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

United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

Acronym: UNIDIR

Established: 1980

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Website: https://www.unidir.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

Founded in 1980, UNIDIR is a voluntarily funded, autonomous institute within the United Nations. One of the few policy institutes worldwide focusing on disarmament, UNIDIR generates knowledge and promotes dialogue and action on disarmament and security. Based in Geneva, UNIDIR assists the international community to develop the practical, innovative ideas needed to find solutions to critical security problems.

Digital activities

The research areas of UNIDIR’s SecTec focus on cybersecurity, such as threats and vulnerabilities related to information and communications technologies (ICTs), and the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) applications in warfare. SecTec has supported the UN processes on ICTs Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and continues to support the OEWG on security of and in the use of ICTs (2021–2025). It focuses on research and awareness raising on this topic with a broad range of stakeholders and maps the cybersecurity policy landscape.

Digital policy issues

Cybersecurity

SecTec builds knowledge and raises awareness of the security implications of new and emerging technologies. Cyber stability is one area of focus for UNIDIR, the work of which supports the implementation of specific norms and recommendations previously agreed by member states. It also explores options to strengthen cyber stability and crisis management mechanisms. UNIDIR provides technical and expert advice to the chairpersons of the UN GGE and OEWG on norms, international law, confidence-building measures, capacity  building,  cooperation, and institutional dialogue. The annual Cyber Stability Conference brings various stakeholders together to promote a secure and stable cyberspace and in particular the role of the UN processes such as the OEWG on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies (2021–2025).

Launched in 2019, the Cyber Policy Portal is an interactive map of the global cyber policy landscape. It provides profiles of the cyber policies of all 193 UN member states, in addition to various intergovernmental organizations and multi-stakeholder instruments and other initiatives. This confidence-building tool supports informed participation by relevant stakeholders in all policy processes and promotes trust, transparency, and cooperation in cyberspace. The updated version of the portal was launched in May 2022, providing several new features, such as full text search, and is available in all UN official languages.

Accessible from the portal, the National Survey of Implementation of United Nations Recommendations of Responsible Use of ICTs by States in the Context of International Security collates national take-up of the recommendations from the 2015 GGE report, with a view to assisting assessment of their further development and implementation. The survey allows UN member states to conduct regular self-assessments of national implementation of the recommendations.

It can also support UN member states in responding to an invitation from the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to continue to inform the Secretary-General of their views and assessments on the issue of developments in the field of ICTs in the context of international security.

It supports transparency, information sharing, and confidence building by giving UN member states the possibility of making the results of the survey publicly available on their national profiles on UNIDIR’s Cyber Policy Portal.

The Cyber Policy Portal Database provides direct access to documents and references through the profiles of all 193 UN member states on the Cyber Policy Portal. The database allows searching across several categories, including state, type of document, topic, issuing body, and more.

Publication

Events

Artificial intelligence

AI and the weaponization of increasingly autonomous technologies is one of UNIDIR’s current research areas. It aims to raise awareness and build capacities of various stakeholders, including member states, technical communities, academia, and the private sector. Research on AI covers a broad range of topics from human decision-making, autonomous vehicles, and swarm technologies.

UNIDIR SecTec recently launched the Artificial Intelligence Policy Portal. This tool gathers available information at the national, regional, and international levels on policies, processes, and structures that are relevant to the development and use of AI for military or security purposes. The Portal has been developed to support transparency, information sharing, and confidence building in the field of AI

Publications

Events

Emerging technologies

UNIDIR’s research equally focuses on security dimensions of innovations in science and technology. In synergy with the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament and recent UNGA resolutions on the role of science and technology in the context of international security, UNIDIR proactively identifies and examines emerging and over-the-horizon innovations. It analyses potential implications for international security and facilitates dialogue among relevant stakeholders to encourage cross-sector cooperation.

Publications

Events

Digital tools

  • Directed Energy Weapons: The ‘new’ Option for Militaries
  • 2021 Innovations Dialogue: Deepfakes, Trust and International Security
  • Drones  and Counter-Drone Technology: An Escalating Dynamic
  • New Technological Opportunities to Bolster Treaty Compliance
  • 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.

    Social media channels

    Facebook @IGF – Internet Governance Forum

    Flickr @IGF

    Instagram @intgovforum

    LinkedIn @intgovforum

    X @intgovforum

    YouTube @Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

    International Telecommunication Union

    Acronym: ITU, UIT

    Established: 1865

    Address: Place des Nations, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

    Website: https://www.itu.int

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communications technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 member states and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, research institutes, and international organisations. Established nearly 160 years ago in 1865, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communications infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, intelligent transport systems, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based Earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, internet, cable television and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit www.itu.int.

