Ecma International

Address: Rhône Street 114, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.ecma-international.org/

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

Ecma International is an industry association that works on standardisation in information and communications technology (ICT) and consumer electronics. The association develops global standards and technical reports in order to facilitate and standardise the use of ICTs and consumer electronics. It also aims to encourage the correct use of standards by influencing the environment in which they are applied.

Its membership includes entities such as Alibaba, Facebook, Google, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, Konica Minolta, and Microsoft, as well as prominent universities and research institutes.

Digital Activities

Since its creation in 1961, Ecma has published numerous standards and technical reports covering areas such as data presentation and communication, data interchange and archiving, access systems and interconnection and multimedia, programming languages, and software engineering and interfaces. One of the oldest programming languages developed by Ecma is FORTRAN, which was approved in 1965. ECMAScript, with several billion implementations, is one of the most used standards worldwide.

Digital policy issues

Digital standards 

A large part of Ecma’s activity is dedicated to defining standards and technical reports for ICTs (hardware, software, communications, media storage, etc.). This work is carried out through technical committees and task groups focusing on issues such as information storage, multimedia coding and communications, programming languages, open XML formats, and product-related environmental attributes. The standards and technical reports developed in committees and groups are subject to an approval vote in the Ecma General Assembly. Once approved by the assembly, some standards are also submitted to other standardisation organisations (such as the International Organization for Standardization, the International Electrotechnical Commission, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) for their approval and publication through a liaison agreement that Ecma has with those organisations.

Telecommunication infrastructure 
Network security 
Sustainable development/Digital and environment 
Programming languages such as ECMAScript (JavaScript) and C# 

ECMA-262, ECMA-334, ECMA-335, ECMA-367, ECMA-372, ECMA-402, ECMA-404, ECMA-408, ECMA-414

Data-related standards 

Technical Committees (TC) and Task Groups (TG) covering issues such as access systems and information exchange between systems (TC51), product-related environmental attributes (TC38), office open XML formats (TC45), and ECMAScript modules for embedded systems (TC53).

Digital tools

In June 2020, Ecma’s General Assembly held a virtual meeting and approved two standards related to the ECMAScript language, accepted new members, and recognised Ecma contributors with the coveted Ecma recognition award. The meeting was held using videoconferencing and document-sharing tools.

For public communications purposes, Ecma uses its website, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Future of meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

  • In June 2020, Ecma’s 119th General Assembly was held as a virtual meeting and approved two standards related to the ECMAScript language, accepted new members, and recognized Ecma contributors with the coveted Ecma recognition award. The meeting was held using videoconferencing and document-sharing tools. Several technical committees are also scheduled to hold virtual meetings throughout the remainder of 2020.

Any reference to holding meetings outside HQ?

  • Ecma meetings are typically held outside of Ecma’s HQ at the invitation of a technical committee member who hosts the meeting at their own or another facility.

Any reference to deliberation or decision making online?

  • Economy and efficiency are factors in choosing the meeting place and the meeting mode. Digital or a combination of digital and face-to-face meetings are possible options. This is decided upon by the committee.

Geneva Science-Policy Interface

Acronym: GSPI

Address: Bd du Pont-d’Arve 28, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

Website: https://gspi.ch/

Stakeholder group: Academia & think tanks

The Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI) was launched in 2018 by the University of Geneva with the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The GSPI strengthens co-operation between the research community and Geneva-based international organisations and actors, with the objective of generating impactful policies and programmes to address complex global challenges.

The GSPI fulfils its mission by creating opportunities for and supporting the design and implementation of impactful collaborations between the science, policy, and implementation communities by brokering actionable scientific knowledge for decision-makers and by contributing to the advancement, professionalisation, and recognition of the science-policy field in Geneva and beyond.

Digital Activities
As part of its activities on the interplay between science, policy, and implementation actors, the GSPI also tackles digital issues. With data being a centrepiece of evidence-based policies, several of the GSPI’s activities touch on digitalisation and the use of digital tools in domains such as health, development, and the environment.

