The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Acronym: UNHCR

Established: 1950

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.

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 researches key policy development issues and supports developing countries to effectively participate in international negotiating processes that are relevant to achieving 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 cooperation (SSC), financing for development, innovation and intellectual property, traditional knowledge, access to medicines, health, biodiversity, trade, investment agreements, international tax cooperation, human rights, gender, and the fourth industrial revolution.

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

The South Centre has observer status in several international organisations.

Digital activities

Innovation and development is one of the issue areas 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 fourth 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

Intellectual property rights

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.

In September 2020, the South Centre published a research paper on Data in Legal Limbo: Ownership, Sovereignty, or a Digital Public Goods Regime? and in 2022, a research paper on The Liability of Internet Service Providers for Copyright Infringement in Sri Lanka: A Comparative Analysis.

Additional research will be published on IP and digital-related topics in the coming year.

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 explores 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 highlights 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. Another analytical note published that same year tackles the impact of the digital economy on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and looks into the type of e-commerce rules that could best serve the interests of MSMEs.

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

In 2019, it addressed issues on the regulation of the digital economy in developing countries, namely, the future of work, market dynamics, and data and privacy protection.

The South Centre recently published a research paper on the WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions. This paper highlights the adverse impacts of the continuing moratorium on developing and least developed countries. Because of the moratorium, almost all developing and least developed countries are losing tariff revenues at a time when they are most needed. With no clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions and thereby on the scope of the moratorium, its continuation can lead to substantive tariff revenue losses for developing and least developed countries in the future.

The South Centre recently issued a statement on the landmark shift of the US Trade Representative’s decision to rein in the Big Tech digital trade agenda under the E-Commerce Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) negotiations.

The South Centre also monitors developments and participates in discussions in the field and across international organisations in Geneva, including the UNCTAD eTrade for All initiative.

In 2022, the South Centre organised/co-organised two sessions during UNCTAD eCommerce week: Data Regulation: Implications for the Digitization of the Economy and Development and Exploring a Global Framework for Data Governance. The South Centre Executive Director also participated in the eTrade for All Leadership Dialogue. See the Centre’s contribution here.

Taxation

The taxation of the digital economy is the single biggest issue in international taxation today. Countries around the world are trying to find solutions for taxing Big Tech companies that operate with very different business models owing to which they are able to escape taxation under outdated international tax rules meant for a brick-and-mortar economy. The key solution being negotiated is known as Amount A of Pillar One of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Two Pillar solution. The South Centre has been actively involved in Amount A negotiations, briefing its member states and submitting comments on every single set of Model Rules that have been put out for public comment, articulating the concerns and issues of developing countries. In 2022, we published the world’s first set of country-level revenue estimates on Amount A contrasted with the UN solution of Article 12B of the UN Model Tax Convention. The revenue estimates were published for the member states of the South Centre and the African Union, with whom the study was jointly conducted. We are coming up with a revised set of revenue estimates based on the latest version of Amount A for our member states and these will be released in late 2023. In October 2023, we published another Policy Brief titled Beyond the Two Pillar Proposals: A Simplified Approach for Taxing Multinationals, which offers an alternative policy solution different from those of the UN and the OECD.

We also published a Policy Brief in June 2023 titled Taxation of Digital Services: What hope for the African States? which argues that African countries need to improve digital connectivity to be able to collect more taxes under the OECD digital tax solution of Amount A. This is because the revenue sourcing rules of Amount A allocate profits using digital indicators such as viewing of advertisements, IP addresses, etc.

In the UN Tax Committee, we participated in the 26th Session in New York where we mobilised the developing country members through peer exchanges and briefings and also participated in the negotiations to promote the interests of our member states and other developing countries, inter alia, on the taxation of the digital economy. 

Ahead of the UN Tax Committee session, we published a study on the taxation of computer software. The study on computer software showed that 34 of the South Centre’s member states could have collected $1 billion in taxes in 2020 from computer software sales had there been the corresponding standards by the UN. The Brief helped mobilise developing country support and bring to a close a 20-year negotiation on the taxation of computer software.

We also published a Policy Brief titled Conceptualizing Remote Worker Permanent Establishment, which provided an innovative solution for taxing the emerging phenomenon of Work From Home/Work From Anywhere. 

