Internet Governance Forum

Acronym: IGF

Established: 2006

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Website: https://www.intgovforum.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

The IGF provides the most comprehensive coverage of digital policy issues on the global level. The IGF Secretariat in Geneva coordinates both the planning of IGF annual meetings (working together with the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and the wider IGF community) and a series of intersessional activities (run all year long). These activities could be summarised in three ‘multi’ initiatives:

  • Multistakeholder participation: It involves governments, business, civil society, the technical community, academia, and other actors who affect or are affected by digital policy This diversity is reflected in IGF processes, events, and consultations.
  • Multidisciplinary coverage: It relates to addressing policy issues from technological, legal, security, human rights, economic, development, and sociocultural perspectives. For example, data, as a governance issue, is addressed from standardisation, e-commerce, privacy, and security perspectives.
  • Multilevel approach: It spans IGF deliberations from the local level to the global level, through a network of over 150 national, subregional, and regional IGF They provide context for discussions on digital policy like the real-life impact of digitalisation on policy, economic, social, and cultural fabric of local communities. The IGF Secretariat supports such initiatives (which are independent) and coordinates the participation of the overall network.

The IGF ecosystem converges around the annual IGF, which is attended by thousands of participants. The last few IGFs include Paris (2018), Berlin (2019), online edition due to the pandemic (2020), and Katowice (2021), involving over 10,000 participants, more than 1,000 speakers in over 300 sessions.

The intersessional work includes best practice forums (on issues such as cybersecurity, local content, data and new technologies, and gender and access); dynamic coalitions (on issues such as community connectivity, network neutrality, accessibility and disability, and child safety online etc.); policy networks (on environment, meaningful access and Internet fragmentation); and other projects such as Policy Options for Connecting and Enabling the Next Billion(s) (which ran between 2015 and 2018) as well as a number of capacity development activities.

IGF mandate

The IGF mandate was outlined in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS, November 2005). It was renewed for another 10 years by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 16 December 2015, (70/125).

The main functions of the IGF are specified in Article 72 of the Tunis Agenda. The mandate of the Forum is to:

  • Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the internet.
  • Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body.
  • Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organisations and other institutions on matters under their purview.
  • Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard, make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific, and technical communities.
  • Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world.
  • Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries.
  • Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and where appropriate, make recommendations.
  • Contribute to capacity building for internet governance in developing countries, drawing on local sources of knowledge and expertise.
  • Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in internet governance processes.
  • Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical internet resources.
  • Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the internet, of particular concern to everyday users.
  • Publish its proceedings.

In fulfilling its mandate, the Forum is institutionally supported by the UN Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum placed with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Its working modalities also include MAG and most recently the Leadership Panel, both appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

Digital policy issues

Until 2019, IGF annual meetings used to host sessions tackling a wide range of digital policy issues (for instance, IGF 2018 had eight themes: cybersecurity, trust, and privacy; development, innovation, and economic issues; digital inclusion and accessibility; human rights, gender, and youth; emerging technologies; evolution of internet governance; media and content; and technical and operational issues). In 2019, in an effort to bring more focus within the IGF, the MAG decided (considering community input) to structure the IGF programme around a limited number of tracks: security, safety, stability, and resilience; data governance; and digital inclusion. This approach was kept for IGF 2020, which saw four thematic tracks: data, environment, inclusion, and trust. The thematic approach did not mean that the IGF saw some digital policy issues as being less relevant than others, but rather that it encouraged discussions at the intersection of multiple issues. The Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) Digital Watch reporting for IGF 2020 and IGF 2019 illustrates this trend, showing that the IGF discussed a wide range of policy issues (across all seven internet governance baskets of issues) within the limited number of thematic tracks.

The leadership panel

In line with the IGF mandate and as recommended in the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, the UN Secretary-General established the IGF Leadership Panel as a strategic, empowered, multistakeholder body, to address urgent, strategic issues, and highlight Forum discussions and possible follow-up actions to promote greater impact and dissemination of IGF discussions.

More specifically, the Panel provides strategic inputs and advice on the IGF; promotes the IGF and its outputs; supports both high-level and at-large stakeholder engagement in the IGF and IGF fundraising efforts; exchanges IGF outputs with other stakeholders and relevant forums; and feeds input from these decision-makers and forums to the IGF’s agenda-setting process, leveraging relevant MAG expertise.

