered by science, technology, and innovation (STI) towards achieving the SDGs is ultimately realised?’ This dialogue also aims to contribute to ‘rigorous thinking on the opportunities and challenges of STI in several crucial areas including gender equality, food security and poverty reduction.’
  • Articles on the webpage explore AI-related issues, such as the role of AI in health and a principled approach to AI (written by actors from different stakeholder groups).

 

Access 
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 co-ordinated 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 CSTDn 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 centre for science, technology, and innovation 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.

CSTD intersessional panel meeting – November 2019 (final report.)

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).

 

Interdisciplinary approaches 
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 a number of action items regarding the IGF was delivered in 2012. The CSTD was also entrusted with the mandate to initiate discussions about enhanced co-operation in Internet governance. It convened two working groups on enhanced co-operation (2013–2014 and 2016–2018); neither group managed to finalise recommendations on how to operationalise enhanced co-operation due to a lack of consensus among their members.

Digital tools

UNCTAD is in charge of servicing the CSTD. As such, digital tools used by the CSTD (e.g. platform for online meetings, social media for communications purposes) are also employed for CSTD-related purposes.

World Meteorological Organization

Acronym: WMO

Address: WMO Building, 7bis, Avenue de la Paix, CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://wmo.int

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.

WMO facilitates the free and unrestricted exchange of data and information, products and services in real- or near-real time on matters relating to safety and security of society, economic welfare and the protection of the environment. It contributes to policy formulation in these areas at national and international levels.

WMO is one of the facilitators of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action lines, in the area of e-environment.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Acronym: OHCHR

Address: Palais Wilson, Rue des Pâquis 52, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://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 actor page*. 

The UN Human Rights Office is headed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 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 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 United Nations 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 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 in order 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 which 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 and national human rights institutions have the ability to participate as observers in UNHRC sessions after receiving the necessary accreditation.

Digital Activities

Digital issues are increasingly gaining in prominence in the work of UN Human Rights, the UNHRC, the Special Procedures, the UPR, and the Treaty Bodies. The range of topics covered is constantly growing, encompassing for example: Privacy and data protection-related questions; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; racial discrimination; gender-related issues; the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of older persons; and the safety of journalists online.

A landmark document which provides a blueprint for digital human rights is the UNHRC resolution (A/HRC/32/L.20) on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, which was first adopted in 2016. A second resolution with the same name (A/HRC/38/L.10) was adopted in July 2018. Both 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, and economic, social, and cultural rights.

Digital policy issues

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 UN General Assembly and the UNHRC, the High Commissioner prepared two reports on the right to privacy in the digital age, which were presented to the General Assembly in December 2014 and to the UNHRC in September 2018.

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 including the latest version from 2019, which put a particular emphasis on the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on the enjoyment of the right to privacy. Resolutions on the safety of journalists have emphasised the importance of encryption and anonymity tools for journalists to freely exercise their work.

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 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).

The 2020 report (A/HRC/43/52) published by 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 recommends 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.’

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 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.

In response to the rise of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon, the High Commissioner has joined other organisations in urging stakeholders to ensure that any measures aimed to tackle this phenomenon do not lead to illegitimate restrictions of freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression in the digital space also features highly on the agenda of the UNHRC. It has often underlined that states have a responsibility to ensure an adequate protection of freedom of expression online, including when they adopt and implement measures aimed to deal with issues such 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 dissemination of information online, and has called upon states to refrain from and cease such measures.

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has been mandated by the UNHRC to also explore issues related to freedom of expression online.

In 2018, the Special Rapporteur published a thematic report on ‘online content regulation’ that tackles governments’ regulation of user-generated online content and that recommends states to ensure an enabling environment for online freedom of expression. The same year, he also presented to the General Assembly 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 UN General Assembly 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.

More recently, in 2020, the Special Rapporteur issued a report titled ‘Disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression’ 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 co-ordination 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.

