Inter-Parliamentary Union

Acronym: IPU

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

Website: https://ipu.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

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

Digital Activities 

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

Digital policy issues

Capacity development 

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

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

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

Sustainable development 

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

Privacy and data protection 

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

Freedom of expression 

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

Digital tools

 

World Intellectual Property Organization

Acronym: WIPO

Address: 34, chemin des Colombettes, CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland

Website: https://wipo.int

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a UN agency functioning as a global forum for intellectual property (IP) related services (patents, copyright, trademarks, and designs), policy, information, and co-operation. The organisation was established in 1967 and it currently has 188 member states, in addition to over 200 observers representing non-governmental organisations and intergovernmental organisations.

WIPO’s activities are focused on: Contributing to the development of a balanced and effective international IP system; providing global services to protect IP at a global level and to resolve disputes; sharing of knowledge and information on IP-related issues; and encouraging co-operation and offering capacity building programmes ​aimed to enable countries to use IP for economic, social, and cultural development.

Digital Activities

WIPO provides domain name dispute resolution services, through its Arbitration and Mediation Center. In this regard, the organisation has developed (in collaboration with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)) the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) – the main domain name dispute resolution mechanism for conflicts on the right to register and use domain names under certain generic top level domains (gTLDs). The Center also administers disputes under a number of specific policies adopted by individual gTLD registries and provides domain name dispute resolution services for over 70 country code top level domains (ccTLDs).

The organisation administers the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty (known as the ‘Internet Treaties’), which contain international norms aimed at preventing unauthorised access to and use of creative works on the Internet or other digital networks. It also carries out research and provides recommendations on issues related to the protection of intellectual property rights in the digital environment (especially with regards to copyright and trademarks).

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 

WIPO is paying particular attention to the interplay between artificial intelligence (AI) and IP. In December 2019, it published a draft issue paper on AI and IP, which was later revised based on public comments and re-published in May 2020. The paper explores the (potential) impact of AI on IP policies in areas such as copyright and related rights, patents, trademarks, designs, and overall IP administration. Building on this exploratory work, WIPO is leading a Conversation on IP and AI, bringing together governments and other stakeholders, to discuss the impact of AI on IP. WIPO is also working on an AI and IP strategy clearing house, through which it is collating government instruments (strategies, regulations, etc.) that are relevant to AI and IP. The organisation is additionally developing and deploying AI solutions in the context of various activities; relevant examples are the WIPO Translate and WIPO Brand Image Search, which use AI for automated translation and image recognition.

Alternative dispute resolution 

WIPO’s activities in regard to the Domain Name System revolve around the protection of trademarks and related rights in the context of domain names. It has developed, together with ICANN, the UDRP. Under this policy, WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre provides dispute resolution services for second level domain name registrations under gTLDs to which the UDPR applies. The Arbitration and Mediation Centre also administers disputes under specific policies adopted by some gTLD registries (e.g. .aero, .asia, .travel). In addition, the Centre offers domain name dispute resolution services for over 70 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). WIPO has developed a ccTLD Program, with the aim to provide advice to many ccTLD registries on the establishment of dispute resolution procedures. WIPO also contributes to the work carried out within the framework of ICANN in regard to the strengthening of existing trademark rights protection mechanisms or the development of new such mechanisms.

Intellectual property rights 

Trademarks: WIPO has long been involved in issues related to the protection of trademarks in the context of the Domain Name System. The first phase of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, carried out in 1991, explored trademark abuse in second-level domain names, and led to the adoption, by ICANN, of the UDRP. WIPO has also contributed to the development of several trademark rights protection mechanisms applicable to generic top-level domains  (such as legal rights objections, the Trademark Clearinghouse, and the uniform rapid suspension system). The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre administers trademark-related dispute resolution cases for several gTLDs and ccTLDs.

Copyright: WIPO is actively contributing to international discussions on the protection of copyright in the digital environment. The organisation administers the ‘Internet Treaties’, which contain international norms aimed at preventing unauthorised access to and use of creative works on the Internet or other digital networks. Among others, the treaties clarify that existing IP rights apply on the Internet, but also introduce new ‘online rights’. WIPO also carries out research and organises seminars and other meetings on aspects concerning challenges and possible solutions for the protection of copyright and related rights in the digital era.