The UNCTAD Intergovernmental Group of Experts on the Digital Economy invited the South Centre to present to UN member states the policy options for taxing the digital economy. Our presentation was so appreciated that the governments of Palestine and Cambodia immediately requested capacity building on the subject.

Given our expertise in the taxation of the digital economy, we co-organised in June 2023 a Group of Twenty (G20)-South Centre event on international taxation. This was on capacity building for Indian tax officials on the Two Pillar solution and the international tax standards being negotiated in the UN. This was also our first G20 event, and was widely praised and appreciated by the Indian participants. We mobilised international tax experts from across Asia, Africa, and Latin America to share their perspectives on these topics with Indian officials.

We partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to co-organise a Capacity Building Workshop on the taxation of the digital economy in May 2023. The two organisations shared the policy options available to Sri Lanka to tax the digital economy, which included a Digital Services Tax. The workshop was so impactful that within a few days the government introduced a digital services tax and in the record time of two months got it passed by Parliament. We remained engaged and provided technical briefs to the Sri Lankan Parliament, particularly the Finance Committees.

We were also invited to participate in the Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) General Assembly in Zambia where we provided capacity building on ATI member states on the taxation of the digital economy. After the workshop, the Finance Ministry of Zambia reached out to the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI) for detailed policy advice.

Multiple news channels and agencies regularly solicit the South Centre’s views on the concerns of the developing countries in international tax negotiations on the taxation of the digital economy.

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, 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)) 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 looks 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 provides 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 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 the 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 goes on to propose a strategic framework for responding to the fourth industrial revolution, which focuses on capacity building, technology incubations, scientific development, and policymaking.

Discussions towards the adoption of a Global Digital Compact (GDC) have been included as one of the proposals made by the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) in his report Our Common Agenda (A/75/982). The main objective of this proposal is “to protect the online space and strengthen its governance” based on “shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all”. The issue of digital governance is quite complex and includes the need to reaffirm the fundamental commitment to connecting the unconnected; avoiding fragmentation of the internet; providing people with options as to how their data is used; applying human rights online; and promoting the regulation of AI. 

The need to guarantee the implementation of human rights online requires that discussions leading towards the GDC are conducted with upmost transparency, public disclosure, and accountability. Likewise, the private IT sector must respect human rights, apply human rights due diligence and increased accountability, and allow broader oversight from the state and civil society. In some instances, public-private partnerships (PPPs) can be a useful tool to support an inclusive digital transformation, but public participation and oversight of PPPs, guided by strong principles of transparency and the protection and respect for human rights, are necessary to support the transfer of technology, skills, and knowledge needed to promote an inclusive digital transformation. The South Centre has actively engaged with other partners to strengthen multilateralism in this process and to limit the detrimental impacts of multistakeholderism in global governance.  

The South Centre combines expertise in global matters of governance in the discussion of the GDC with the objective of strengthening multilateralism through an intergovernmental process that protects the voices of developing and least-developed countries. We prepared a submission to the GDC on applying Human Rights Online. In addition, our forthcoming research paper considers the discussion on the GDC, the current fragmentation of digital governance from the perspective of developing countries, and the need to increase international cooperation directed towards digital transformation, while highlighting the need to address climate change, the protection of human rights, and inclusiveness as the most relevant issues for developing countries today. 

In light of the global health pandemic, the South Centre, as part of its publication series South Views, shared the perspectives of developing countries on digital health. its challenges and recommendations to overcome these, and harnessing digital technology for education in developing countries, A SouthViews on Access to Medical Equipment in a Pandemic Situation: Importance of Localized Supply Chains and 3D Printing was also published.

In 2020 and 2021, a SouthViews on Technology and Inequality: Can We Decolonise the Digital World?, on Digital Transformation: Prioritizing Data Localization, and An Introduction to the UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries were also published.

A Public Health Approach to Intellectual Property Rights is a virtual help desk on the use of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities for public health purposes.

The South Centre has general and specific emailing lists and is moving to institutionally become a paperless organisation.