    See also: Africa’s participation in the International Telecommunication Union

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    Digital activities

    Some of ITU’s key areas of action include radiocommunication services (such as satellite services, and fixed/mobile and broadcasting services), developing telecommunications networks (including future networks), standardisation of various areas and media related to telecommunications, and ensuring access to bridge the digital divide and addressing challenges in ICT accessibility. ITU’s work supports emerging technologies in fields such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Intelligent Transport Systems, disaster management, agriculture, smart sustainable cities, and the internet of things (IoT); access and digital inclusion; the accessibility of ICTs to persons with disabilities; digital health; ICTs and climate change; cybersecurity; gender equality; and child online protection, among others.  These and many more ICT topics are covered both within the framework of radiocommunication, standardisation, and development work, through various projects, initiatives, and studies carried out by the organisation.

    Digital policy issues

    Telecommunication infrastructure

    Information and communication infrastructure development is one of ITU’s priority areas. The organisation seeks to assist member states, sector members, associates, and academia in the implementation and development of broadband networks, wired (e.g. cable) and wireless technologies, international mobile telecommunications (IMT), satellite communications, the IoT, and smart grids, including next-generation networks, as well as in the provision of telecommunications networks in rural areas.

    ITU’s International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) have as an overall aim the facilitation of global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunication facilities. Through the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), ITU is involved in the global management of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, used for telecommunications services, in line with the Radio Regulations.

    The international standards developed by ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) enable the interconnection and interoperability of ICT networks, devices, and services worldwide. It has 11 technical standardisation committees called Study Groups (SGs), with mandates covering a wide range of digital technologies:

    The work on standards is complemented by short-term exploration/incubation ITU-T Focus Groups (FGs) whose deliverables guide the ITU-T SGs in new areas of standardisation work:

    Collaboration among various standards bodies is a high priority of ITU-T. Various platforms were established to support coordination and collaboration on various topics, for example:

    The Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) establishes an enabling environment and provides evidence-based policy-making through ICT indicators and regulatory and economic metrics, and implements a host of telecommunications/ICT projects.

    In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, ITU-D launched the Global Network Resiliency Platform (REG4COVID) to address the strain experienced by telecommunication networks, which are vital to the health and safety of people. The platform pools experiences and innovative policy and regulatory measures.

    Discussions involving the World Bank, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), and the World Economic Forum identified how to bring together communities to support ITU membership in their response to COVID-19. The Speedboat Initiative issued a COVID-19 Crisis Response:

    Digital Development Joint Action Plan and Call for Action to better leverage digital technologies and infrastructure in support of citizens, governments, and businesses during the pandemic.

    Connect2Recover provides country-specific support to reinforce digital infrastructures – using telework, e-commerce, remote learning, and telemedicine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support recovery and preparedness for potential future pandemics. ITU worked with the Government of Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on this initiative. ITU/WHO Focus Group on AI for Health worked on a standardised assessment framework for the evaluation of AI-based methods for health, diagnosis, triage, or treatment decisions and in early 2020 it created an Ad-hoc Group on Digital Technologies for COVID-19 Health Emergencies (AHG-DT4HE) to review the role of AI (and other digital technologies) in combatting COVID-19 throughout an epidemic’s life cycle; it also delivered guidance on digital technologies for COVID health emergency. The Group also developed AI guidance specifically for health on ethics, regulatory considerations, clinical evaluation, and data quality and continues work with ITU, WHO, and WIPO on the Global Initiative on AI for Health.

    The impact statement for the Telecommunications Development Bureau’s (BDT) thematic priority on Network and Digital Infrastructure is ‘Reliable connectivity to everyone’.

    ITU-D SG1 also focuses on various aspects related to telecommunications infrastructure, in particular, Question 1/1 on ‘Strategies and policies for the deployment of broadband in developing countries’;   Question   2/1 on ‘Strategies, policies, regulations, and methods of migration and adoption of digital broadcasting and implementation of new services’; Question 4/1 on ‘Economic aspects of national telecommunications/ICTs’; Question 5/1 on ‘Telecommunications/ICTs for rural and remote areas’; Question 6/1 on ‘Consumer information, protection and rights’; and Question 5/2 on ‘Adoption of telecommunications/ICTs and improving digital skills’.

    5G

    ITU plays a key role in managing the radio spectrum and developing international standards for 5G networks, devices, and services, within the framework of the so-called IMT-2020 activities. ITU-R SGs together with the mobile broadband industry and a wide range of stakeholders established the 5G standards.

