[Webinar] Human-centered AI for dangerous mental health behaviors online

Event recording

Event description

Event date: 6 July 2022, 17:00–18:30 CEST

This AI for Good Discovery event will discuss the building of human- and community-centred AI tools to handle dangerous mental health behaviours online such as suicide crisis, self-injury, and disordered eating behaviours. Dr Stevie Chancellor will expound on the technicalities of such tools and the necessary lab settings.

For more information, and to register, please visit the official page.

Geneva Science-Policy Interface

Acronym: GSPI

Established: 2018

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

Website: https://gspi.ch/

Stakeholder group: Academia & think tanks

The GSPI is a neutral and independent platform that aims to foster engagement between the research community and Geneva-based international policy actors around some of the most pressing global challenges (including global health, climate change, and migration). 

It works to foster science-policy ecosystems by brokering collaborations and enhancing capacities across the interface between the science, policy, and implementation communities. This includes an annual call for projects, the Impact Collaboration Programme (ICP), the production of policy briefs, as well as learning opportunities and resources to advance the professionalisation and recognition of the science-policy field of practice in Geneva and beyond.

The GSPI is based at the University of Geneva. It receives support from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the backing of leading research institutions in Switzerland and Europe.

Digital activities

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

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence

The project MapMaker, a collaboration between the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zurich) has enabled the development of an online visualisation tool to inform data-driven decision-making on marine biodiversity conservation at the international level.

Digital standards

Together with the Geneva Health Forum (GHF), the GSPI has established a working group including key humanitarian actors to harness knowledge and best practices around the digitisation of clinical guidelines for management of childhood illness in primary care in low and middle-income countries. In line with the efforts of the WHO, and the principles of donor alignment for digital health, the working group has developed recommendations on how digitalisation can improve the management of childhood illness. In September 2021, the results of this work were shared with experts and the public, providing a platform for discussions on the lessons learned and future trends in the field.

Emerging technologies

In 2018, the GSPI organised policy discussions on the use of drones as part of humanitarian action. The conversation centred on the practical use of drones to deliver humanitarian aid and what can be done by stakeholders such as policymakers, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to maximise the opportunities and reduce the risks of such technologies.

At the 2019 Digital Day, together with the University of Geneva, the GSPI organised a discussion exploring what experience and know-how Geneva-based organisations could share to empower and protect users in the context of the digital revolution.

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

Data governance

The project REDEHOPE of the University of Geneva and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has led to the development of an online diagnostic tool to help countries identify and visualise issues in their housing data ecology, and access appropriate datasets to formulate more robust, evidence-based housing policies at the country level.

Sustainable development

In 2020–2021, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention (BRS) secretariat benefitted from the support of ETH Zurich to develop an online platform to identify and signal the need for evidence and information to the scientific community in the field of chemical and waste management.

A project from ICP 2021 addressed the hurdles facing policy actors in accessing and making sense of data in migration research. The project partners (the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Graduate Institute) developed an interactive digital toolkit for policy officials to support them in leveraging migration research for evidence-based policymaking. The toolkit, based on IOM’s flagship publication, the World Migration Report, was launched in June 2022.

ICP 2021 brought support to the development of interactive analytical tools providing information about all UN sanctions to inform both humanitarian practitioners and sanction policy actors on practical ways to safeguard principled humanitarian action in areas under a sanction regime. This project is a collaboration between the Graduate Institute and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

ICP 2022 selected a collaboration between ETH Zurich and IOM that seeks to bring more effective policy expertise in the management of migration to address migrants’ needs and increase social cohesion between migrant and local communities. The collaboration will develop a toolbox to be used by IOM and its partners to facilitate the use of the Immigration Policy Lab (IPL) Integration Index, a survey tool for governments, nonprofits, and researchers to measure the integration of immigrants around the world.