Online hate speech and discrimination has also been addressed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief. For instance, in a document published in 2019, the online manifestation of antisemitism (including antisemtic 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 has also been addressed on a number of occasions, including in reports from 2018 and 2017.

Gender rights online 

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 information and communications technologies (ICTs), including the Internet, to promote the empowerment of all women and girls. It has also condemned gender-based violence committed on the Internet. In a 2016 resolution on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, the UNHRC requested the High Commissioner on Human Rights to prepare a report on ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective, in consultation with states and other stakeholders.

Rights of persons with disabilities 

The promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the online space has 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 more recent 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.

Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association 

The exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital environment in recent years have attracted increased attention. For example, 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.

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 and 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 ICCPR (right of peaceful assembly), which addresses manifold aspects arising in the digital context.

For her 2020 thematic report to the General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance examined how digital technologies deployed in the context of border enforcement and administration reproduce, reinforce, and compound racial discrimination.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is currently in the process of drafting its ‘General recommendation No. 36 on Preventing and Combating Racial Profiling: A call for contribution’, which among other things addresses forms of AI-based profiling.

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 realization of economic, social, and cultural rights. He identifies 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.

Child safety online 

The issue of child safety online has been in 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 of children, child prostitution and child pornography, mandated by the UNHRC to analyse the root causes of sale and sexual exploitation and promote measures to prevent it, also looks at issues related to child abuse such as 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 is currently drafting a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.

Content policy 

Geneva-based human rights organisations and mechanisms also address issues linked to the use of digital technologies in the context of terrorism and violent extremism.

For example, UN Human Rights, at the request of the UNHRC, prepared a compilation report in 2016, which explores, among other issues, aspects related to the preventing 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.

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 UN General Assembly on artificial intelligence technologies and implications for the information environment. Among other things, the document addresses the role of AI on 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.

Data governance 

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

UN Human Rights has 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 has also launched the UN Human Rights Business and Human Rights in Technology Project (B-Tech Project) that aims 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. In November 2019, a B-Tech scoping paper was published by the Office of the High Commissioner that outlines the scope and objectives of the project. In July 2020, UN Human Rights published a foundational paper on business model-related human rights risks.

Extreme poverty 

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.

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.  

UN Human Rights also participates in the UNESCO-led process to develop ethical standards for AI.

In addition, the OHCHR 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). The OHCHR co-leads their work on biometrics.

Digital tools

The UNHRC has developed an e-learning tool to assist government officials from least developed countries and Small Islands Developing States as per the mandate of the Trust Fund to develop competencies on the UNHRC and its mechanisms.

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Address: Villa Moynier, Rue de Lausanne 120B, CP 1063, 1211 Geneva 1, Switzerland

Website: https://geneva-academy.ch

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights – a joint centre of the Faculty of Law at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies – provides postgraduate education, conducts academic legal research and policy studies, and organises training courses and expert meetings. It concentrates on branches of international law that relate to armed conflict, protracted violence, and the protection of human rights.

Digital Activities

Digital issues – such as artificial intelligence (AI), new means and methods of warfare, and big data – raise a series of new challenges that can profoundly affect the respect for and protection afforded by international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL).

The Geneva Academy – via dedicated research and policy studies, publications, and events and expert meetings – addresses some of the legal aspects of these challenges and proposes ways to overcome them.

Via its three master’s programmes and training courses, it also trains tomorrow leaders and decision makers on the IHL and IHRL legal frameworks relevant to digital activities.

Its Geneva Human Rights Platform facilitates exchanges and discussions among various stakeholders – experts, practitioners, diplomats, and civil society – around digitalisation and human rights in order to provide policy advice on how to harness potential and mitigate danger in this rapidly changing field.

Digital policy issues

Human rights principles 

The Geneva Academy conducts research that examines the impact of new digital technologies on human rights. This research also assesses the extent to which existing international legal frameworks can continue to ensure the appropriate level of regulation, particularly in the face of ever-changing innovation.