Digital policy issues

Emerging technologies 

 In regard to emerging technologies and digitisation, the GSPI is involved in a number of ways. From the policy discussion standpoint, the GSPI organised in 2019 together with the University of Geneva a discussion entitled ‘Digitisation: What role for International Geneva’. The discussion explored what experience and know-how could Geneva-based organisations share so as to empower and protect users in the context of the digital revolution.

Policy discussions on new technologies, namely, the use of drones as part of humanitarian action, were also organised by the GSPI in previous years. The conversation centred around the practical use of drones to deliver humanitarian aid and what can be done by stakeholders such as policymakers, the private sector, and NGOs to maximise the opportunities and reduce the risks of such technologies.

The GSPI also addresses the role of digital technology in the domain of healthcare. Together with the Geneva Health Forum, the GSPI has established a working group to discuss the digitisation of clinical guidelines for management of childhood illness in primary care in low and middle-income countries. In line with the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the principles of donor alignment for digital health, the working group will provide recommendations in November 2020 on how digitalisation can improve the management of childhood illness.

The GSPI is also looking into how computational simulations can be harnessed to develop policy. Among other things, the GSPI argues that technology can allow for robust and safe policy testing, and a better understanding of policy processes.

Data governance 

On the subject of data governance, the GSPI organised with a number of other partners a discussion at the 2019 WSIS Forum on aerial data produced by drones and satellites in the context of aid and development. The session explored the interplay between international organisations, NGOs, and scientists and how they can work together to help monitor refugee settlements, provide emergency response in case of natural disasters, and scale agriculture programmes.

Artificial intelligence 

The GSPI’s 2020 Impact Collaboration Programme focused on data-driven decision-making as its annual theme. Selected projects covering housing policies, marine biodiversity, energy transition, and chemical waste management not only include digital data as source material, but many of them make innovative use of digital tools (artificial intelligence, online platforms

Inter-Parliamentary Union

Acronym: IPU

Address: Chem. du Pommier 5, 1218 Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland

Website: https://ipu.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organisation of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organisation in the world, encouraging co-operation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 179 national member parliaments and 13 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced, and more diverse. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world. Twice a year, the IPU convenes over 1,500 parliamentary delegates and partners in a world assembly, bringing a parliamentary dimension to global governance, including the work of the UN and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Digital Activities 

The IPU’s digital activities mainly focus on the promotion of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in parliaments. To this end, it has established a Centre for Innovation in Parliament, which undertakes research on the impact of digital technologies on parliaments, publishes the landmark World e-Parliament Report, hosts the biannual World e-Parliament Conference and co-ordinates a network of parliamentary hubs on innovation in parliaments.

Digital policy issues

Capacity development 

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

The IPU also encourages parliaments to make use of ICTs as essential tools in their legislative activities. To this aim, the IPU launched the Centre for Innovation in Parliament in 2018 to provide a platform for parliaments to develop and share good practices in digital transformation strategies, as well as practical methods for capacity building. The IPU holds the World e-Parliament Conference, a biannual forum that addresses from both the policy and technical perspectives how ICTs can help improve representation, law-making, and oversight. It also publishes the annual World E-Parliament Report.

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

Sustainable development 

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

Privacy and data protection 

One of the IPU’s objectives is to promote and protect human rights. To this aim,its Committee on Democracy and Human Rights is involved in activities aimed to contribute to ensuring privacy in the digital era and the use of social media as effective tools to promote democracy. A 2015 resolution on ‘Democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms’ calls on parliaments to create adequate mechanisms for the protection of privacy in the online space, and to ensure that legislation in the field of surveillance, privacy, and data protection is based on democratic principles.

Freedom of expression 

The IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights works, among others, on promoting the protection of freedom of expression in the digital era and the use of social media as an effective tool to promote democracy. In 2015, the IPU adopted a Resolution on ‘Democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms’ encourages parliaments to remove all legal limitations on freedom of expression and the flow of information, and urges them to enable the protection of information in cyberspace, so as to safeguard the privacy and individual freedom of citizens.

Digital tools

 

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

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.