Human rights principles

Also in the framework of its ICP, the GSPI has supported a collaboration between the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and OHCHR’s B-Tech project. Some of the new fast-evolving technologies, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition technologies, and the internet of things (IoT), can have profoundly disrupting effects on sociopolitical systems and pose significant human rights challenges. This initiative provides authoritative guidance and resources for implementing the UNGPs in the technology space and placing international human rights law (IHRL) at the centre of regulatory and policy frameworks. Aimed at policymakers, the technology sector, and all those working on the regulation of AI, the policy research carried out in this project (see resulting Working Paper, 2021) brings fresh insights into how current initiatives on the regulation of AI technologies could incorporate the protection and respect for human rights. Published by the Geneva Academy, the paper also calls on states to adopt a ‘smart mix’ of mandatory and voluntary measures to support their implementation and how this applies to the AI sector. This GSPI-supported science-policy process will formally feed the development of a ‘UN Guiding Principles check’ tool (working title), which will provide states with a roadmap to assess their regulatory efforts across different policy domains relevant to technology.

Digital tools

Social media channels

LinkedIn @genevaspi

Twitter @GenevaSPI

Swiss Digital Initiative

Acronym: SDI

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

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

The SDI is an independent, non-profit foundation established in 2019. In September 2019, the first Swiss Global Digital Summit took place in Geneva to provide a platform to promote in-depth discussions on Ethics and Fairness in the Age of Digital Transformation. This Summit represented the starting point of the Foundation. During the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, the SDI celebrated its official launch and the creation of the foundation.

Rooted in Swiss values yet driven by a global vision, the Foundation is headquartered in Geneva, aiming to strengthen and advance a trustworthy digital ecosystem with diverse stakeholders. Its mission is to bring ethical principles and values into digital technologies through concrete projects such as the Digital Trust Label (DTL).

Digital activities

SDI actively works on tangible projects to implement ethical standards in the digital age, with a primary focus on cultivating digital trust.

The awareness of the importance of digital trust is growing. To foster collaboration among like-minded stakeholders, the SDI has compiled a comprehensive report on the digital trust ecosystem. Labels and Certifications for the Digital World – Mapping the International Landscape takes a closer look at 12 of the most relevant initiatives and analyses success factors as well as similarities and differences compared to the Digital Trust Label (DTL) by the SDI. In addition, it provides a regularly updated interactive overview to keep track of the dynamic Digital Trust Ecosystem.

The Digital Trust White Paper provides a comprehensive overview of the dynamic digital trust ecosystem. The compiled knowledge should form the basis for better cooperation and knowledge sharing. Instead of fragmentation, more cooperation is needed to define internationally valid labels and standards. It also provides the theoretical background for the SDI’s ongoing engagement in different working groups, for example, the Working Group on Digital Trust of the World Economic Forum

To assess the Swiss population’s mindset regarding trust in the digital world, a qualitative study Digital Trust from the User’s Perspective was carried out in November 2019.

In a trend map Landscape of the Digital Economy and Society, the trends identified further increase the importance of trustworthy digital services.

In addition, as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Digital Trust Working Group, the SDI actively participates in digital-trust-related activities to advance digital ethics and responsibility.  Earning Digital Trust: Decision-Making for Trustworthy Technologies is an insight report published in 2022 emphasising the importance of leaders cultivating digital trust. Measuring Digital Trust: Supporting Decision-Making for Trustworthy Technology, published in October 2023, supports accessing an organisation’s advancement in achieving digital trust objectives and the level of maturity across dimensions.

Digital policy issues

Digital standards

Digital Trust Label

Trust is at the core of every human interaction, and the relationship we have with technology is no exception. The ongoing digital transformation needs to be founded in digital trust to be successful. Users of the digital space are demanding more and more transparency in the technology they use and caring more about the decisions of companies’ leadership. Hence, to address transparency and trustworthiness in digital technology, the SDI developed the first-of-its-kind DTL. Launched in January 2022, the DTL shows that a digital product or service meets mandatory criteria and thus a certain standard of trustworthiness. It also provides more information and transparency for users regarding four aspects: security, data protection, reliability of the application, and fair user interaction (use of AI). 

