Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development

Address: Place des Nations, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland

Website: https://www.broadbandcommission.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Broadband Commission was originally established in 2010 by the ITU and UNESCO as the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s call to boost the UN’s efforts to reach the millennium development goals.

In 2015, following the adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Broadband Commission was relaunched as the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, with the aim of showcasing and promoting information and communication technologies (ICTs) and broadband-based technologies for sustainable development by putting digital co-operation into action.

Led by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helù of Mexico, it is co-chaired by ITU’s Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. It comprises over 50 commissioners who represent a cross-cutting group of top CEOs and industry leaders, senior policymakers and government representatives, and experts from international agencies, academia, and organisations concerned with development.

Digital activities

The Broadband Commission focuses on closing the digital divide and promoting broadband development in developing countries and underserved communities, ensuring that all countries reap the benefits of digital technologies. The Broadband Commission’s efforts are detailed in the annual State of Broadband report, and take the form of thematic working groups and regular meetings and advocacy activities at the margins of flagship events such as WEF (Davos), GSMA MWC, IGF, HLPF, WSIS, and UNCTAD e-Commerce week.

In 2018, the Broadband Commission set seven objectives in its 2025 Targets initiative to help ‘connect the other half’ of the world’s population by expanding broadband infrastructure and access to the Internet.

Digital policy issues

Telecommunications infrastructure 

The Broadband Commission promotes the adoption of practices and policies that enable the deployment of broadband networks at the national level, especially among developing countries. It engages in advocacy activities aimed to demonstrate that broadband networks are basic infrastructure in modern societies and could accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. The Broadband Commission publishes an annual State of the Broadband Report, providing a global overview of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access.

The Broadband Commission also launched a number of the working groups focused on ICT connectivity, including the World Bank led: Working group on Broadband for all: a ’Digital Infrastructure Moonshot’ for Africa and the Working Group on 21st Century Financing Models for Sustainable Broadband Development in 2019. These initiatives aim to provide governments and policymakers with a set of policy recommendations to foster innovative financing and investment strategies to achieve the Broadband Commission’s targets for broadband connectivity and adoption​.

The ongoing global pandemic has put at the forefront the vital role that broadband networks and services play in making economies and societies work, In response to the effects of the pandemic, the Broadband Commission adopted the Agenda for Action: For Faster and Better Recovery to accelerate the world’s response. This initiative includes immediate and long-term efforts that governments, global industry, civil society, and international organisations can undertake to support the development and strengthening of digital networks that remain so integral to our economy and society. The three pillars of resilient connectivity, affordable access, and safe use of online services provide a framework for all commissioners to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and lay the foundation for a better and faster recovery.

Access 

When advocating for the rollout of broadband infrastructure and bridging the digital divide, the Broadband Commission underlines the increasing importance of Internet access and adoption as an enabler of sustainable growth and development. It is paying particular attention to aspects related to the deployment of infrastructure in developing countries, education and capacity development, and safety online (particularly for children and youth), as well as the digital gender divide and the empowerment of women in the digital space.

Sustainable development

The Broadband Commission advocates for actions to be taken by all relevant stakeholders with the aim to close the digital divide, which is seen as an important step towards the achievement of the SDGs. Its annual State of the Broadband Report looks at the progress made in implementing broadband networks in various countries around the world, which it regards as an essential element in addressing the digital divide.

The Broadband Commission also addresses the impact of digital technologies on specific issues covered by the SDGs. One example is the Working Group on Digital Health, whose final report outlined recommendations for improving human health and well-being by implementing universal digital health coverage. In 2019, the Working Group on Data, Digital, and AI in Health was launched with the aim of raising awareness of the transformative power of data and artificial intelligence (AI) in health systems worldwide.

The Broadband Commission has also been active in environmental and climate change issues; in particular, its activities (ranging from publications and events to advocacy actions) cover the link between climate change and ICTs.

Interdisciplinary approaches

The work of the Broadband Commission contributes to the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, which lays out how all stakeholders can play a role in advancing a safer and more equitable digital world. Through its range of working group initiatives and the advocacy of its commissioners, the Broadband Commission is an example of SDG 17: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.’