Liability of intermediaries 

Given WIPO’s concerns with regard to the protection of copyright and related rights on the Internet, the organisation is exploring issues related to the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries when it comes to online copyright infringements. The organisation carries out or commissions research and publishes studies on the relationship between copyright and Internet intermediaries (such as comparative analysis of national approaches of the liability of Internet intermediaries), and organises events (seminars, workshops, sessions at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum and Internet Governance Forum meetings, etc.) aimed at facilitating multistakeholder discussions on the potential liability of Internet intermediaries in relation to copyright infringements.

Sustainable development 

WIPO is of the view that IP is a critical incentive for innovation and creativity, and, as such, a key to the success of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The organisation works to enable member states to use the IP system to drive the innovation, competitiveness, and creativity needed to achieve the SDGs. It does so, for instance, through supporting countries in their efforts to build an innovative IP ecosystem, providing legislative advice on updating national IP laws, and supporting judiciary systems in keeping up with technological innovation. WIPO’s contribution to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 is guided by its Development Agenda.

Climate change 

WIPO’s Global Challenges programme brings together various stakeholders to explore issues related to green technologies and the environment. For instance, it hosts WIPO Green, a multistakeholder platform aimed to promote innovation and diffusion of green technologies, and it provides analysis of relevant IP issues to facilitate international policy dialogue.

Digital tools

WIPO is using multiple digital tools in relation to its services. Below are some examples:

  • WIPO Match – platform that matches seekers of specific IP-related development needs with potential providers offering resources
  • WIPO Proof – a service that provides a date- and time-stamped digital fingerprint of any file
  • Madrid e-services – online tools and resources
  • Electronic Forum – enables the electronic distribution and submission by email of comments concerning preliminary draft working documents and draft reports.
  • WIPO Academy, which also includes an eLearning Centre
  • Platforms for online meetings (not so clear which platform(s) WIPO is using)

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Acronym: OHCHR

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

Website: https://ohchr.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other related UN human rights entities, namely the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Special Procedures, and the Treaty Bodies are considered together under this actor page*. 

The UN Human Rights Office is headed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is the principal UN entity on human rights. Also known as UN Human Rights, it is part of the UN Secretariat. UN Human Rights has been mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote and protect all human rights. As such, it plays a crucial role in supporting the three fundamental pillars of the UN: peace and security, human rights, and development. UN Human Rights provides technical expertise and capacity development in regard to the implementation of human rights, and in this capacity assists governments in fulfilling their obligations.

UN Human Rights is associated with a number of other UN human rights entities. To illustrate, it serves as the secretariat for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the Treaty Bodies. The UNHRC is a body of the UN that aims to promote the respect of human rights worldwide. It discusses thematic issues and in addition to its ordinary session, it has the ability to hold special sessions on serious human rights violations and emergencies. The ten Treaty Bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

The UNHRC established the Special Procedures, which are made up of UN Special Rapporteurs (i.e. independent experts or working groups) working on a variety of human rights thematic issues and country situations in order to assist the efforts of the UNHRC through regular reporting and advice. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR), under the auspices of the UNHRC, is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN member states, providing the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries.  UN Human Rights also serves as the secretariat to the UPR process.

Certain non-governmental organisations and national human rights institutions have the ability to participate as observers in UNHRC sessions after receiving the necessary accreditation.

Digital Activities

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

A landmark document which provides a blueprint for digital human rights is the UNHRC resolution (A/HRC/32/L.20) on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet, which was first adopted in 2016. A second resolution with the same name (A/HRC/38/L.10) was adopted in July 2018. Both resolutions affirm that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. Numerous other resolutions and reports from UN human rights entities and experts considered in this overview tackle an ever-growing range of other digital issues including the right to privacy in the digital age, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, the rights of older persons, racial discrimination, the rights of women and girls, human rights in the context of violent extremism online, and economic, social, and cultural rights.

Digital policy issues

Privacy and data protection 

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age, such as surveillance, communications interception, and the increased use of data-intensive technologies, are among some of the issues covered by the activities of UN Human Rights. At the request of the UN General Assembly and the UNHRC, the High Commissioner prepared two reports on the right to privacy in the digital age, which were presented to the General Assembly in December 2014 and to the UNHRC in September 2018.