The DTL builds trust between the users and digital technology providers. It benefits all stakeholders::

  • Complies with a specific standard and puts the user at the centre: The digital application meets 35 different criteria in 4 dimensions.
  • Offers more transparency and information: Users understand what happens with their data and whether an algorithm makes a decision.
  • Showcases responsible companies: The DTL shows that a digital application provider takes its responsibilities towards its users seriously.

Priority in addressing digital trust should be given to digital services that are used in fields where

  • the handled data is very sensitive and the consequences of using digital services matter greatly;
  • automated decision-making algorithms are used
  • there is not much choice whether to use a digital service; and
  •  digital services are rolled out at a high pace and on a large scale.

This particularly concerns digital services in healthcare, the public sector, the media sector, banking and insurance, HR, and the education sector.

Artificial intelligence

Ethical Artificial intelligence

As Generative AI is booming, the SDI is committed to further advancing efforts to guarantee that AI is developed in a secure, inclusive, and trustworthy manner for the good and benefit of all. 


As part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the importance of digital responsibility and ethics in AI, the SDI has partnered up with the renowned Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) to create the interactive experience Adface. The web-based tool uses AI to analyse a person’s face and create a user profile to produce targeted advertisements that fit the assumed profile of the person. This tool shows that AI is already deeply embedded in and influencing everyday life (how AI algorithms influence decisions or automate a person’s decisions) and also how AI algorithms can make incorrect assumptions. Art and design can be valuable allies for raising awareness and stimulating critical thinking around the societal implications of new technologies.

Digital responsibility

The SDI and the Institute for Management Development (IMD) co-developed a resource to help organisations understand Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR). The CDR Starter Kit, based on insights from top organisations and ongoing IMD research, is here to help businesses kick-start their CDR journey and sustain their digital responsibility efforts. Through lessons, common challenges, inspiration, and additional resources, the Starter Kit facilitates the adoption of CDR within and across organisations.

Digital tools

Start your Digital Trust journey with practical tools! 

Digital Trust Criteria Catalogue  

An expert group led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has compiled a catalogue of 35 criteria aimed at building trust for users of digital services. The criteria are based on four categories: security, data protection, reliability, and fair user interaction. The Digital Trust Criteria is the base and inspiration of all the SDI’s projects and trust tools. It is also a clear starting point for other organisations to understand what digital trust is and what they should do to make sure they keep it.

Digital Trust Compass

The Digital Trust Compass is an online self-assessment tool to determine whether your organisation respects and protects the interests of its users and to assess the level of digital trust awareness among end users. It serves as a compass, guiding you along your digital trust journey, and providing the right direction. 

Digital Trust Guide 

Based on the criteria, the SDI has created a user guide to digital trust. This Digital Trust Guide is designed to assist businesses or organisations that handle user data. The primary objective is to support organisations to establish a robust framework of trust that safeguards the interests of users based on this guide and continue their digital trust journey.

Social media channels

LinkedIn @Swiss Digital Initiative

X @sdi_foundation

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

X @isostandards

YouTube @iso

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Acronym: Geneva Academy

Established: 2007

Address: Rue de Lausanne 120B, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.geneva-academy.ch/

The Geneva Academy – a joint centre of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Geneva Graduate Institute – provides postgraduate education, conducts academic legal research and policy studies, and organises training courses and expert meetings. It concentrates on branches of international law that relate to armed conflict, protracted violence, and the protection of human rights.

Digital activities

Are new means and methods of warfare compatible with existing international humanitarian law (IHL) rules? What challenges do big data and artificial intelligence (AI) pose to human rights? How can we ensure the right to privacy and protection of the private sphere in times of war and peace?

New technologies, digitalisation, and big data are reshaping our societies and the way they organise. While technological advancements present tremendous opportunities and promises, rapid developments in AI, automation, and robotics raise a series of questions about their impact in times of peace and war.

The Geneva Academy’s research in this domain explores whether these new developments are compatible with existing rules and whether IHL and human rights law continue to provide the level of protection they are meant to ensure.

Its three Master’s programmes and training courses also train tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers in the IHL and human rights legal frameworks relevant to digital activities, including on the law of weaponry and new military technologies.