Future of meetings

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

See meetings that the South Centre has organised at https://www.southcentre.int/category/events/the-south-centre-events and https://ipaccessmeds.southcentre.int/ event/ and https://taxinitiative.southcentre.int/event/

Social media channels

Facebook @South Centre

Instagram @southcentre_gva

LinkedIn @South Centre, Geneva

X @South_Centre

YouTube @SouthCentre GVA

International Organization for Standardization

Acronym: ISO

Established: 1947

Address: Chemin de Blandonnet 8, 1214 Vernier, Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.iso.org/iso/home.html

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, the world’s largest developer of international standards. It consists of a global network of 170 national standards bodies – our members. Each member represents ISO in its country. The organisation brings together global experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant International Standards. It is best known for its catalogue of almost 25,000
standards spanning a wide range of sectors, including technology, food, and healthcare.

Digital activities

A large number of the international standards and related documents developed by ISO are related to information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) that was created in 1983 to establish a universal reference model for communication protocols. The organisation is also active in the field of emerging technologies including blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and AI. The standards are developed by various technical committees dedicated to specific areas including information security, cybersecurity, privacy protection, AI, and intelligent transport systems.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

The joint technical committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for AI is known as ISO/IEC JTC1/SC 42 Artificial intelligence and is responsible for the development of standards in this area. To date, it has published 20 standards specifically pertaining to AI with 35 others in development. ISO/IEC 42001 is the flagship AI Management System Standard, which provides requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an AI management system within the context of an organisation. ISO/IEC TR 24028 provides an overview of trustworthiness in AI systems, detailing the associated threats and risks and addresses approaches on availability, resiliency, reliability, accuracy, safety, security, and privacy. The standards under development include those that cover concepts and terminology for AI (ISO/IEC 22989); bias in AI systems and AI-aided decision-making (ISO/IEC TR 24027); AI risk management (ISO/IEC 23894); a framework for AI systems using machine learning (ISO/IEC 23053); and the assessment of machine learning classification performance (ISO/IEC TS 4213). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Cloud computing

ISO and IEC also have a joint committee for standards related to cloud computing which currently has 27 published standards and a further 5 in development. Of those published, two standards of note include ISO/IEC 19086-1, which provides an overview, foundational concepts, and definitions for a cloud computing service level agreement framework, and ISO/IEC 22123-3, which specifies the cloud computing reference architecture.Standards under development include those on health informatics (ISO/TR 21332); the audit of cloud services (ISO/IEC 22123-2); and data flow, categories, and use (ISO/IEC 19944 series). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Internet of things

Recognising the ongoing developments in the field of IoT, ISO has a number of dedicated standards both published and in development, including those for intelligent transport systems (ISO 19079), future networks for IoT (ISO/IEC TR 29181 series), unique identification for IoT (ISO/IEC 29161), Internet of Media Things (ISO/IEC 23093-3), the trustworthiness of IoT (ISO/IEC 30149), and industrial IoT systems (ISO/IEC 30162). IoT security is addressed in standards such as ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002, which provide a common language for governance, risk, and compliance issues related to information security. In addition, there are 26 standards under development, some of which provide a methodology for the trustworthiness of an IoT system or service (ISO/IEC 30147); a trustworthiness framework (ISO/IEC 30149); the requirements of an IoT data exchange platform for various IoT services (ISO/IEC 30161); and a real-time IoT framework (ISO/IEC 30165). Up-to-date information on the ISO and IEC joint technical committee for IoT (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page

Telecommunication infrastructure

ISO’s standardisation work in the field of telecommunications infrastructure covers areas such as planning and installation of networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 14763-2), corporate telecommunication networks (e.g. ISO/IEC 17343), local and metropolitan area networks (e.g. ISO/IEC/IEEE 8802-A), private integrated telecommunications networks (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 14475), and wireless networks. Next-generation networks – packet-based public networks able to provide telecommunications services and use multiple quality-of-service-enabled transport technologies – are equally covered (e.g. ISO/IEC TR 26905). ISO also has standards for the so-called future networks, which are intended to provide futuristic capabilities and services beyond the limitations of current networks, including the internet. Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee that develops these standards (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details ) can be found on the committee page.

Blockchain

ISO has published 11 standards on blockchain and distributed ledger technologies: ISO/TR 23455 gives an overview of smart contracts in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies; ISO/TR 23244 tackles privacy and personally identifiable information protection; and ISO 22739 covers fundamental blockchain terminology respectively. ISO also has a further eight standards on blockchain in development. These include those related to:  security management of digital asset custodians (ISO/TR 23576); taxonomy and ontology (ISO/TS 23258); and guidelines for governance (ISO/TS 23635). Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details, etc.) can be found on the committee page.