International Organization for Standardization

Acronym: ISO

Address: Chem. de Blandonnet 8, 1214 Vernier, Switzerland

Website: https://iso.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a non-governmental international organisation composed of 165 national standard-setting bodies that are either part of governmental institutions or mandated by their respective governments. Each national standard-setting body therefore represents a member state.

After receiving a request from a consumer group or an industry association, ISO convenes an expert group tasked with the creation of a particular standard through a consensus process.

ISO develops international standards across a wide range of industries, including technology, food, and healthcare, in order to ensure that products and services are safe, reliable, of good quality, and ultimately, facilitate international trade. As such, it acts between the public and the private sector.

To date, ISO has published more than 22 000 standards.

Digital Activities

A large number of the international standards and related documents developed by ISO are related to information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) that was created in 1983 and established a universal reference model for communication protocols. The organisation is also active in the field of emerging technologies including blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).

The standards are developed by various technical committees dedicated to specific areas including information security, cybersecurity, privacy protection, AI, and intelligent transport systems.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 

The joint technical committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for AI is known as ISO/IEC JTC1/SC 42 Artificial intelligence and is responsible for the development of standards in this area. To date, it has published one standard specifically pertaining to AI with 18 others in development.

ISO/IEC TR 24028 provides an overview of trustworthiness in AI systems, detailing the associated threats and risks associated and addresses approaches on availability, resiliency, reliability, accuracy, safety, security, and privacy.

The standards under development include those that cover: concepts and terminology for AI (ISO/IEC 22989); bias in AI systems and AI-aided decision-making (ISO/IEC TR 24027); AI risk management (ISO/IEC 23894); a framework for AI systems using machine learning (ISO/IEC 23053); and the assessment of machine learning classification performance (ISO/IEC TS 4213).

Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Cloud computing 

ISO and IEC also have a joint committee for standards related to cloud computing which currently has 19 published standards and a further 7 in development.

Of those published, two standards of note include ISO/IEC 19086-1, which provides an overview, foundational concepts, and definitions for a cloud computing service level agreement framework, and ISO/IEC 17789, which specifies the cloud computing reference architecture.

Standards under development include those on health informatics (ISO/TR 21332.2); the audit of cloud services (ISO/IEC 22123-2.2); and data flow, categories, and use (ISO/IEC 19944-1).

Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Internet of things 

Recognising the ongoing developments in the field of IoT, ISO has a number of dedicated standards both published and in development, including those for intelligent transport systems (ISO 19079), future networks for IoT (ISO/IEC TR 29181-9), unique identification for IoT (ISO/IEC 29161), Internet of Media Things (ISO/IEC 23093-3), trustworthiness of IoT (ISO/IEC 30149), and industrial IoT systems (ISO/IEC 30162).

 IoT security is addressed in standards such as ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002, which provide a common language for governance, risk, and compliance issues related to information security.

 In addition, there are seven standards under development, some of which provide a methodology for the trustworthiness of an IoT system or service (ISO/IEC 30147); a trustworthiness framework (ISO/IEC 30149); the requirements of an IoT data exchange platform for various IoT services (ISO/IEC 30161); and a real-time IoT framework (ISO/IEC 30165).

 Up-to-date information on the ISO and IEC joint technical committee for IoT (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Telecommunications infrastructure 

ISO’s standardisation work in the field of telecommunications infrastructure covers areas such as planning and installation of networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 14763-2 and ISO/IEC TR 14763-2-1), corporate telecommunication networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 17343), local and metropolitan area networks (e.g. ISO/IEC/IEEE 8802-A), private integrated telecommunications networks (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 14475), and wireless networks. Next generation networks – packet-based public networks able to provide telecommunications services and make use of multiple quality of service enabled transport technology – are equally covered (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 26905).

ISO also has standards for the so-called future networks, which are intended to provide futuristic capabilities and services beyond the limitations of current networks, including the Internet.

Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee that develops these standards (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Blockchain 

ISO has published three standards on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies: ISO/TR 23455 gives an overview of smart contracts in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies; ISO/TR 23244 tackles privacy and personally identifiable information protection; and ISO 22739 covers fundamental blockchain terminology respectively.