Its Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) facilitates exchanges and discussions among various stakeholders – experts, practitioners, diplomats, and civil society – around digitalisation and human rights to provide policy advice on how to harness potential and mitigate danger in this rapidly changing field.

The Academy’s public events and expert meetings provide a critical and scholarly forum for experts, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss and debate the impact of digitalisation on human rights and contemporary armed conflicts.

Digital policy issues

New military technologies

New military technologies are transforming the nature of modern warfare, raising a legitimate concern that existing laws and regulations will be outpaced by technological advancement, widening the scope for rights abuses and impunity.

Under the leadership of the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (Swiss IHL Chair), Professor Marco Roscini, the Geneva Academy’s research aims to identify specific humanitarian threats and legal lacunae resulting from new military technologies and develop pragmatic law and policy responses.

The joint initiative on humanitarian impact and protection carried out with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assesses the continued relevance of IHL in a digitalisation context to develop law and policy recommendations aimed at mitigating the identified risks and addressing new protection needs. 

Parallel research on disruptive military technologies assesses the impact – and related protection needs – of new military technologies that shape the future digital battlefield in relation to cyberwarfare, cybersecurity, and emerging military applications of AI.

Neurotechnology

The Geneva Academy’s research addresses the human rights implications stemming from neurotechnology development for commercial, non-therapeutic ends. These implications include direct externalities (violation of the rights to privacy, property, freedom from discrimination, etc.) and indirect externalities (spillovers for social cohesion, equality, and inter-group tolerance). As corporate actors become the main producers and disseminators of neurotechnology, managing these risks will require enhanced multilateral cooperation towards developing a common regulatory framework. A key challenge in this regard is the complex nature of neurotechnology coupled with the traditional siloing between human rights, neuroscience, and corporate communities of practice.

Artificial intelligence

Digital technology advancements have created opportunities and risks for the promotion, expansion, and application of human rights. Among the most topical challenges are the advent of AI and the possibility that such technologies will grow and disperse without taking into account human rights externalities. In the absence of a robust regulatory framework. AI, coupled with internet reliance, has also created an opportunity for individuals, non-state groups, and states to use web-based platforms to push content to produce outcomes that violate human rights (e.g. incitement of discrimination-driven violence). The coming years represent a critical period for unpacking and understanding these digital technologies through a human rights lens and ensuring that regulatory standards and accountability keep pace with threats.

These challenges are beginning to be discussed at the multilateral level. At the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), AI has been examined in terms of its impacts on persons with disabilities, privacy, and racial discrimination. The Geneva Academy’s research aims at empowering key stakeholders with a common understanding of the principal risks with a view to strengthening the international human rights framework and crafting effective regulation. The project will culminate in guidelines on the development and use of these new technologies in conformity with human rights.

Data governance

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts (RULAC) is a unique online portal that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under IHL.

RULAC currently monitors more than 100 armed conflicts involving at least 55 states and more than 70 armed non-state actors. These armed conflicts can be searched via an interactive map that displays state parties, and the various types of armed conflicts: international, non-international, and military occupations. All the armed conflicts on RULAC are constantly monitored and regularly updated to include new developments and fundamental changes that may affect their classification.

Digital tools

In and Around War(s) podcast

The Geneva Academy’s In and Around War(s) podcast focuses on contemporary legal issues related to wars. Each episode discusses related topical issues, including data protection in war, or warfare and cyberspace. 

Online learning

The Geneva Academy’s online part-time Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict and online short courses and GHRP training courses allow practitioners to upgrade their legal skills on the many contemporary challenges in international humanitarian and human rights law. 

Facilitating exchanges and discussions

The Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP), hosted by the Geneva Academy, provides a neutral and dynamic forum of interaction for all stakeholders in the field of human rights to debate topical issues and challenges related to the functioning of the Geneva-based human rights system. Relying on academic research and findings, it works to enable various actors to be better connected, break silos, and, hence, advance human rights.

In this context, the GHRP supports the “digital uplift” of the UN’s human rights system, piloting digital solutions to facilitate the work of the UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies. 