    The activities include the organisation of intergovernmental and multistakeholder dialogues, and the development and implementation of standards and regulations to ensure that 5G networks are secure, interoperable, and operate without interference.

    ITU-T is playing a similar convening role for the technologies and architectures of non-radio elements of 5G systems. For example, ITU standards address 5G transport, with Passive Optical Network (PON), Carrier Ethernet, and Optical Transport Network (OTN), among the technologies standardised by ITU-T expected to support 5G systems. ITU  standards for 5G  networking address topics including network virtualisation, network orchestration and management, and fixed-mobile convergence. ITU standards also address ML for 5G and future networks, the environmental requirements of 5G, security and trust in 5G, and the assessment of 5G quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE).

    Satellite

    ITU-R manages the coordination, notification, and recording of frequency assignments for space systems, including their associated earth stations. Its main role is to process and publish data and carry out the examination of frequency assignment notices submitted by administrations towards their eventual recording in the Master International Frequency Register.

    ITU-R also develops and manages space-related assignment or allotment plans and provides mechanisms for the development of new satellite services by determining how to optimise the use of available and suitable orbital resources.

    Currently, the rapid pace of satellite innovation is driving an increase in the deployment of non-geostationary satellite systems (NGSO). With the availability of launch vehicles capable of supporting multiple satellite launches, mega-constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of spacecraft are becoming a popular solution for global telecommunications.

    To this end, during the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), ITU established regulatory procedures for the deployment of NGSO systems, including mega-constellations in low Earth orbit.

    Regarding climate change, satellite data today is an indispensable input for weather prediction models and forecast systems used to produce safety warnings and other information in support of public and private decision-making.

    ITU develops international standards contributing to the environmental sustainability of the ICT sector, as well as other industry sectors applying ICTs assembling technologies to increase efficiency and innovate their service offer. The latest ITU standards in this domain address sustainable power-feeding solutions for IMT-2020/5G networks, energy-efficient data centres capitalising on big data and AI, and smart energy management for telecom base stations.

    DiploFoundation

    Acronym: Diplo

    Established: 2002

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

    Website: https://www.diplomacy.edu

    Stakeholder group: Academia & think tanks

    DiploFoundation (Diplo) is a Swiss-Maltese non-governmental organisation that specialises in capacity development in the field of Internet governance and digital policy. Established in 2002, Diplo, among other things, works to improve the role of small and developing states in global diplomacy by:

    • training officials through online courses, workshops, and simulation exercises;
    • developing capacity on Internet governance, cybersecurity, data, artificial intelligence, and other emerging tech issues;
    • promoting and developing digital tools for inclusive and impactful governance and policy-making.

    Diplo’s main activities:

    Capacity Development

    Diplo’s capacity development support begins with individuals, but through the activities of these individuals, its impact reaches into the larger systems of which they and their organisations are a part. Diplo’s approach includes online training, policy research, policy immersion, and the development of communities of practice, combined in various ways as appropriate to each policy context. Diplo’s capacity development activities center around education, online training, courses, workshops, as well as online events, webinars, and research on topics such as AI, big data, science diplomacy, and cybersecurity.

    Events

    To address pressing issues in global governance, Diplo’s events bring together people from different perspectives, including diplomats, business professionals, academics, members and staff of international organisations, members of civil society, and members of the technical community. Diplo works to make its events more accessible through e-tools that support remote participation. These events often evolve into teaching activities, publications, or online interactions.

    Courses

    Diplo offers postgraduate-level academic courses and training workshops on a variety of diplomacy-related topics for diplomats, civil servants, staff of international organisations and NGOs, and students of international relations. Combining a highly developed learning methodology with a unique online learning platform, Diplo’s courses are flexible, personal, interactive, and community-building. Courses are delivered online, face-to-face, and in a blended format.

    Research

    Diplo’s efforts on capacity development also include research on a variety of digital topics such as AI, big data, science diplomacy, and cybersecurity. This research has been conducted in collaboration with a number of partners, including swissnex and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

    Artificial Intelligence

    In the area of AI, Diplo has established its AI Lab, a multifaceted initiative that includes research and analysis on AI policy, capacity development in the field of AI and related areas, reports from main events and discussions on AI, and analysis of the impact of AI on diplomacy.

    At IGF 2019 in Berlin, Diplo launched its humAInism project as a response to calls for regulation and oversight of AI technologies. The project aims to anchor AI in the core values of humanity by understanding how AI functions and what reasonable policy trade-offs need to be made. It looks under the AI bonnet to understand the technology and analyses the policy, legal, and ethics-related impacts of algorithms and other AI tools.

    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

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