 

European Free Trade Association

Acronym: EFTA

Address: Rue de Varembé, 9-11 1211 Geneva 20 Switzerland

Website: https://www.efta.int

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation composed of four member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Established in 1960 by the Stockholm Convention, the EFTA aims to promote free trade and economic integration between its members. Since its founding,  relations with the European Economic Community (EEC) (later the European Community (EC)) and the European Union (EU) have been at the heart of the EFTA’s activities. In 1992, three of the EFTA member states (Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein) signed the Agreement on the European Economic Area with the EU, which now make up the so-called European Economic Area (EEA).

Since the early 1990s, the EFTA has been actively engaged in trade relations with third countries in and outside of Europe.

Digital Activities

The EFTA’s activities in the context of digital issues pertain to electronic communication such as exchange of information via telecommunications and Internet, audiovisual services, and information society, including free movement of information society services as well as data protection.

Digital policy issues

E-commerce and trade 

The EFTA’s Working Group on Electronic Communication, Audiovisual Services, and Information Society (ECASIS) deals with legal provisions pertaining to the digital single market.  As per the EEA agreement, EFTA member states (excluding Switzerland) participate in the EU’s internal market and as such have to apply EU rules on electronic communication and information society. Among other things, these rules include acts on radio spectrum management, roaming, privacy protection in electronic networks, and net neutrality. Initiatives regarding information society tackle legal frameworks on the free movement of information society services and apply to a wide range of economic activities that take place online. This includes rules on e-commerce, cross-border data flows, the re-use of public sector information, and cybersecurity, as well as electronic identification and signatures.

Future of work 

The EFTA also tackles the implications of digitalisation on the future of work. In a report and resolution titled ‘Digitalisation and its impact on jobs and skills’ published by the consultative committee of the EEA, it is highlighted that investments in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and new learning methods are important, including apprenticeships and workplace training. Moreover, it underlines the need to examine whether and to what extent workers’ private lives require additional protection in a time of ubiquitous digital mobile communication.

Privacy and data protection 

In the context of data protection, the EFTA’s Expert Group on Data Protection keeps track of EU initiatives in the domain of data protection that has become particularly relevant in the fast-changing digital environment. The Expert Group contributes to the development of EU policies and legislation in the field of data protection through the provision of advice to the European Commission, or by being involved in the work of the Commission’s committees, as per the EEA agreement. The EEA agreement covers EU legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the e-Privacy Directive, and Regulation 611/2013 on notifications of data breaches and is therefore applicable to the previously mentioned three EFTA states.

Digital tools

In addition to trade-related data that provides information (e.g. size of imports/exports/top traded goods) on EFTA member states, an interactive Free Trade Map illustrates EFTA’s preferential trade relations with partners worldwide. The organisation also provides a web tool containing visual presentations that explains how EU law becomes EEA law.

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, the EEA Joint Committee adopted a number of decisions and legal acts following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator

Acronym: GESDA

Address: Fondation Campus Biotech, Chemin des Mines 9, 1202 Geneva

Website: https://gesda.global/

Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

The Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) was established to explore how advances in science and technology can most efficiently be translated into and used as tools for the benefit of humanity as a whole. It wants to interlink the digital revolution with other disruptive fields of science and with the diplomatic world.

As part of its efforts on scouting emerging technologies, GESDA deals with three primary questions:

  1. Who are we? What does it mean to be human in the era of robots, gene editing, and augmented reality?
  2. How are we going to live together? How can technologies reduce inequality and foster inclusive development?
  3. How can we assure mankind’s well-being with the sustainable health of our planet Earth? How can we supply the world’s population with the necessary food and energy and regenerate our planet?

As far as methodology is concerned, GESDA aims to bring together people of different mindsets and communities to figure out how to use the future to build the present, and in particular the best of what is being explored in the world’s leading research laboratories. In order to achieve this, GESDA has started developing an overview of scientific trends at various time horizons (5, 10, and 25 years), which will provide the diplomatic community, the impact community (philanthropy, industry), and the citizen community worldwide with an outlook on the next possible science advances.

  1. GESDA will prepare these communities to understand the issues, opportunities, and concerns around upcoming disruptive sciences and technologies.
  2. GESDA will bring these communities to a decision point on specific actions and then help financially launch concerted actions through its Impact Fund.
  3. GESDA will convene the global scientific community  (one of the most interconnected around the world) in global discussions about future governance and geopolitics.