The UNHRC also tackles online privacy and data protection. Resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights on the Internet have underlined the need to address security concerns on the Internet in accordance with international human rights obligations to ensure the protection of all human rights online, including the right to privacy. The UNHRC has also adopted specific resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age including the latest version from 2019, which put a particular emphasis on the impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) on the enjoyment of the right to privacy. Resolutions on the safety of journalists have emphasised the importance of encryption and anonymity tools for journalists to freely exercise their work.

The UNHRC has also mandated the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to address the issue of online privacy in its resolution on the right to privacy in the digital age from 2015 (A/HRC/RES/28/16). To illustrate, the Special Rapporteur has addressed the question of privacy from the stance of surveillance in the digital age (A/HRC/34/60), which becomes particularly challenging in the context of cross-border data flows.

More recently, specific attention has been given to privacy of health data that is being produced more and more in the day and age of digitalisation and that requires the ‘highest legal and ethical standards’ (A/HRC/40/63).

The 2020 report (A/HRC/43/52) published by the Special Rapporteur provides a set of recommendations on privacy in the online space calling for, among other things,  ‘comprehensive protection for secure digital communications, including by promoting strong encryption and anonymity-enhancing tools, products, and services, and resisting requests for “backdoors” to digital communications’ and recommends that ‘government digital identity programs are not used to monitor and enforce societal gender norms, or for purposes that are not lawful, necessary, and proportionate in a democratic society.’

Freedom of expression 

The High Commissioner and her office advocate for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, including in the online space. Key topics in this advocacy are: The protection of the civic space and the safety of journalists online; various forms information control, including internet shutdowns and censorship; addressing incitement to violence, discrimination, or hostility; disinformation; and the role of social media platforms in the space of online expression.

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

Freedom of expression in the digital space also features highly on the agenda of the UNHRC. It has often underlined that states have a responsibility to ensure an adequate protection of freedom of expression online, including when they adopt and implement measures aimed to deal with issues such cybersecurity, incitement to violence, and the promotion and distribution of extremist content online. The UNHRC has also been firm in condemning measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online, and has called upon states to refrain from and cease such measures.

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

In 2018, the Special Rapporteur published a thematic report on ‘online content regulation’ that tackles governments’ regulation of user-generated online content and that recommends states to ensure an enabling environment for online freedom of expression. The same year, he also presented to the General Assembly a report addressing freedom of expression issues linked to the use of AI by companies and states. A year later, the Special Rapporteur presented a report to the UN General Assembly on online hate speech that discusses the regulation of hate speech in international human rights law and how it provides a basis for governmental actors considering regulatory options and for companies determining how to respect human rights online.

More recently, in 2020, the Special Rapporteur issued a report titled ‘Disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression’ that specifically tackles issues such as access to the Internet, which is highlighted to be ‘a critical element of healthcare policy and practice, public information, and even the right to life.’ The report calls for greater international co-ordination on digital connectivity given the importance of digital access to healthcare information. Other reports addressed the vital importance of encryption and anonymity for the exercise of freedom of opinion and the threats to freedom of expression emanating from widespread digital surveillance.

Online hate speech and discrimination has also been addressed by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief. For instance, in a document published in 2019, the online manifestation of antisemitism (including antisemtic hate speech) was underscored and best practices from the Netherlands and Poland were shared. The report highlights that governments ‘have an affirmative responsibility to address online antisemitism, as the digital sphere is now the primary public forum and marketplace for ideas.’ In another document published that same year, the Special Rapporteur assesses the impact of online platforms on discrimination and on the perpetuation of hostile and violent acts in the name of religion, as well as how restrictive measures such as blocking and filtering of websites negatively impact the freedom of expression.

The issue of online blasphemy has also been addressed on a number of occasions, including in reports from 2018 and 2017.

Gender rights online 

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

Rights of persons with disabilities 

The promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the online space has been addressed on several occasions by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities. A report from 2016 underscored that ICTs including the Internet can increase the participation of persons with disabilities in public decision-making processes and that states should work towards reducing the access gap between those who can use ICTs and those who cannot.

Nevertheless, a more recent report from 2019 stressed that the shift to e-governance and service delivery in a digital manner can hamper access for older persons with disabilities who may lack the necessary skills or equipment.

Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association 

The exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital environment in recent years have attracted increased attention. For example, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in 2019 published a report for the UNHRC focusing on the opportunities and challenges facing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age.

The High Commissioner presented to the 44th session of the UNHRC a report on new technologies such as ICTs and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests. The report highlighted many of the great opportunities for the exercise of human rights that digital technologies offer and analysed key issues linked to online content takedowns and called on states to stop the practice of network disruptions in the context of protests. It also developed guidance concerning the use of surveillance tools, in particular facial recognition technology.

The Human Rights Committee published in July 2020 its General Comment No. 37 on Article 21 of the ICCPR (right of peaceful assembly), which addresses manifold aspects arising in the digital context.

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

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

Economic, social and cultural rights 

In March 2020, the UN Secretary-General presented to the UNHRC a report on the role of new technologies for the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights. He identifies the opportunities and challenges held by new technologies for the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights and other related human rights, and for the human rights-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report concludes with recommendations for related action by member states, private companies, and other stakeholders.

Child safety online 

The issue of child safety online has been in the attention of UN human rights entities for some time. A 2016 resolution on Rights of the child: information and communications technologies and child sexual exploitation adopted by the UNHRC calls on states to ensure ‘full, equal, inclusive, and safe access […] to information and communications technologies by all children and safeguard the protection of children online and offline’, as well as the legal protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, mandated by the UNHRC to analyse the root causes of sale and sexual exploitation and promote measures to prevent it, also looks at issues related to child abuse such as sexual exploitation of children online which has been addressed in a report (A/HRC/43/40) published in 2020, but also in earlier reports.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is currently drafting a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.

Content policy 

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

For example, UN Human Rights, at the request of the UNHRC, prepared a compilation report in 2016, which explores, among other issues, aspects related to the preventing and countering of violent extremism online, and underscores that responses to violent extremism that are robustly built on human rights are more effective and sustainable.

Additional efforts were made in 2019 when the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism published a report where she examined the multifaceted impacts of counter-terrorism measures on civic space and the rights of civil society actors and human rights defenders, including measures taken to address vaguely defined terrorist and violent extremist content. In July 2020, she published a report discussing the human rights implications of the use of biometric data to identify terrorists and recommended safeguards that should be taken.

Artificial intelligence 

In 2018, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression presented a report to the UN General Assembly on artificial intelligence technologies and implications for the information environment. Among other things, the document addresses the role of AI on the enjoyment of freedom of opinion and expression including ‘access to the rules of the game when it comes to AI-driven platforms and websites’ and therefore urges for a human rights-based approach to AI.

Data governance 

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

UN Human Rights has also published a report titled ‘A human rights-based approach to data – Leaving no one behind in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ that specifically focuses on issues of data collection and disaggregation in the context of sustainable development.

UN Human Rights has worked closely with partners across the UN system in contributing to the Secretary-General’s 2020 Data Strategy, and co-leads, with the Office of Legal Affairs and UN Global Pulse, work on the subsequent Data Protection and Privacy Program.

Capacity development 

UN Human Rights has also launched the UN Human Rights Business and Human Rights in Technology Project (B-Tech Project) that aims to provide guidance and resources to companies operating in the technology space with regard to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In November 2019, a B-Tech scoping paper was published by the Office of the High Commissioner that outlines the scope and objectives of the project. In July 2020, UN Human Rights published a foundational paper on business model-related human rights risks.

Extreme poverty 

The Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has in recent years increased his analysis of human rights issues arising in the context of increased digitisation and automation. His 2017 report to the General Assembly tackled the socio-economic challenges in an emerging world where automation and AI threaten traditional sources of income and analysed the promises and possible pitfalls of introducing a universal basic income. His General Assembly report in 2019 addressed worrying trends in connection with the digitisation of the welfare state.

Interdisciplinary approaches 
Collaboration within the UN system

UN Human Rights is a member of the Secretary-General’s Reference Group and contributed to the development of his Strategy on New Technologies in 2018.  The OHCHR was co-champion of the follow-up on two human rights-related recommendations of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The outcomes of this process were the basis of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation, presented in June 2020.  