In this context, the Geneva Academy co-operates with the University of Essex’s Human Rights Center in its Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project. This five-year project, initiated in 2016, maps and analyses the challenges and opportunities presented by the use of big data and associated technologies from a human rights perspective. In this framework, the Geneva Academy notably conducts research on the application of regulatory mechanisms and modes of governance in relation to data collection, retention, and processing. The Geneva Academy also provides links to the project to Geneva-based audiences and ensures targeted dissemination activities.

In addition, the Geneva Academy provided support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Voule for his work in preparing his thematic report on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age. This support notably included the organisation of a multistakeholder consultation in Nairobi and dialgoue with tech companies in Silicon Valley.

 The Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP), hosted by the Geneva Academy,  provides a neutral and dynamic forum of interaction for all stakeholders in the field of human rights to debate topical issues and challenges related to the functioning of the Geneva-based human rights system. Relying on academic research and findings, it works to enable various actors to be better connected, break silos, and hence, advance human rights.

 In this context, the GHRP facilitates exchanges and discussions on human rights and digitalisation with a view to move the focus of UN human rights mechanisms beyond the right to privacy or freedom of expression by exploring impact on all rights and formulate specific policy advice.

Emerging technologies 

New (military) technologies are set to revolutionise the ways wars are fought. Significant advances in the fields of cyberspace, AI, robotics, and space technology are at the forefront of contemporary geopolitical power struggles and are already bringing about major transformative shifts in military and humanitarian affairs. Undoubtedly, these developments will have far-reaching and not yet fully understood consequences for future humanitarian needs and the humanitarian and international legal framework at large.

Via a lecture series on disruptive military technologies, the Geneva Academy aims to promote legal and policy debate on new military technologies and to deepen the understanding of the different technological trends shaping the digital battlefield of the future.

Its past research also discussed where and when autonomous weapon systems (AWS), also called ‘killer robots’, may be used, and what the procedural legal requirements are in terms of the planning, conduct, and aftermath of AWS use.

Artificial intelligence 

 A recent research brief ‘Human Rights and the Governance of Artificial Intelligence’ addresses the opportunities and risk of AI for human rights, recalls that IHRL should occupy a central place in the governance of AI, and outlines two additional avenues to regulation: public procurement and standardisation.

Data governance 

The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law.

RULAC currently monitors 37 armed conflicts – which are regularly updated to include new developments – involving at least 52 states and many more armed non-state actors.

Digital Tools

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Geneva Academy shifted many of its activities online, including its events and teaching.

For the upcoming academic year (2020-2021), the Geneva Academy will resort to a hybrid teaching method with courses taught simultaneously in-class and online for its three master’s programmes.

In addition, its training and short courses courses will also be available online and in situ.

Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

  • Yes, amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Geneva Academy shifted many of its activities online, including its events and teaching. For the upcoming academic year (2020-2021), the Geneva Academy will resort to a hybrid teaching method with courses taught simultaneously in-class and online for its three master’s programmes. In addition, its training and short courses will also be available online and in situ.

University of Geneva

Acronym: UNIGE

Address: Rue De-Candolle 5, 1205 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://unige.ch/

Stakeholder group: Academia & think tanks

The University of Geneva (UNIGE) offers more than 280 types of degrees and more than 250 continuing education programmes covering an extremely wide variety of fields across exact sciences, medicine, and humanities.

Digital activities

The university has incorporated digital technology into its strategy and appointed a vice-rector in charge of defining and piloting digital initiatives in the fields of education, research, and services to society. Its digital strategy focuses on three dimensions of digital technology: digital technology for teaching and research, digital solutions for open and connected science and digital expertise in the service fo society.

It also provides courses focusing on digital law, and it has been very active in research related to applied physics and quantum cryptography.

More information on the university’s digital strategy can be found at the dedicated page.