Emerging technologies

ISO develops standards in the area of emerging technologies. 

Dozens of standards in the area of emerging technologies are those related to robotics. ISO has more than 40 different standards either published or in development that cover issues such as collaborative robots (e.g. ISO/TS 15066); safety requirements for industrial robots (e.g. ISO 10218 series); and personal care robots (e.g. ISO 13482). Autonomous or so-called intelligent transport systems (ITS) standards are developed by ISO’s ITS Technical Committee and include those for forward vehicle collision warning systems (ISO 15623) and secure connections between trusted devices (ISO/TS 21185). Standards are also being developed to address the use of virtual reality in learning, education, and training (e.g. ISO/IEC 23843).

Network security

ISO and IEC standards also address information security and network security . The ISO and IEC 27000 family of standards covers information security management systems and are used by organisations to secure information assets such as financial data, intellectual property, and employee information. For example,ISO/IEC 27031 and ISO/IEC 27035 are specifically designed to help organisations respond, diffuse, and recover effectively from cyberattacks. ISO/IEC 27701 is an extension of ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002 for privacy information management, and details requirements and guidance for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving a Privacy Information Management System (PIMS).Network security is also addressed by standards on technologies such as the IoT, smart community infrastructures, medical devices, localisation and tracking systems, and future networks. Up-to-date information on the joint ISO and IEC technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Encryption

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

Data governance

Big data is another area of ISO standardisation; around 80% of related standards are developed by the ISO/IEC AI committee. The terminology for big-data-related standards is outlined in ISO/IEC 20546, while ISO/IEC 20547-3 covers big data reference architecture. ISO/IEC TR 20547-2 provides examples of big data use cases with application domains and technical considerations and ISO/IEC TR 20547-5 details a roadmap of existing and future standards in this area. Up-to-date information on the technical committee (e.g. scope, programme of work, contact details) can be found on the committee page.

Digital identities

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

Privacy and data protection

Privacy and data protection in the context of ICTs is another area covered by ISO’s standardisation activities. One example is ISO/IEC 29101 which describes a privacy architecture framework. Others include those for privacy-enhancing protocols and services for identification cards (ISO/IEC 19286); privacy protection requirements pertaining to learning, education, and training systems employing information technologies (ISO/IEC 29187-1); privacy aspects in the context of intelligent transport systems (ISO/TR 12859); and security and privacy requirements for health informatics (ISO/TS 14441).

Digital tools

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

Future of meetings

Future ISO meetings can be found at ISO – meeting calendar

Social media channels

Facebook @isostandards

Instagram @isostandards

LinkedIn @isostandards

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International Trade Centre

Acronym: ITC

Established: 1964

Address: 54-56 rue de Montbrillant, Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.intracen.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

ITC  supports developing countries to achieve trade-led growth, fosters inclusive and sustainable economic development, and contributes to achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

ITC offers small businesses, policymakers, and business support organisations in developing countries an array of trade-related practical training and advisory services, and a wealth of business intelligence data. It helps micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) become more competitive and helps to create better regulatory environments for trade. ITC works to empower women, youth, and refugees through its programmes, projects, services, and data and helps drive digital connectivity and a global transition to green, sustainable trade.

Established in 1964, ITC is a multilateral agency with a joint mandate with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) through the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Digital activities

ITC activities in e-commerce and digital trade:

  • Focus on the digitalisation of trade and solving the constraints faced by MSMEs regarding the e-commerce of goods and services, at the enterprise, business ecosystem, and policy levels.
  • Develop small business digital capabilities and improves e-commerce accessibility in developing countries for sustainable and inclusive growth through its ecomConnect programme.
  • Support the development of a conducive policy and regulatory environment for e-commerce at the national, regional, and multilateral levels, including facilitating domestic policy reforms, informing policymakers on the needs of MSMEs in relation to e-commerce and digitalisation, and building capacity for e-commerce-related trade negotiations.
  • Support digital connectivity by improving telecommunications regulations and working with partners who provide access to technologies and services.
  • Improve business ecosystems by collaborating with market partners and equipping business service organisations (BSOs) with the capacity to support MSMEs in the digital economy.

ITC is one of the co-facilitators of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action lines in the area of e-business, as well as a partner agency in UNCTAD’s e-trade for all initiative.