As of  November 2020, GESDA is developing its first thematic platforms in order to anticipate possible advances in four scientific frontier issues, as well as their related challenges:

  •  Quantum revolution and advanced artificial intelligence (AI), with for instance the challenge of privacy.
  • Augmented human, with for instance the challenge of advanced gene editing or neuroenhancement.
  • Eco-regeneration and geo-engineering, with for instance the challenges of synthetic biology, decarbonisation, and regenerative agriculture.
  • Science and diplomacy, with for instance the challenge of future world geopolitics, including multilateral conflict modelling, forecasting, and prevention.

 In 2021, the GESDA Board of Directors will choose and fund (in partnership with other foundations) a limited number of large-scale, high-impact initiatives aiming to :

  1. Help the world population benefit more rapidly from the advances of science and technology as stated by Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  2. Contribute to inclusive human development by reducing poverty and inequality while increasing the number of developing and emerging economies, in line with Agenda 2030; and
  3. Leverage the role of Geneva and Switzerland as a hub of multilateralism capable of anticipating cutting-edge science and technologies, as well as translating them into effective tools for humanity.

GESDA was created as a global foundation in 2019. The founders are the Swiss Federal Council and the Canton of Geneva with the City of Geneva. It became operational in January 2020 with the ultimate objective to strengthen the contribution of Switzerland to multilateralism as the host country of the UN in Geneva.

It emerged out of recommendations by a high-level working group made up of experts from International Geneva, inspired by the importance of leveraging the assets of this multinational and multidimensional ecosystem.

Digital Activities

All the science fields at the core of GESDA’s target activities include big data and high performance computing, as well as digital frameworks and infrastructure.

However, GESDA focuses on ‘science anticipation’ in general and not only on digitalisation. It wants to interlink the digital revolution with other disruptive fields of science in order to cope with and to promote the developing so-called ‘info-bio-nano-cogno-convergence”. GESDA’s headquarters is the Campus Biotech in Geneva.

Activities, reflections, and discussions regarding the GESDA’s thematics are supported by an online weekly review of articles and editorials from the world press, as well as online content (blogs, websites, and chat tools) and top science journals. This weekly digest has been sent out since Summer 2020 and is titled ‘GESDA’s BESTREADS’.

Digital policy issues

GESDA is working on ten interdisciplinary and interrelated scientific emerging topics. Five of these topics are more specifically related to digital policy issues.

 

 Overview of scientific emerging topics under investigation as of November2020

 

Artificial intelligence 

The third wave of AI is about integrating contextual information, common sense, and higher order reasoning into machine learning algorithms. Instead of learning from large data sets, these algorithms will understand and perceive the world on their own, and learn by understanding the world and reason with it. This is the next step toward truly intelligent machines and artificial general intelligence (AGI, i.e. the fourth wave of AI), defined as the level of machine intelligence to have the capacity to learn and understand any intellectual task better than a human. A recent survey conducted by the Future of Humanity Institute found that AGI will be achieved with a probability of 50% in 45 years and of 10% in 9 years. This will have implications ranging from our understanding of fundamental science questions (abstracting new laws of physics) to new applications in virtually all areas.

Quantum computing and communication 

While the first special purpose quantum devices to support research are already in the pipeline, a significant amount of science and engineering is needed to demonstrate a quantum advantage for real problems and develop the first fault-tolerant scalable quantum computers (10 years). Large-scale quantum computing could be available in 25 years with an impact, for example, on chemical catalysis (i.e. carbon, nitrogen fixation), quantum-inspired machine learning, and quantum-driven discoveries and modelling (i.e. compounds, materials). At the level of networked quantum communication systems, they will evolve from a quantum Internet, which allows unconditionally secure communication through device-independent quantum cryptography, to a large-scale quantum network for unconditionally secure computations. At this stage, traditional RSA cryptography protocols will be crackable, raising questions of security and privacy, as well as access control to quantum computation.

Cognitive engineering and memory 

Through deep-brain, temporal lobe, or cortical stimulation, but also non-invasive stimulation techniques, neuroscientists aim at restoring brain functions affected by common neuro-degenerative diseases. Combining the learnings from these interventions with advanced AI technologies, the mid- to long-term goal is to close the loop between brain activity and computers in order to augment the cognitive capacities of human beings. While the human brain is not always able to take the morally optimal decision (for example the ’trolley problem’, but also AI-assisted policing or an AI-augmented judiciary), the forthcoming augmentation – or even fusion – between computed and ‘brain’ intelligence will allow to ‘enhance’ human decision-making on moral and ethical issues, with the risk of brain hacking via computational systems.