ISO also has a further ten standards on blockchain in development. These include those related to: security risks, threats and vulnerabilities (ISO/TR 23245.2); security management of digital asset custodians (ISO/TR 23576); taxonomy and ontology (ISO/TS 23258); legally-binding smart contracts (ISO/TS 23259); and guidelines for governance (ISO/TS 23635).

Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Emerging technologies 

ISO develops standards in the area of emerging technologies. Perhaps the largest number of standards in this area are those related to robotics. ISO has more than 40 different standards either published or in development that cover issues such as: collaborative robots (e.g. ISO/TS 15066); safety requirements for industrial robots (e.g. ISO 10218-2); and personal care robots (e.g. ISO 13482).

Autonomous or so-called intelligent transport systems (ITS) standards are developed by ISO’s ITS Technical Committee and include those for forward vehicle collision warning systems (ISO 15623) and secure connections between trusted devices (ISO/TS 21185).

Standards are also being developed to address the use of virtual reality in learning, education, and training (e.g. ISO/IEC 23843) and the display device interface for augmented reality (ISO/IEC 23763).

Network security 

Information security and network security is also addressed by ISO and IEC standards. The ISO and IEC 27000 family of standards covers information security management systems and are used by organisations to secure information assets such as financial data, intellectual property, and employee information.

For example, ISO/IEC 27031 and ISO/IEC 27035 are specifically designed to help organisations respond, diffuse, and recover effectively from cyberattacks. ISO/IEC 27701 is an extension to ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002 for privacy information management, and details requirements and guidance for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving a Privacy Information Management System (PIMS).

Network security is also addressed by standards on technologies such as the IoT, smart community infrastructures, medical devices, localisation and tracking systems, and future networks.

Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Encryption 

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

ISO also has standards that focus on identity-based ciphers, symmetric and asymmetric encryption, public key infrastructure, and many more related areas.

Data governance 

Big data is another area of ISO standardization, and around 80% of related standards are developed by the ISO/IEC AI committee. The terminology for big data-related standards is outlined in ISO/IEC 20546, while ISO/IEC 20547-3 covers big data reference architecture.

ISO/IEC TR 20547-2 provides examples of big data use cases with application domains and technical considerations and ISO/IEC TR 20547-5 details a roadmap of existing and future standards in this area. A further eight standards are in development and include those for big data security and privacy (ISO/IEC 27045), terminology used in big data within the scope of predictive analytics (ISO 3534-5), and data science life cycle (ISO/TR 23347).

Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Privacy and data protection 

Privacy and data protection in the context of ICTs is another area covered by ISO’s standardisation activities. One example is ISO/IEC 29101 which describes a privacy architecture framework.

Others include those for privacy-enhancing protocols and services for identification cards (ISO/IEC 19286); privacy protection requirements pertaining to learning, education, and training systems employing information technologies (ISO/IEC 29187-1); privacy aspects in the context of intelligent transport systems (ISO/TR 12859); and security and privacy requirements for health informatics (ISO/TS 14441).

Digital identities 

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

Digital tools

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

Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

Any reference to holding meetings outside HQ?

Any reference to deliberation or decision making online?

  • Yes, ISO governance groups are also meeting virtually.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Acronym: UNHCR

Address: Rue de Montbrillant 94, 1201 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://www.unhcr.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

Established in 1950 after the end of WWII, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a UN agency mandated to help and protect refugees, internally displaced and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

Whereas the majority of its activities take place in the field (given that 90% of its staff is based on the ground) and include, among other things, the provision of protection, shelter, emergency relief, and repatriation, it also works with national political, economic and social actors in order to ensure that refugee policies are enacted and laws are compliant with international frameworks. In addition, the organisation also takes on advocacy activities where it works with governments, non-government actors in order to promote practices and provide assistance to those in need.

As recognition for its work, in 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Digital activities

The UNHCR’s digital activities centre around its core objective – to aid refugees and displaced persons. The organisation, therefore, has been very active in the area of digital inclusion and digital identity. In this context, the UNHCR, for instance, looks for ways how digital identity can facilitate protection and empowerment of refugees and asylum-seekers. In addition, the Refugee agency has conducted substantial work in the field of privacy and data protection and transition to online learning to ensure the right to education.