In a dedicated initiative, the GHRP has created a directory of Digital Human Rights Tracking Tools and Databases and continues exploring their impact on the national implementation of international human rights obligations and recommendations made by the UN human rights mechanisms. 

Social media channels

Facebook @GenevaAcademyIHLandHR

Instagram @geneva_academy

LinkedIn @Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian

Law and Human Rights

Twitter @Geneva_Academy

YouTube @Geneva_Academy

Commission on Science and Technology for Development

Acronym: CSTD

Established: 1992

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://unctad.org/en/Pages/cstd.aspx

The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established to advise the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on science and technology issues through analysis and appropriate policy recommendations. It is the focal point of the UN for science, technology, and innovation for development.

Under the mandate given by ECOSOC, the CSTD leads the follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and advises ECOSOC accordingly, including through the elaboration of recommendations aimed at furthering the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is responsible for the servicing of the CSTD.

Digital activities

The CSTD reviews progress made in the implementation of and follow up to the WSIS outcomes at regional and international levels. It also discusses science, technology, and innovation (STI), including frontier technologies, many of which are digital technologies and are largely linked with digitalisation. Based on thematic reviews and discussions, the CSTD prepares draft resolutions for ECOSOC. These draft resolutions tackle issues ranging from access to the internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) and frontier technologies to the use of these technologies in achieving sustainable development. Sustainable development is linked particularly to the 2030 Agenda and the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), including topics in recent years related to climate action (SDG 13), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Industry 4.0 (under SDG 9), and partnerships (SDG 17). Digital technologies play a role in all SDGs. At each of its annual sessions and intersessional panels, the CSTD addresses two priority themes regarding the use of STI, including digital technologies, in different areas related to the various SDGs.

Digital policy issues

Artificial intelligence Within the work of the CSTD, AI is placed under the term ‘frontier technologies’, which also includes big data analytics, biotech and genome editing, and IoT, https://unctad.org/en/Pages/CSTD/CSTDAbout.aspx

As part of its work on assessing the impact of technological change on inclusive and sustainable development, the CSTD is also exploring the role of frontier technologies including artificial intelligence (AI). At its 22nd session, the CSTD pointed out that AI and other frontier technologies offer significant opportunities to accelerate progress in achieving the SDGs, while also posing new challenges (e.g. disrupting labour markets, exacerbating or creating new inequalities, and raising ethical questions). The CSTD focused its 2019–2020 intersessional work on digital frontier technologies, such as AI, big data, and robotics. For 2021, the CSTD chose another digital technology – blockchain for sustainable development – as a priority theme. In 2022, the CSTD deliberated on industry 4.0 technologies (such as AI, big data, IoT, and robotics) for inclusive development. For 2023, the themes were using STI solutions, especially digital technologies to achieve SDG 6 on water and sanitation, and technology and innovation for cleaner and more productive and competitive production (including digital Industry 4 technologies). The most recent themes, for 2024, are Data for Development and Global cooperation in STI for development (which includes cooperation on digital infrastructure and digital technologies).

Access In the CSTD’s work, disparities related to access to the internet are referred to as the ‘digital divide’.

During its annual sessions and intersessional panels, as well as in its draft resolutions for ECOSOC, the CSTD tackles aspects related to the digital divide, and outlines the need for further progress in addressing the impediments that developing countries face in accessing new technologies. It often underlines the need for coordinated efforts among all stakeholders to bridge the digital divide in its various dimensions: access to infrastructure, affordability, quality of access, digital skills, gender gap, and others. To this aim, the CSTD recommends policies and actions to improve connectivity and access to infrastructure, affordability, multilingualism and cultural preservation, digital skills and digital literacy, capacity development, and appropriate financing mechanisms. There is an annual follow-up to the progress made on WSIS implementation, which is a critical international process for evaluating progress in overcoming the digital divide in internet access within and across countries. There is also a 20-year review of WSIS that is now beginning, called WSIS+20, which will be held in 2025 in the General Assembly. The CSTD has been undertaking a series of global and regional open consultations  to gather inputs from multistakeholders for its report on WSIS+20 to be submitted, through ECOSOC, to the General Assembly in 2025. 