Digital policy issues

Capacity development 

 In an attempt to develop digital skills of its community, the University of Geneva has put in place a series of measures to meet the needs of its students, researchers, administrative staff, and other community members. To this end, the university offers a series of courses on digital technologies and related issues, participates in a number of projects, and provides training and workshops on particular digital skills and tools. It is also developing and deploying its Open Science roadmap.

Moreover, the university created a Digital Law Center (DLC) at the Faculty of Law over the course of implementing its digital strategy. The DLC provides courses focused on the Internet and law. It also organises its annual Digital Law Summer School, where participants can discuss digital law and policy issues such as cybersecurity, privacy, freedom of expression, and intellectual property with leading experts from academia and international organisations. Every year since 2016, the university has organised the Geneva Digital Law Research Colloquium (which is run by the DLC in co-operation with other leading academic centers, including the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University). This event is a scientific workshop that gives an opportunity to selected next generation digital law and policy researchers to present and discuss various digital policy issues such as freedom of expression online, copyright, and the Internet of Things with senior high level experts.

Leveraging its multidisciplinary culture, the university has recently created a transversal Data Science Competence Center aiming at federating competencies from all faculties and enabling cross-fertilisation between various disciplines to develop advanced research and services.

The university has also developed a Digital Innovation Incubation Programme that supports residency periods for its members at swissnex San Francisco to enhance the links with the Bay Area.

The university has created a portal for online and blended learning with a set of resources to help tutors prepare their courses and classes. Some of the resources are intended for self-training, while others provide users with training/coaching opportunities with University of Geneva e-learning and blended learning experts.

Digital tools

The university maintains an IT Service Catalogue where students can access all digital tools the university provides, such as the UNIGE Mobile App, UNIGE Portal, UNIGE’s data storage system, and many others.

The University of Geneva also offers a number of online courses.

 Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

  • The university plans to extend its Zoom license, which was initially acquired for one semester, until the end of the 2020/2021 academic year. Some exams have taken place online.

Any reference to holding meetings outside HQ?

  • The university is using online platforms for e-conferences and plans to deploy them in order to provide alternatives to in-person meetings.

European Organization for Nuclear Research

Acronym: CERN

Address: Espl. des Particules 1, 1211 Meyrin, Switzerland

Website: https://home.cern/

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

CERN is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading laboratories for particle physics. At CERN, physicists and engineers probe the fundamental structure of the universe. To do this, they use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments – particle accelerators and detectors – to study the basic constituents of matter and the forces that shape the universe. Technologies developed at CERN go on to have a significant impact through their applications in wider society.

Digital activities

CERN has had an important role in the history of computing and networks. The World Wide Web (WWW) was invented at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists at universities and institutes around the world. Grid computing was also developed at CERN with partners and thanks to funding from the European Commission. The organisation also carries out activities in the areas of cybersecurity, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), data preservation, and quantum technology.

Digital policy issues

Cloud computing 

The scale and complexity of data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, is unprecedented. This data needs to be stored, easily retrieved, and analysed by physicists all over the world. This requires massive storage facilities, global networking, immense computing power, and funding. CERN did not initially have the computing or financial resources to crunch all of the data on site, so in 2002 it turned to grid computing to share the burden with computer centres around the world. The Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid (WLCG) builds on the ideas of grid technology initially proposed in 1999 by Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman. The WLCG relies on a distributed computing infrastructure, as data from the clashes of protons or heavy ions is distributed via the Internet for processing at data centres worldwide. This approach of using ‘virtual machines’ is based on the same paradigm as cloud computing. It is expected that further CERN developments in the field of data processing will continue to influence digital technologies.