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

In addition, the OHCHR is a member of the Legal Identity Agenda Task Force, which promotes solutions for the implementation of SDG target 16.9 (i.e. by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration). The OHCHR co-leads their work on biometrics.

Digital tools

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

Swiss Digital Initiative

Address: c/o Campus Biotech, Chemin des Mines 9 1202 Geneva

Website: https://www.swiss-digital-initiative.org/

The Swiss Digital Initiative aims to bridge the gap between principles and practice and to safeguard ethical standards in the digital world through specific projects. It brings together academia, government, civil society and business to find solutions to strengthen trust in digital technologies and in the actors involved in ongoing digital transformation. The initiative has a global focus and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It was initiated by the association DigitalSwitzerland and under the patronage of Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer. The first project of the initiative is the development of a Digital Trust Label.

International Organization for Standardization

Acronym: ISO

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

Website: https://iso.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

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

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

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

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

Digital Activities

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

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

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 

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

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

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

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

Cloud computing 

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

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

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

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

Internet of things 

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

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

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

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

Telecommunications infrastructure 

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

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

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

Blockchain 

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

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

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

Emerging technologies 

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

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

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

Network security 

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

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

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

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

Encryption 

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

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

Data governance 

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

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

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

Privacy and data protection 

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

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

Digital identities 

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

Digital tools

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

Future of Meetings

Any reference to online or remote meetings?

Any reference to holding meetings outside HQ?

Any reference to deliberation or decision making online?

  • Yes, ISO governance groups are also meeting virtually.

International Labour Organization

Acronym: ILO

Address: Rte des Morillons 4, 1211 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://ilo.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was established in 1919 and is therefore the first and oldest specialised agency of the UN. It is the only UN agency that has a tripartite structure consisting of government representatives, employers, and workers, and aims to promote labour rights, including the right to decent work. The ILO also works towards better dialogue on work-related issues and supports adequate employment opportunities.

It maintains over 20 economic sectors that are focused on industries such as health services, oil and gas production, and textiles. As part of its work, the ILO addresses many different topics including child labour, green jobs, and workplace health and safety.

Digital activities

Digital issues are present in a number of areas of the ILO’s work. One of these areas is the postal and telecommunication services sector that encompasses activities related to the Internet, in which  the ILO works on assisting governments, employers, and workers to develop policies and programmes aimed at enhancing economic opportunities and improving working conditions. It pays particular attention to major trends in this sector such as deregulation, and privatisation and how they affect the labour force. More recently, the organisation has started addressing digitalisation through topics such as skills knowledge, employability, and the future of work.

Digital policy issues

Future of work 

Perhaps the most visible digital issue in the ILO’s activities is the future of work. To address it, the ILO established the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work as part of its Future of Work Initiative. The Commission is composed of government, civil society, academia, and business association representatives. In 2019, the Commission published a landmark report titled ‘Work for a Brighter Future’ that calls for a human-centered agenda for the future of work and explores the impacts of technological progress in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics and on issues such as the gender labour gap and the automation of work. That same year, the ILO issued the ILO Centenary Declaration that, among other things, calls for ‘full and productive employment and decent work’ in the context of the digital transformation of work, including platform work.

The ILO has published several other research documents and reports on the subject including ‘Digital labour platforms and the future of work: Towards decent work in the online world’ that tackles working conditions on digital platforms and ‘Global employment trends for youth in 2020: Technology and the future of jobs’ that covers inequalities in youth labour markets arising from digital transformation, as well as investment in young people’s skills and many other underlying questions.

Through the non-standard forms of employment topic, the ILO also addresses crowdwork and the gig economy, as well as working from home (e.g. teleworking).

Privacy and data protection 

In regard to privacy and data protection, the ILO has published a set of principles on protection of workers’ personal data that tackles digital data collection and the security and storage of personal data.

Sustainable development 

The ILO, in line with the 2030 Agenda and more specifically sustainable development goal 8 (‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’) has created the DW4SD Resource Platform that maps out the interplay between sustainable development and decent work. The platform provides guidance and working resources to ILO staff, development partners, UN country teams, and other stakeholders.

Capacity development 

Capacity development is another digital-related issue addressed by the ILO. As part of its skills, knowledge, and employability initiatives, the ILO together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has developed the ‘SKILL-UP programme’ that aims to assist developing countries to build capacity and improve their skills systems in relation to digitalisation and technological innovation. Aside from providing training to help empower women with digital skills, the programme also develops digital tools such as skill trackers where surveys covering different aspects of skills development are collected in real-time.