The 10-member Panel meets at least three times a year.

Future of meetings

Since its first meeting in Athens (2006), the IGF has been a pioneer in online deliberation and hybrid meetings. In addition to individual online participation, the IGF has encouraged the development of a network of remote hubs where participants meet locally while following online deliberations from the global IGF. In this way the IGF has created a unique interplay between local and global deliberations through the use of technology. For hybrid meetings delivered in situ and online, the IGF developed the function of remote moderator, who ensures that there is smooth interplay between online and in situ discussions.

Social media channels

Facebook @IGF – Internet Governance Forum
Instagram @intgovforum
Twitter @intgovforum
YouTube @Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

International Labour Organization

Acronym: ILO

Established: 1919

Address: 4 route des Morillons, 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland

Website: https://www.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

Established: 1863

Address: 19 Avenue de la paix, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.icrc.org

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

Established in 1863, the ICRC is an independent international humanitarian organisation headquartered in Geneva. It 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 providing assistance. Along these lines, it cooperates 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 192 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. On one hand, affected populations are in demand for digital tools, which humanitarian organisations need to provide in a responsible manner.

On the other hand, states use cyber operations as part of warfare with humans 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 explored the role of artificial intelligence (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 on the use of AI and machine learning (ML) 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 ML, it emphasises that such software components could eventually give way to future AWS. It also emphasises the potential misuse of AI and ML in the development of cyber weapons and capabilities. The ICRC calls for a human control-based approach to the application of AI and ML 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.

Cyber operations during armed conflict

The use of cyber operations during armed conflicts is a reality today and their use is likely to increase in future. Through bilateral confidential dialogue, expert discussions, participation in intergovernmental processes, and constant monitoring and analysis, 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 date back over two decades. Ever since, the ICRC has held 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 Groups of Governmental Experts (GGEs) and the Open-Ended Working Groups (OEWGs)). In addition, it convenes regional consultations among government experts on how IHL applies to cyber operations, and global expert meetings, such as the potential human cost of cyber operations and on avoiding civilian harm from military cyber operations during armed conflicts. 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 communications technology (ICT) security. Finally, the ICRC explores innovative solutions, such as a digital emblem, to protect medical and humanitarian missions in cyberspace. The ICRC’s Law and Policy blog provides a large number of short pieces on cyber operations, featuring tech expert, legal, and policy perspectives.

Privacy and data protection (1)

The ICRC plays an active role in regard to privacy and data protection in the context of humanitarian action. It 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 personal 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. In 2019, the ICRC spearheaded the adoption of a resolution on Restoring Family Links While Respecting Privacy, Including as it Relates to Personal Data Protection at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. In 2022, it pushed for the adoption of a resolution on Safeguarding Humanitarian Data at the Council of Delegates of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

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. 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 as to 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, through dedicated chapters, it addresses the potential and risks of digital technology such as blockchain, AI, digital identity, and connectivity for data protection in humanitarian action. The ICRC hosted a digital launch event for the second edition of the handbook as well as one event focusing on data protection and COVID-19. It then followed up with the DigitHarium, a one-year outreach initiative to socialise some of the themes linked to data protection in the humanitarian sector as well as to provide a space where humanitarian, diplomatic, academic, and technology practitioners can meet to collaborate to find local and global solutions to today’s digital dilemmas.

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 those needing protection when using digital technologies. The ICRC also hosted an event on this topic in London in December 2018, the Digital Risk Symposium. 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. 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 the 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 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 in its e-briefing library.

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

Research and development

In 2022, the ICRC opened a Delegation for Cyberspace in Luxembourg, which serves as a safe and secure space to do due diligence research and develop and test solutions and ideas to prepare the ground for the support, protection, and deployment of digital services to affected people on a global scale. It will also further explore what it means to be a digital stakeholder in a manner compatible with its mandate; operational modalities; and principles of neutrality, independence, and impartiality.

Social media channels

Facebook @ICRC

Instagram @ICRC

LinkedIn @ICRC

TikTok @ICRC

Twitter @ICRC

YouTube @ICRC

1- The ICRC deals with privacy and data protection within its mandate and context of IHL. In this Atlas, following the Digital Watch Observatory taxonomy, privacy and data protection are part of the human rights basket.