Telecommunications infrastructure 

In the 1970s, CERN developed CERNET, a lab-wide network to access mainframe computers in its data centre. This pioneering network eventually led CERN to become an early European adopter of TCP/IP for use in connecting systems on site. In 1989, CERN opened its first external TCP/IP connections and by 1990, CERN had become the largest Internet site in Europe and was ready to host the first WWW server. Nowadays, in addition to the WLCG and its distributed computing infrastructure, CERN is also the host of the CERN Internet eXchange Point (CIXP), which optimises CERN’s Internet connectivity and is also open to interested Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Digital standards 

Ever since releasing the World Wide Web software under an open-source model in 1994, CERN has been a pioneer in the open-source field, supporting open-source hardware (with the CERN Open Hardware Licence), open access (with the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics – SCOAP3) and open data (with the CERN Open Data Portal). Several CERN technologies are being developed with open access in mind, such as  Indico, Invenio, Zenodo. Open-source software, such as CERNBox, CTA, EOS, FTS, GeantIV, ROOT , RUCIO, SWAN have been developed to handle, distribute and analyse the huge volumes of data generated by the LHC experiments and are also made available to the wider society.

Data governance 
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CERN manages vast amounts of data, and not only scientific data, but also data in more common formats such as webpages, images and videos, documents, and more. For instance, the CERN Data Centre processes on average one petabyte (one million gigabytes) of data per day. As such, the organisation notes that it faces the challenge of preserving its digital memory. It also points to the fact that many of the tools that are used to preserve data generated by the LHC and other scientific projects are also suitable for preserving other types of data and are made available to the wider society.

Artificial intelligence 

Through CERN openlab, CERN collaborates with leading ICT companies and research institutes. The R&D projects carried out through CERN openlab are currently addressing topics related to data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, compute provisioning and management, networks and communication, machine learning and data analytics, and quantum technologies. CERN researchers are using machine learning techniques as part of their efforts to ‘maximise the potential for discovery…and optimise resources usage’. Machine learning is used, for instance, to improve the performance of LHC experiments in areas such as particle detection and managing computing resources. Going one step further, at the intersection of AI and quantum computing, CERN openlab is exploring the feasibility of using quantum algorithms to track the particles produced by collisions in the LHC, and is working on developing quantum algorithms to help optimise how data is distributed for storage in the WLCG.

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Acronym: IHEID

Address: Maison de la paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2A CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://graduateinstitute.ch

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies is an institution of research and higher education at the postgraduate level dedicated to the study of world affairs, with a particular emphasis on the cross-cutting fields of international relations and development issues.

Through its core activities, the Institute aims to promote international co-operation and contribute to the progress of developing societies. More broadly, it endeavours to develop creative thinking on the major challenges of our time, foster global responsibility and advance respect for diversity.

By intensely engaging with international organisations, non-governmental organisations, governments and multinational companies, the Institute participates in global discussions and prepares future policymakers to lead tomorrow’s world.

Digital Activities

As part of its main strategy, the Institute seeks to develop digitally-driven innovation in teaching and research, as well as information technology (IT) services. At the same time, as a research institution focusing on global challenges and their impacts, digitalisation has become one of its fundamental and policy-oriented research areas.

Over the years, the Institute has developed a performing IT infrastructure with secured data storage space and digital platforms (e.g. Campus, Moodle, TurntIn, Zoom, MyHR, Salesforces, Converis, etc.) to provide seamless services as well as dematerialised/paperless processes (e.g. student applications, course registration, etc.) for students, staff, and professors.

Various publications address topics related to digitalisation and its impact, such as big data, robotics, crypto mining, terrorism and social media, data in international trade and trade law, Internet governance, digital health, microfinance and Fintech, smart cities, etc.

The Institute also organises workshops, seminars, film screenings, and other events that cover Internet-related issues, ranging from the digital divide and the governance and regulatory aspects of data to cybersecurity.

Digital policy issue

Capacity development 

The Institute provides a multidisciplinary perspective on international governance, including research and teaching on Internet governance, digital trade, and artificial intelligence (AI).