Social augmentation 

Future technologies at the convergence of digital and neuro- sciences will have a strong impact on future societies and the position of human beings therein. Depending on choices made, those technologies could augment social interactions and work towards citizen empowerment. Social, socio-technical, cultural, network-based, and immaterial innovations will probably bring forth important breakthroughs and possibly deliver many future-emerging innovations and offer the possibility to evolve towards a human-centered digital world.

Values, behaviours, and futures literacy 

Coming societal disruptions will affect our values and behaviours. At the same time, social understanding of (disruptive) technology is essential, should they be deployed at scale for the common good. Futures literacy, or the set of skills that allows people to better understand and ‘use-the-future’ (anticipate), for instance in how AI works, becomes an essential component for this. There is also a need to explore the education and training components in future science and technologies in order to ensure beneficial and inclusive deployment as well as to inform citizens, users, and leaders.

 GESDA is also already accompanying two projects on the digital evolution:

The International Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) project in collaboration with Fondation Botnar located in Basel, which was launched in September 2019 at the Graduate Institute Geneva. I-DAIR explores how inclusive and responsible AI research and digital technology can help advance progress in the field of health and ultimately create a platform for global research collaborations on the matter. It aims to forge ahead recommendations on digital health issued by the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation and objectives set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in regard to universal health coverage.

The joint initiative of the University of Geneva and ETH Zurich to develop science in diplomacy; for example, digital diplomacy and online negotiation engineering.

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.

United Nations Institute for Training and Research

Acronym: UNITAR

Address: Av. de la Paix 7 bis, 1202 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://unitar.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) was created in 1963 to train and equip young diplomats from newly-independent UN Member States with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the diplomatic environment

Over the years, UNITAR has acquired unique expertise and experience in designing and delivering a variety of training activities. It has become a leading institute in the provision of customised and creative learning solutions to institutions and individuals from both the public and private sectors.

UNITAR provides training and capacity development activities to assist mainly developing countries, with special attention to least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing states (SIDS), and other groups and communities who are most vulnerable, including those in conflict situations.

In 2019, UNITAR delivered 671 individual activities, including training, learning, and knowledge-sharing events, benefiting 133 421 participants.  About 75% of participants who took part in learning events were from developing countries, including LDCs.

Digital activities

Of UNITAR’s activities, 59% are delivered face-to-face, while 38% are delivered via its e-learning platform.  Close to 80% of UNITAR’s face-to-face activities take place in field locations, and the remainder are conducted from UNITAR’s headquarters in Geneva and through its out-posted offices in New York City and Hiroshima.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 

As part of its Prosperity Division, UNITAR looks at artificial intelligence (AI) and a number of emerging technologies such as blockchain and augmented reality and considers their impact on individuals, societies, and inclusive and sustainable economic growth. One example is its Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development: Unlocking Women’s Entrepreneurship through Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Afghanistan and Iraq course.

Cybersecurity 

UNITAR  tackles cybersecurity issues through education and training activities, as well as events. Its training and education activities cover areas such as cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, cyber operations and human rights, digital diplomacy, and broader capacity building initiatives (e.g. e-workshops and ‘in-focus series’). Particular courses and workshops include Digital Diplomacy and Cybersecurity, Diplomacy 4.0, and In-Focus series on International Humanitarian Law and Cyberwarfare, as well as the Cybersecurity and Information Technology Series.

Privacy and data protection 

Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy, while privacy is a fundamental human right. UNITAR deals with legal mechanisms ensuring data protection and privacy in numerous courses and events. One example is the course on Introduction to Privacy and Data Protection Law (2020), where different legal mechanisms that protect privacy worldwide are analysed in-depth.

Intellectual property law and data governance 

UNITAR also covers copyrights, patents, and trademarks issues in courses such as the Introduction to International Intellectual Property Law, which considers the role of intellectual property in the modern economy, while examining the fundamentals of copyright protection and patent law in the international community.

Furthermore, UNITAR tackles issues related more broadly to data governance (e.g. official statistics, data governance, communities and partnerships, and the data value chain) through massive online open courses (MOOCs) such as the Introduction to data governance for monitoring the SDGs, which analyses effective data governance systems for monitoring progress in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and explores how to manage data-related partnerships, capabilities, and resources in the context of the SDGs.

Capacity development 

Most of UNITAR’s activities fall in the category of capacity development.