The iiO also has a Help Desk for Business on International Labour Standards that provides assistance to businesses on how to align their business operations with labour standards.

Data governance 

The ILO has a world employment and social outlook platform that provides datasets on measures such as the global labour force, unemployment, and employment by sector. The organisation also has a development co-operation dashboard with data on labour-related policy areas.

Digital tools

The International Training Centre, established by the ILO, provides online courses on a variety of labour issues. The ILO also organises webinars and uses a number of social media accounts.

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?

International Committee of the Red Cross

Acronym: ICRC

Address: Av. de la Paix 19, 1202 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://icrc.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an independent international humanitarian organisation headquartered in Geneva. The ICRC defends and promotes the respect of international humanitarian law (IHL) and is dedicated to protecting the lives and dignity of victims of war and to the provision of assistance. Along these lines, it co-operates with governments, the private sector, and other entities affected by international and internal armed conflict and violence.

Together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and 190 individual national societies, the ICRC makes up the so-called International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Digital Activities

Digitalisation is increasingly present in the context of armed conflict and violence: States use cyber operations and artificial intelligence (AI) as part of warfare and humans are affected by the consequences of such operations and other digital risks. To this end, humanitarian organisations also use digital tools to improve their operations. The ICRC addresses the implications of technology which are multifold and range from data protection for humanitarian actions to the application of IHL to cyber operations in armed conflict. It hosts expert and intergovernmental discussions and has developed a number of (digital) tools to help improve awareness and understanding of IHL and relevant standards.

The ICRC co-operates with other organisations on digital policy issues.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence 
The ICRC has also explored the role of AI tools in armed conflict. In a document titled ‘Artificial intelligence and machine learning in armed conflict: A human-centred approach’ published in 2019, it argues that ‘any new technology of warfare must be used, and must be capable of being used, in compliance with existing rules of international humanitarian law.’ It also touches upon the use of AI and machine learning technologies capable of controlling physical military hardware. It argues that from a humanitarian perspective, autonomous weapon systems (AWS) are of particular concern given that humans may not be able to exert control over such weapons or the resulting use of force. While the ICRC recognises that not all weapon systems incorporate AI or machine learning, it emphasises that such software components could eventually give way to future AWS. It also emphasises the potential misuse of AI and machine learning in the development of cyber weapons and capabilities. The ICRC calls for a human control-based approach to the application of AI and machine learning in AWS.

The question of AI has been further explored in other reports such as its ‘Autonomy, artificial intelligence, robotics: Technical aspects of human control’.

Cyberoperations during armed conflict 

The use of cyber operations during armed conflicts is a reality in today’s armed conflicts and their use is likely to increase in future. Through expert discussions, participation in intergovernmental processes, and bilateral confidential dialogue, the ICRC is raising awareness of the potential human cost of cyber operations and the application of IHL to cyber operations during armed conflict. Its efforts on this matter data back to over two decades ago. Ever since, the ICRC holds the view that IHL limits cyber operations ‘during armed conflict just as it limits the use of any other weapon, means and methods of warfare in an armed conflict, whether new or old.’

Over the years, the ICRC has been actively involved in global policy discussions on cyber-related issues, including those held within the UN (various GGEs and the OEWG). The ICRC has also been an observer in the expert processes that developed the Tallinn Manuals. More recently, the ICRC has organised expert meetings and developed reports on ‘The Potential Human Cost of Cyber Operations’ and on ‘Avoiding Civilian Harm from Military Cyber Operations during Armed Conflicts’ (forthcoming). Its legal views on how IHL applies to cyber operations during armed conflict are found in a 2019 position paper that was sent to all UN member states in the context of the different UN-mandated processes on information and communication technology security. The ICRC’s Law and Policy blog maintains an ongoing blog series on the potential human cost of cyber operations, featuring tech expert, legal, and policy perspectives.

Privacy and data protection 

The ICRC plays an active role in regard to privacy and data protection in the context of humanitarian action. The ICRC has a data protection framework compliant with international data protection standards that aims to protect individuals from a humanitarian standpoint. The framework consists of ICRC Rules on Data Protection, which were revised in 2020 in response to the rapid development of digital technologies, while supervisory and control mechanisms are overseen by an independent data protection commission and a data protection officer.