Digital policy issues

Digital identities 

To promote the inclusion of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons and other vulnerable individuals, the UNHCR focuses a part of its work on digital identity. Within this scope, it published in 2018 its “UNHCR Strategy on Digital Identity and Inclusion”. In this document, the UNHCR defines the challenges faced by individuals, in particular, foreigners, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who lack their legal identity papers. It highlights the advantages brought about by digitalisation and defines three main objectives for achieving the digital inclusion and digital identity: 1) Empower refugees, stateless and forcibly displaced persons to access, among other things, the job market, education and financial services; 2) strengthen states’ capacity to register and document all individuals living on their respective territories and ensure conformity with international standards of data security and privacy; 3) improve service delivery (e.g. delivery of legal and protection) through the use of the Internet and mobile technologies.

From a practical point of view, the Refugee Agency uses Population Registration and Identity Management Ecosystem (PRIMES) which gathers UNHCR’s digital registration, identity management and case management tools into a single internally connected and interoperable ecosystem. The tool makes use of personal information including biographic and biometric data, to provide necessary assistance, protection and services to protection to refugees and other displaced populations.

Online education 

Online learning plays also features in UNHCR’s work. In a recent publication titled ‘Supporting Continued Access to Education during COVID-19’, the UNHCR underscored its vital role in advocating for and ensuring the inclusion of refugees in national response plans to ensure the continuity of learning. The document sheds light on some of the activities that it has undertaken in light of the health crisis, including, the launch of online learning platforms in Jordan as well as related education programmes in Uganda.

In the broader context of online education, in its ‘Education 2030: A Strategy for Refugee Inclusion’, the UNHCR highlights the increasingly important role played by digital technologies and proposes the strengthening of policies and practices to promote the development of digital and transferable skills through connected and blended learning

methods. Keeping within the broader approach, in 2016, the UNHCR, together with Arizona State University, initiated the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC). The objective of the initiative is to promote, coordinate and support the provision of quality higher education in contexts of conflict, crisis and displacement through Connected Learning that thanks to the use of information technology combine face-to-face and online learning.

To pursue its action in the domain of access to education, the Refugee Agency runs several platforms. To illustrate, its online platform ‘UNHCR Opportunities’ allows refugees, IDPs and other displaced persons to find accredited higher education academic or scholarship programmes that have been verified by UNHCR. The ‘Learn and Connect’ portal enables UNHCR staff and partners to access a comprehensive set of learning activities.

Sustainable development 

The UNHCR is firmly committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The interplay between digital and development is evident in the Agency’s contributions in the field of digital inclusion. To this end, the UNHCR has published the above-mentioned ‘Strategy on Digital Identity and Inclusion’.

The Agency has also developed Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation programme, to ensure that refugees and other displaced communities have access to digital technology and connectivity, and increasing their participation in Agency’s work. UNHCR’s Innovation Service leads the programme.

In 2018, the UNHCR launched the Global Compact for Refugees, a  framework for more equitable responsibility-sharing, noting that sustainable solutions to refugee situations cannot be realised without international cooperation. Therefore, it sets out four key objectives: to ease the pressures on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity. Moreover, the Agency developed a digital platform for the Global Compact on Refugees, which enables the sharing of experiences and knowledge on the implementation of the Global Compact for Refugees.

The UNHCR has also worked with students and young people to raise awareness on many challenges faced by refugees. For instance, the Agency has launched ‘The MUN Refugee Challenge’ to encourage students worldwide to debate on and shape solutions to numerous refugee crises.

Privacy and data protection 

The UNHCR has been very vocal in the area of data protection, emphasising that ‘Data protection is part and parcel of refugee protection’. Since 2015, the Refugee agency has its own Data protection policy. The Policy is accompanied by the ‘Guidance on the Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern to UNHCR’, published in 2018, with the aim of assisting the UNHCR personnel in the application and interpretation of the above Policy.

The Refugee agency has recently published a ‘Data Transformation Strategy 2020-2025’ aimed at strengthening its role as a leading authority on data and information related to forcibly displaced and stateless persons.