Sustainable development

As the UN focal point for STIfor development, the CSTD analyses the impact of digital technologies on sustainable development (assessing opportunities, risks, and challenges), including from the perspective of the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’. The CSTD also works to identify strategies, policies, and actions to foster the use of technology to empower people and ensure inclusiveness and equality. In addition, it acts as a forum for strategic planning, the sharing of good practices, and providing foresight about emerging and disruptive technologies. 

Capacity development

Capacity development is one of the recurring themes that appear in draft resolutions prepared by the CSTD on the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes. The CSTD often emphasises the need for countries and other stakeholders to focus on capacity development policies and actions to further enhance the role of the internet as a catalyst for growth and development. Strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to participate in internet governance processes is another objective the CSTD has been calling for, especially in regard to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). 

Interdisciplinary approaches: Internet governance

The CSTD was mandated to review the IGF process and suggest improvements. To this aim, the Working Group on Improvements to the IGF was established and a report recommending a number of action items regarding the IGF was delivered in 2012. The CSTD was also entrusted with the mandate to initiate discussions about enhanced cooperation in internet governance. It convened two working groups on enhanced cooperation (2013–2014 and 2016–2018); although consensus seemed to emerge on some issues, a divergence of views persisted on others and the Working Group could not reach consensus on recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation as envisioned in the Tunis Agenda.

UNCTAD is in charge of servicing the CSTD. As such, digital tools used by UNCTAD, for example, platform for online meetings, and social media for communications purposes are also employed for CSTD-related purposes. For instance, the 23rd and 24th CSTD annual sessions as well as the intersessional panel of the 24th CSTD were purely virtual, using the Interprefy platform. The intersessional panel and the annual session of the 25th CSTD were hybrid, combining online and in-person participation. The online platforms used were Interprefy and Zoom, respectively.

Digital tools

UNCTAD is in charge of servicing the CSTD. As such, digital tools used by UNCTAD (e.g. platform for online meetings, social media for communications purposes) are also employed for CSTD-related purposes. For example, the 23rd and 24th CSTD annual sessions as well as the intersessional panel of the 24th CSTD were purely virtual, using the Interprefy platform. The intersessional panel and the annual session of the 25th CSTD were hybrid, combining online and in-person participation. The online platforms used were Interprefy and Zoom, respectively. CSTD meetings have returned to a more conventional in-person format, but digital platforms remain widely in use for the work of the CSTD.

Social media channels

Facebook @UNCTAD

Flickr @UNCTAD

Instagram @unctad

LinkedIn @UNCTAD

X @UNCTAD

YouTube @UNCTADOnline


World Intellectual Property Organization

Acronym: WIPO

Established: 1967

Address: Chemin des Colombettes 34, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland

Website: https://www.wipo.int/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

WIPO is a UN agency functioning as the global forum for intellectual property (IP) related services (patents, copyright, trademarks, and designs), policy, information, and cooperation. The organisation was established in 1967. It currently has 193 member states and over 200 observers representing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organisations. WIPO leads the development of a balanced and effective global IP ecosystem to promote innovation and creativity for a better and more sustainable future.

Digital activities

WIPO runs several online registration systems for patents and trademarks. There are also numerous databases available for use by stakeholders on the same subjects.

Digital policy issues

Frontier technologies including artificial intelligence

WIPO pays particular attention to the interplay between frontier technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and IP.

The WIPO Conversation on IP and Frontier Technologies provides an open, inclusive forum to engage with and facilitate discussion and knowledge-building among the widest possible set of stakeholders. It leads the global discourse on the impact of frontier technologies on IP, in this fast-moving, complex space. Each year, WIPO usually holds two sessions of the Conversation covering both the uses and applications of frontier technologies to assist IP Offices and IP owners as well as more conceptual policy-based discussions to ensure that the IP systems continue to foster innovation. The five sessions of the WIPO Conversation to date have focused on AI, data, and frontier technologies in IP administration.