Digital policy issues

E-commerce and trade

ITC provides capacity building for policymakers on current issues in the e-commerce policy debate through training, workshops, and publications contributing to a conducive policy environment for e-commerce and digital trade. ITC projects also support developing countries in reviewing and updating e-commerce-related regulations and building capacity for effective implementation of policy reforms.

ITC assists enterprises, in particular MSMEs, in acquiring the necessary skills and capabilities to trade on e-commerce channels. Through the ecomConnect programme, it is engaged in the sustainable development of small businesses online by facilitating shared learning, innovative solutions, collaboration, and partnerships.

ITC’s e-commerce tools help MSMEs assess the readiness of their business to engage in international e-commerce,   understand the options and costs of selling on e-commerce platforms, find available payment solutions, and track sales and site traffic across different e-commerce platforms in a single dashboard.

ITC’s digital entrepreneurship projects also support developing countries and MSMEs to build competitiveness in the rapidly growing global information technology and business process outsourcing markets.

Capacity development

ITC’s SME Trade Academy offers a series of online courses and access to educational material on an array of trade topics. It aims to assist SMEs, policymakers, and BSOs in building skills for trade development.

ITC also offers training for policymakers on building a conducive environment for e-commerce and engaging in negotiations on e-commerce and digital trade.

Digital tools

ITC addresses the challenge of a lack of reliable trade information on markets by offering market analysis tools and related market data sources. The Global Trade Helpdesk provides a one-stop shop for detailed information about imports, market dynamics, tariffs, regulatory requirements, potential buyers and more.

ITC market intelligence tools provide users with export and import statistics from more than 220 countries and territories and consist of the following: Trade Map, Market Access Map, Investment Map, Procurement Map, Export Potential Map, and Sustainability Map.

The ecomConnect community platform, managed by the ITC’s ecomConnect programme, links entrepreneurs, industry experts, and business support institutions in e-commerce to build up connections; acquire digital expertise through free online courses, e-commerce tools, and live webinars; and discuss the latest e-commerce news. The community brings together more than 5,000 active users from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

In addition, the ITC library offers a specialised information resource on international trade as well as its online catalogue, which is available to all users.

Social media channels

Facebook @InternationalTradeCentre

Instagram @internationaltradecentre

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University of Geneva

Acronym: UNIGE

Established: 1559

Address: Rue du Général-Dufour 24, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.unige.ch/international/index_en.html

Stakeholder group: Academia & think tanks

With more than 18,000 students of 150+ nationalities, UNIGE is the second-largest university in Switzerland. UNIGE offers 193 study programmes (102 Bachelor and Master programmes; 91 doctoral programmes) and 392 continuing education programmes. covering an extremely wide variety of fields: exact sciences, medicine, humanities, social sciences, law, etc.

Digital activities

UNIGE has incorporated digital technology into its strategy and appointed a vice-rector in charge of defining and piloting digital initiatives in the fields of education, research, and services to society. A Digital Transformation Office was also set up to identify and connect digital actors within the institution and federate digital activities and projects while encouraging the emergence of innovative projects.

The digital strategy in place considers digital technology both as a tool for teachers and researchers, and as a subject for teaching and research. It brings UNIGE to the fore in debates on digital technology at the local, national, and international level.

An Action Plan accompanies UNIGE’s digital strategy. It is regularly updated to report on progress and incorporate new digital initiatives or projects that have emerged within the university community. It is a guiding document indicating the activities and projects that the Rectorate particularly wishes to support.

Many more digital activities are carried out within the institution, while they are not included in the Action Plan. This is, for instance, the case of the activities carried out by the Division of Information and Communication Systems and Technologies (DiSTIC) along with many digital projects carried out by the academic community and central services. UNIGE is internationally recognized for its research in quantum cryptography, and is developing high-ranking research activities in the fields of digital humanities, autonomous vehicles, and digital law.

More information on the university’s digital strategy and action plan can be found at https://www.unige.ch/numerique/en.

Digital policy issues

Capacity development

In an attempt to develop digital literacy within its community, UNIGE has put in place a series of measures to meet the needs of its students, researchers, administrative staff, and other community members. To this end, the university offers a series of optional transversal courses open to all students and provides training and workshops on particular digital skills and tools for advanced students and researchers. It is also developing and deploying its Open Science roadmap, which includes training on research data management and Open Access publishing.