In terms of teaching, its Master, PhD, and executive education courses are increasingly focused on the effects of digitalisation on society and the economy, and more generally the global system. Some examples of courses are Internet Governance and Economics’, ‘Internet Governance: the Role of International Law, Cybersecurity and Virtual Insecurity’, ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work’, ‘Technology and Development’, and ‘Big Data Analysis’. Digital skills workshops are also organised for students to provide them with basic digital competence for their future professional or academic life (e.g. big data analysis, digital communication strategy, introduction to programming with Python, data analysis in various contexts, etc.)

In terms of research, a growing number of researchers and PhD candidates analyse the impact of digitalisation on international relations and development issues. A few examples of research topics are Internet and AI governance, digitalisation of trade, fintech, AI and humanitarian law, regulatory aspects of data, digital inclusion, and open government data. Some of the prominent research initiatives are listed under respective digital policy issues sections below.

The Institute also supports professors in developing pedagogical skills and in using digital tools. Workshops are offered to all faculty members at the end of the summer to prepare them for hybrid teaching and the use of new technological tools in the classroom.

Artificial intelligence 

The Institute hosts the new Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) directed by former Ambassador of India and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute Amandeep Gill. I-DAIR aims to create a platform to promote responsible and inclusive AI research and digital technology development for health. This platform is supported by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA).

The faculty also carries out a number of digital policy-related research projects, some of which focus on AI in particular. For example, the project titled ‘Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) and War Crimes: Who is to Bear Responsibility?’ aims to clarify whether and to what extent the requirements for ascribing criminal responsibility for the commission of an act – and in particular the key concepts of culpability theories – can be applied to the use of LAWS in combat operations. This analysis will serve to identify lacunae and inconsistencies in the current legal framework in the face of the advent of military robotics.

Sustainable development 

A number of projects carried out by the Institute’s members aim to address the relation between digital technologies and sustainable development. For instance, the ‘Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition’ (MERIAM) project uses computer models to test and scale up cost-effective means to improve the prediction and monitoring of undernutrition in difficult contexts.

The project ‘Governing health futures 2030: growing up in a digital world’, hosted at the Global Health Centre, explores how to ensure that digital development helps improve the health and well-being of all, and especially among children and young people. It focuses on examining integrative policies for digital health, AI, and universal health coverage to support the attainment of the third sustainable development goal.

Focusing on the Global South, the project ‘African Futures: Digital Labor and Blockchain Technology’ strengthens empirical knowledge on changing trends in employment in the region by way of a two-pronged approach to the increasingly interconnected global division of labor: i) App-based work mediated by online service platforms and ii) the use of blockchain technology in mining sites for ethical sourcing, traceability, and proof of origin.

Inclusive finance 

Projects carried out by the Institute’s members also address the role of digital technologies in enhancing financial inclusion. The project ‘Effects of Digital Economy on Banking and Finance’ studies digital innovations and how fintech extends financial services to firms and households and improves credit allocation using loan-account level data comparing the fintech and traditional banking.

Online education 

The Institute has developed digital tools (e.g. app for students, responsive website) and used digital services (e.g. social media, Facebook, Google ads, etc.) for many years in its student recruitment and communication campaigns. Digital tools are also part of the pedagogical methods to improve learning. Flipped classrooms, MOOCs, SPOCs, and podcasts, to name a few, are used by professors in master and PhD programmes, as well as in executive education.

Thanks to the above developments, the Institute was able to respond quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. In a week, the Institute moved to distance working and online teaching.

Digital tools

  • Digital collections that allow free access to historical documents, texts, and photographs on international relations from the 16th to 20th century;
  • Two free online courses (MOOC) on globalisation and global governance.
  • Podcasts showcasing professors and guests’ expertise (What Matters Today, In Conversation With, Parlons en).
  • Podcasts are also integrated into the curricula of several international history and interdisciplinary master courses to encourage students to use social network platforms to popularise their findings.

Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

  • Events, sessions, and seminars are held online (usually in Zoom), e.g. information sessions for admitted and prospective students are taking place online.