UNITAR offers online, face-to-face, and blended-format courses for both institutions and individuals. Since the launch of the four-year strategic framework (covering 2018-2021), its work is guided by strategic objectives organised around four of the five thematic pillars of the 2030 Agenda, namely Peace, People, Planet, and Prosperity. Some of these educational and training programmes cover Internet and digital policy-related areas, such as privacy and data protection, cybersecurity, and cybercrime, new emerging technologies (blockchain, AI, and augmented reality), and digital diplomacy.

UNITAR also offers a wide range of masters programmes and graduate certificates related to diplomacy, peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian interventions.

Furthermore, UNITAR organises special events such as the Geneva Lecture Series, which consist of open lectures that are held on a regular basis at the Palais des Nations in Geneva with the aim of raising awareness for specific global challenges and deepening and broadening the participation of citizens and civil society.

Digital tools

UNITAR offers its training and courses through its e-learning platform as well as a number of different online platforms that provide users with tools and resources in specific thematic areas.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, UNITAR has published a number of resources on online learning and online event management addressing how to make online events more inclusive, hor to turn face-to-face into online events, designing learning events and online facilitation cards.

Commission on Science and Technology for Development

Acronym: CSTD

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://unctad.org/topic/commission-on-science-and-technology-for-development

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established to advise the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on science and technology issues through analysis and appropriate policy recommendations. It is the focal point of the UN for science, technology, and innovation (STI) for development.
Under the mandate given by ECOSOC, the CSTD leads the follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and advises ECOSOC accordingly, including through the elaboration of recommendations aimed at furthering the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

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

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.

The South Centre

Address: Chem. de Balexert 7-9, 1219 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://southcentre.int

Established in 1995, the South Centre is an intergovernmental policy research think tank composed of and accountable to developing country member states. It conducts research on key policy development issues and supports developing countries to effectively participate in international negotiating processes that are relevant to the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The South Centre promotes the unity of the Global South in such processes while recognising the diversity of national interests and priorities.

The South Centre works on a wide range of issues relevant to countries in the Global South and the global community in general,  such as sustainable development, climate change, South-South co-operation, innovation and intellectual property,  access to medicines, health, trade, investment agreements, international tax co-operation, human rights, and gender.

Within the limits of its capacity and mandate, the South Centre also responds to requests for policy advice and for technical and other support from its members and other developing countries.

The South Centre has observer status in a number of international organisations.

Digital Activities

Innovation and development are one of the issue areas that the South Centre works on. As part of its efforts within this domain, it focuses on information technologies. Moreover, digital issues are also tackled in the domain of, inter alia, taxation and the digital economy, data governance, e-commerce, and the 4th industrial revolution.

The South Centre has produced deliverables/research outputs in the following areas: digital and financial inclusion, digital economy, digital taxation, digital industrialisation, and digital trade, among others.

Digital policy issues

Sustainable development 

The South Centre has delved into the interplay between digital technologies and development on several occasions through its research outputs. In 2006, it published an analytical note titled ‘Internet Governance for Development’. The document tackled the interplay between development and technology arguing that affordable access to the Internet allows for better education opportunities, greater access to information, improved private and public services, and stronger cultural diversity. More specifically, the document provided recommendations on issues such as openness (e.g. leaving the policy space open for developing countries), diversity (e.g. multilingualism), and security (e.g. funding of Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) in order to maximise the outcomes of discussions for developing countries at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)).

A year later, the South Centre published the research paper ‘Towards a Digital Agenda for Developing Countries’, in which it looked into the conditions, rights, and freedoms necessary for developing countries to benefit from digital and Internet resources. By bringing together several different strands of ongoing discussions and analyses at the national and international levels, it aims to provide a direction for further research and policy analysis by laying the groundwork and creating awareness of the relevance and scope of digital and Internet content for policymakers in developing countries.

In 2020, the South Centre has continued to research the impact of digital technologies in the context of development. Its research paper ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Developing Nations: Challenges and Roadmap’ tackles trends in emerging technologies such as big data, robotics, and Internet of things (IoT), and identifies challenges, namely, the lack of infrastructure, a trained and skilled workforce, scalability, and funding faced by developing countries. It then goes on to propose a strategic framework for responding to the 4th industrial revolution, which focuses on capacity building, technology incubations, scientific development, and policy-making.