WIPO has prepared a paper exploring the (potential) impact of AI on IP policies in areas such as copyright and related rights, patents, trademarks, designs, and overall IP administration. It also maintains an AI and IP strategy clearing house, which collates government instruments (strategies, regulations, etc.) that are relevant to AI, data, and IP.

WIPO is also developing and deploying AI solutions in the context of various activities; relevant examples are WIPO Translate and the WIPO Brand Image Search, which use AI for automated translation and image recognition. The WIPO Index of AI Initiatives in IP Offices seeks to foster information sharing and collaboration between national IP Offices working on similar projects.

Alternative dispute resolution and critical internet resources

WIPO’sactivitiesregarding the Domain Name System(DNS) revolve around the protection of trademarks and related rights in the context of domain names. It developed the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Under this policy, WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center provides dispute resolution services for second-level domain name registrations under generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to which the UDPR applies. The Center also administers disputes under specific policies adopted by some gTLD registries (e.g. .aero, .asia, .travel). In addition, it offers domain name dispute resolution services for over 70 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). WIPO has developed a ccTLD Program to provide advice to many ccTLD registries on the establishment of dispute resolution procedures. It 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 DNS. 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 gTLDs (such as legal rights objections, the Trademark Clearinghouse, and the uniform rapid suspension system). The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center administers trademark-related dispute resolution cases for several gTLDs and ccTLDs.

Copyright

WIPO is actively contributing to international discussions on the opportunities offered by copyright in the digital environment, especially to developing economies, small and medium enterprises  (SMEs) and women entrepreneurs. The organisation administers the Internet Treaties and the Beijing Treaty, which clarify that existing copyright and related rights apply on the internet, and introduce new online rights, while also establishing international norms aimed at preventing unauthorised access to and use of creative works on the internet or other digital networks. The WIPO Accessible Books Consortium furthers the practical implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty to increase the number of books available worldwide in accessible digital formats. WIPO member states are considering topics related to copyright in the digital environment at the multilateral level. WIPO also carries out research and organises seminars and other meetings on aspects concerning challenges and possible solutions for taking advantage of the opportunities offered by copyright and related rights in the digital era.

Liability of intermediaries

Given WIPO’s concerns  regarding  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 analyses of national approaches to the liability of Internet intermediaries), and organises events (seminars, workshops, sessions at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum and Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meetings, etc.) aimed at facilitating multistakeholder discussions on the potential liability of internet intermediaries concerning copyright infringements.

  • Comparative analysis of national approaches of the liability of the internet intermediaries (I and II).

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. 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. The WIPO GREEN platform includes a digital database of green technologies in sectors such as energy, water and transportation. In 2022, WIPO launched the Green Technology Book, a major digital publication to showcase concrete solutions related to climate change adaptation. The report will be fully integrated with the WIPO GREEN database, allowing for continuous additions by technology providers.

  • WIPO GREEN – online marketplace for sustainable/ green technologies

Digital tools

Here are some examples of the digital tools WIPO uses in relation to its services:

  • WIPO Online Case Administration Tools, including WIPO eADR (allowing parties in a dispute, mediators, arbitrators, and experts in a WIPO case to securely submit communications electronically into an online docket) and online facilities for meetings and hearings as part of WIPO cases.
  • WIPO GREEN – online marketplace for sustainable technologies.
  • WIPO Match – platform that matches seekers of specific IP-related development needs with potential providers offering resources.
  • WIPO Alert – platform to upload information on entities that infringed copyright at national level.
  • 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 – also includes an eLearning Centre.
  • WIPO Connect – enables collective management of copyright and related rights at local and central levels.
  • ABC Global Book Service – on-line catalogue that allows participating libraries for the blind and organisations serving people who are print disabled to obtain accessible content.
  • WIPO Knowledge Centre – hosts virtual exhibitions. Recent subjects have included geographical indications, and AI.

Social media channels

Facebook @WIPO

Flickr @WIPO

Instagram @wipo

LinkedIn @WIPO

Podcast @https://www.wipo.int/podcasts/en/

X @WIPO

YouTube @WIPO

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

Skip to content