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

Together with ETH Zurich, UNIGE recently created a Lab for Science in Diplomacy (SiDLab). In this respect, it created two professorships in Computational Diplomacy, developed jointly by the Global Studies Institute (GSI) and the Department of Computer Science of the Faculty of Science. One is specialized in data science, particularly machine learning (ML), and the other focuses on data categorization in relation to complexity theories and global studies. With these two new positions, UNIGE aims to improve the understanding of global issues by developing a new theoretical framework for international relations, using new algorithms and mobilizing computing power to develop scenarios. Leveraging its multidisciplinary culture, UNIGE has recently created a transversal Data Science Competence Center (CCSD) aimed at federating competencies from all faculties and enabling cross-fertilization between various disciplines to develop advanced research and services. Since its creation, more than 600 researchers have joined the CCSD community and actively participate in its research and learning activities. To support the teaching community with digital transformation, UNIGE has created a portal for online and blended learning with a set of resources to help tutors prepare their courses and classes. Some of the resources are intended for self-training, while others provide users with training/coaching opportunities with UNIGE e-learning and blended learning experts.

When students are positioned as partners in university communities, they become active participants with valuable expertise to contribute to shaping the process of digital transformation. The Partnership Projects Program (P3) provides students, alongside academic and professional staff, with the opportunity to bring forward their ideas to improve the digital tools and services at the university. Students and staff are engaged on a project they designed, and they work together towards the shared goal of learning from their partners and improving the university with a solution meeting their needs. At the end of the project, the university may carry on with the implementation of the proposed solution, leading to a new digital service or tool for the community.

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

UNIGE also offers a number of MOOCs (massive open online courses) open to everyone. Subjects range from Human Rights to Chemical Biology, from Water Resources Management to Exoplanets, or from Investment Management to Global Health.

Future of meetings

UNIGE events are places where experts can meet and exchange ideas, where knowledge and information can be passed on to the university community and to society at large. They are living pillars of UNIGE’s research, teaching and public service missions. The organization of these events has been severely challenged by the COVID-19, but the use of digital tools has made it possible to keep these meeting and exchange places alive. It was also an opportunity to rethink the formats and ambitions of UNIGE events for the long term, as digital tools have the potential to facilitate access to knowledge, increase the influence of UNIGE events, and reduce the environmental impact of participants’ travels.

Many UNIGE events are now being organized in a virtual or hybrid format, such as the Dies Academicus and public and scientific conferences organized by the faculties. For instance, the series of public conferences, Parlons numérique organized each year by the Digital Transformation Office, has a hybrid format allowing remote participants to interact with the speakers. A dedicated website helps UNIGE community members willing to organize virtual or hybrid events.

Social media channels

Facebook @unigeneve

Instagram @unigeneve, @unigenumerique

LinkedIn @universite-de-geneve

Twitter @UNIGE_en, @unigenumerique

YouTube @Université de Genève

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Acronym: UNECE

Established: 1947

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

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

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

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

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

Digital activities

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

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

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

Digital policy issues

Digital standards

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

Internet of things and artificial intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Artificial intelligence for energy

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

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

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

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

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

    Automated driving

    Blockchain

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

    Critical infrastructure

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

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

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

    Under the 1958 Agreement (binding to 54 countries)

  • United Nations Human Rights Council

    Acronym: UNHRC

    Established: 2006

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

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

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

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

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

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

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

    Geneva Internet Platform

    Acronym: GIP

    Established: 2014

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

    Website: https://www.giplatform.org/

    Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

    The Geneva Internet Plaform (GIP) is a Swiss initiative operated by DiploFoundation that strives to engage digital actors, foster digital governance, and monitor digital policies.

    It aims to provide a neutral and inclusive space for digital policy debates, strengthen the participation of small and developing countries in Geneva-based digital policy processes, support activities of Geneva-based Internet governance (IG) and ICT institutions and initiatives, facilitate research for an evidence-based, multidisciplinary digital policy, bridge various policy silos, and provide tools and methods for in situ and online engagement that could be used by other policy spaces in International Geneva and worldwide. The GIP’s activities are implemented based on three pillars: a physical platform in Geneva, an online platform and observatory, and a dialogue lab.

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