In light of the ongoing global health pandemic, the South Centre as part of its publication series ‘SouthViews’, shared perspectives of developing countries on digital health. The article uses the example of the adoption of digital technologies in healthcare in Pakistan, and how the COVID-19 crisis advanced further the development of digital health.

E-commerce and trade 

The digital economy is another issue researched by the South Centre in the context of development. For instance, in 2017 it published an analytical note ‘The WTO’s Discussions on Electronic Commerce’, in which it explored the stance of developing countries (i.e. readiness in terms of infrastructure, upskilling, etc.) to engage in cross-border e-commerce. Among other things, it highlighted challenges such as low information technology (IT) adoption, and the lack of electricity supply that limit the uptake of e-commerce activities in Africa for instance. In another analytical note published that same year, it tackled the impact of the digital economy on ‘Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)’, and looked into the type of e-commerce rules that could best serve the interests of MSMEs.

More recently, it addressed issues pertaining to regulation of the digital economy in developing countries, namely, the future of work, market dynamics, and data and privacy protection.

The South Centre also provides analyses and organised many meetings in early 2020 to discuss issues such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) E-Commerce Moratorium and the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) plurilateral discussions on e-commerce.

In addition to publications, the South Centre organises events within this field such as a workshop on ‘E-commerce and Domestic Regulation’, a technical session on ‘South-South Digital Cooperation to Boost Trade Competitiveness’, and a high-level event on ‘South-South Digital Cooperation for Industrialization’.

The South Centre is also monitoring developments and participating in discussions in the field and across international organisations in Geneva, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) eTrade for All initiative.

Taxation 

A South Centre policy brief sheds light on some of the implications for developing countries concerning the new international taxation global governance structure and the ongoing corporate tax reform process under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project umbrella in the context of the digitalisation of the economy.  Policy responses undertaken are briefly summarised in a ‘SouthViews’ article and elaborated in detail in a research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI). The SCTI also submitted its comments on the OECD Secretariat’s Proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar One and on the session paper relating to tax consequences of the digitalised economy and– issues of relevance for developing countries to be discussed at the 20th Session of the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation on Tax Matters.

Intellectual property rights 

Intellectual property (IP) issues such as digital rights management and international legal frameworks for copyright in the digital age in the context of digital transformation have also been subject to South Centre research.

In June 2019, it published a policy brief on ‘Intellectual Property and Electronic Commerce: Proposals in the WTO and Policy Implications for Developing Countries’, in which it gave an overview of discussions within the WTO on IP and its potential implications for the digital economy.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was also tackled through the lens of IP. In an input on the draft issues paper on IP policy and AI submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the South Centre provides a number of recommendations which, among other things, underscore that particularities of AI and IP policy in developing countries and capacity building, including South-South dynamics that should be tackled in the final draft of the issues paper.

In September 2020, the South Centre also published a research paper entitled ‘Data in legal limbo: Ownership, sovereignty, or a digital public goods regime?’.

Digital Tools

A Public Health Approach to Intellectual Property Rights’: a virtual help desk on the use of Trade-related aspects of Intellectual property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities for public health purposes A Public Health Approach to Intellectual Property Rights’: a virtual help desk on the use of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities for public health purposes https://ipaccessmeds.southcentre.int/

South Centre Tax Initiative: https://taxinitiative.southcentre.int/

Social Media: Twitter: @South_Centre ; YouTube: SouthCentre GVA; Flickr: South Centre; LinkedIn

The South Centre has a general and specific e-mailing lists.

Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the South Centre has increasingly used Zoom and Microsoft Teams for online meetings and webinars.

The South Centre organised a webinar on ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic: Intellectual Property Management for Access to Diagnostics, Medicines and Vaccines’ and a series of webinars on COVID-19 and development, which are as follows:

  1. Energy for sustainable development in Africa in the post-COVID world – looking for the ‘New Normal’

Webinar 1: COVID-19 impact actions across Africa. First-hand information from policymakers and leading experts

  1. Energy for sustainable development in Africa in the post-COVID world – looking for the ‘New Normal’

Webinar 2: Sustainable Energy for Africa: transition through growth. How to boost output, improve access and reduce impact on the nature and society? Technologies, scenarios, strategies, sources of finance and business models.

  1. Tax Policy Options For Funding the Post-COVID Recovery in the Global South
  2. Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures

The South Centre also organised a webinar titled Reflexiones sobre la Judicialización de la Salud en America Latina’.