Despite the wide range of data sources employed and dealt with by the ICRC, specific attention is dedicated to biometric data which is often used in forensics and the restoration of family links. In order to manage this highly sensitive information and to ensure the responsible deployment of new technologies (including new biometric identification techniques), the ICRC has adopted a Biometrics Policy, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of the ICRC and defines the legitimate bases and specified purposes for the processing of biometric data.

Data protection is also addressed by the ICRC Handbook on Data Protection in Humanitarian Action. The Handbook provides suggestions how existing data protection principles apply to humanitarian organisations and builds on existing regulations, working procedures, and practices. The second edition of the document specifically provides guidance on the technical aspects of data protection by design and by default and covers technological security measures. In addition, it also addresses through dedicated chapters the potential and risks of digital technology such as blockchain, AI, digital identity, and connectivity for data protection in humanitarian action. The ICRC recently hosted a digital launch event for the second edition of the handbook focusing on data protection and COVID-19.

The ICRC further explored the issue of data and privacy in a joint report that it published with Privacy International titled ‘The humanitarian metadata problem: ‘Doing no harm in the digital era.’ The report looks into how different types of metadata are derived from internal and external humanitarian exchanges (i.e. exchanges between humanitarian organisations and individuals affected by armed conflict and violence or communication within humanitarian organisations) through telecommunications and messaging, cash transfer programmes, and how social media can be accessed and misused for profiling of individuals, surveillance, repression, or commercial exploitation. In line with the humanitarian ‘do no harm’ principle, the report underscores that the humanitarian community has to consider that there is a risk that it can hinder the safety and the rights of persons needing protection when using digital technologies. The ICRC also hosted an event on this topic, the Digital Risk Symposium, which was hosted in London in December 2018. The event explored what organisations can do to ensure they do not create additional vulnerabilities for people already at risk, as well as the potential for collaboration in the sector.

More recently, the ICRC has been involved in the Road to Bern via Geneva dialogues ahead of the 2020 World Data Forum. As part of its contribution, the ICRC collaborated with the World Intellectual Property Organization in the second dialogue dedicated to data collection entitled ‘Protecting data against vulnerabilities: Questions of trust security and privacy of data’. Specific attention was paid to three challenges: data anonymisation, loss of data through cloud processing, and limited use of biometric data.

Digital tools

The ICRC has argued in favour of digitalisation of the Geneva Conventions and on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of these very treaties and additional protocols, released an IHL digital app. The app provides access to over 75 treaties including the Geneva Conventions, and allows users to read through the content and therefore familiarise themselves with the text. The ICRC has a number of databases on IHL including its customary IHL database and the ICRC national implementation database.

Online learning is also used by the ICRC to promote the implementation of IHL. In 2019, it launched an e-learning course entitled ‘Introduction to International Humanitarian Law’ that is aimed at non-legal practitioners, policymakers, and other professionals who are interested in the basics of IHL. Other online courses are available through the ICRC training centre as well as e-briefings which are available on its e-briefing library.

The ICRC also maintains a digital library and an app with all ICRC publications in English and French.

Internet Governance Forum

Acronym: IGF

Address: Villa Bocage Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland

Website: https://intgovforum.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was established in Paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) as a forum for multistakeholder policy dialogue. The mandate of the Forum is to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance, in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the Internet. Even though the IGF is not a decision-making body, its great potential lies in open discussions among all stakeholders on challenges and best practices related to the use and evolution of the Internet.

Starting 2006, the IGF holds annual meetings: Athens (2006), Rio de Janeiro (2007), Hyderabad (2008), Sharm El Sheikh (2009), Vilnius (2010), Nairobi (2011), Baku (2012), Bali (2013), Istanbul (2014), João Pessoa (2015), Guadalajara (2016). The programme of the annual meeting and the general direction of the IGF work are deliberated by the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) to the UN Secretary General.

The IGF Secretariat, currently based at the United Nations Office at Geneva, conducts the preparations for the annual IGF meetings, coordinates the IGF intersessional activities (between two annual meetings), and assists the MAG in its work.