The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Acronym: UNHCR

Established: 1950

Address: Rue de Montbrillant 94, 1201 Genève, Switzerland

Website: https://www.unhcr.org/

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

Established in 1950 after the end of WWII, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a UN agency mandated to help and protect refugees, internally displaced and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

Whereas the majority of its activities take place in the field (given that 90% of its staff is based on the ground) and include, among other things, the provision of protection, shelter, emergency relief, and repatriation, it also works with national political, economic and social actors in order to ensure that refugee policies are enacted and laws are compliant with international frameworks. In addition, the organisation also takes on advocacy activities where it works with governments, non-government actors in order to promote practices and provide assistance to those in need.

As recognition for its work, in 1954, the UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Digital activities

The UNHCR’s digital activities centre around its core objective – to aid refugees and displaced persons. The organisation, therefore, has been very active in the area of digital inclusion and digital identity. In this context, the UNHCR, for instance, looks for ways how digital identity can facilitate protection and empowerment of refugees and asylum-seekers. In addition, the Refugee agency has conducted substantial work in the field of privacy and data protection and transition to online learning to ensure the right to education.

Digital policy issues

Digital identities 

To promote the inclusion of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons and other vulnerable individuals, the UNHCR focuses a part of its work on digital identity. Within this scope, it published in 2018 its “UNHCR Strategy on Digital Identity and Inclusion”. In this document, the UNHCR defines the challenges faced by individuals, in particular, foreigners, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who lack their legal identity papers. It highlights the advantages brought about by digitalisation and defines three main objectives for achieving the digital inclusion and digital identity: 1) Empower refugees, stateless and forcibly displaced persons to access, among other things, the job market, education and financial services; 2) strengthen states’ capacity to register and document all individuals living on their respective territories and ensure conformity with international standards of data security and privacy; 3) improve service delivery (e.g. delivery of legal and protection) through the use of the Internet and mobile technologies.

From a practical point of view, the Refugee Agency uses Population Registration and Identity Management Ecosystem (PRIMES) which gathers UNHCR’s digital registration, identity management and case management tools into a single internally connected and interoperable ecosystem. The tool makes use of personal information including biographic and biometric data, to provide necessary assistance, protection and services to protection to refugees and other displaced populations.

Online education 

Online learning plays also features in UNHCR’s work. In a recent publication titled ‘Supporting Continued Access to Education during COVID-19’, the UNHCR underscored its vital role in advocating for and ensuring the inclusion of refugees in national response plans to ensure the continuity of learning. The document sheds light on some of the activities that it has undertaken in light of the health crisis, including, the launch of online learning platforms in Jordan as well as related education programmes in Uganda. 

In the broader context of online education, in its ‘Education 2030: A Strategy for Refugee Inclusion’, the UNHCR highlights the increasingly important role played by digital technologies and proposes the strengthening of policies and practices to promote the development of digital and transferable skills through connected and blended learning 

methods. Keeping within the broader approach, in 2016, the UNHCR, together with Arizona State University, initiated the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC). The objective of the initiative is to promote, coordinate and support the provision of quality higher education in contexts of conflict, crisis and displacement through Connected Learning that thanks to the use of information technology combine face-to-face and online learning. 

To pursue its action in the domain of access to education, the Refugee Agency runs several platforms. To illustrate, its online platform ‘UNHCR Opportunities’ allows refugees, IDPs and other displaced persons to find accredited higher education academic or scholarship programmes that have been verified by UNHCR. The ‘Learn and Connect’ portal enables UNHCR staff and partners to access a comprehensive set of learning activities.

Sustainable development 

The UNHCR is firmly committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The interplay between digital and development is evident in the Agency’s contributions in the field of digital inclusion. To this end, the UNHCR has published the above-mentioned ‘Strategy on Digital Identity and Inclusion’.

The Agency has also developed Digital Access, Inclusion and Participation programme, to ensure that refugees and other displaced communities have access to digital technology and connectivity, and increasing their participation in Agency’s work. UNHCR’s Innovation Service leads the programme.

In 2018, the UNHCR launched the Global Compact for Refugees, a  framework for more equitable responsibility-sharing, noting that sustainable solutions to refugee situations cannot be realised without international cooperation. Therefore, it sets out four key objectives: to ease the pressures on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions, and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity. Moreover, the Agency developed a digital platform for the Global Compact on Refugees, which enables the sharing of experiences and knowledge on the implementation of the Global Compact for Refugees.

The UNHCR has also worked with students and young people to raise awareness on many challenges faced by refugees. For instance, the Agency has launched ‘The MUN Refugee Challenge’ to encourage students worldwide to debate on and shape solutions to numerous refugee crises. 

Privacy and data protection 

The UNHCR has been very vocal in the area of data protection, emphasising that ‘Data protection is part and parcel of refugee protection’. Since 2015, the Refugee agency has its own Data protection policy. The Policy is accompanied by the ‘Guidance on the Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern to UNHCR’, published in 2018, with the aim of assisting the UNHCR personnel in the application and interpretation of the above Policy. 

The Refugee agency has recently published a ‘Data Transformation Strategy 2020-2025’ aimed at strengthening its role as a leading authority on data and information related to forcibly displaced and stateless persons.

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

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Acronym: Geneva Graduate Institute

Established: 1927

Address: Case postale 1672, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland

Website: https://www.graduateinstitute.ch

The Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva Graduate Institute) is an institution of research and higher education at the postgraduate level dedicated to the study of world affairs, with a particular emphasis on the cross-cutting fields of international relations and development issues.

Through its core activities, the Institute promotes international cooperation and contributes to the progress of developing societies. More broadly, it endeavours to develop creative thinking on the major challenges of our time, foster global responsibility, and advance respect for diversity.

By intensely engaging with international organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments, and multinational companies, the Institute participates in global discussions and prepares future policymakers to lead tomorrow’s world.

In 2022, the Institute launched a new Competence Hub on digital technologies. The Tech Hub brings together a diversity of internal and external expertise to explore technologies from a human-centred and human-biotype-centred perspective. The focus will be the exploration of current and future technological innovations from a social science perspective, with an interest in the socio-political, governance, and geopolitical consequences of the current technological revolution. It will progressively structure different kinds of activities as well as welcome and foster research projects.

This transdisciplinary and horizontal initiative enables the Institute to forge and express its own unique voice on the digital turn and its consequences. It has indeed a particular role to play in the exploration of all those questions that need a transdisciplinary social science and humanities perspective and are by nature profoundly inter-transnational. The reality is that the Institute is already producing research and knowledge on those questions and diffusing them through teaching and events.

Digital activities

As part of its main strategy, the Institute seeks to develop digitally driven innovation in teaching and research, as well as information technology (IT) services. At the same time, as a research institution focusing on global challenges and their impacts, the digital turn has become one of its fundamental and policy-oriented research areas.

In terms of research, a growing number of researchers and PhD candidates analyse the impact of digitalisation on international relations and development issues. A few examples of research topics are cybersecurity, hybrid threats and warfare, surveillance technologies, internet governance, digital diplomacy, digital health, digital rights, digital trust, digital economy, the future of work, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, AI and humanitarian law, and AI and peace negotiations among others. The Institute has also developed expertise in using digital technologies as new research methods, including computational social scientific methods and big data analytics.

In terms of teaching, its Master, PhD, and executive education courses are increasingly focused on the effects of digitalisation on society and the economy, and more generally the global system. Some examples of courses are Digital Approaches to Conflict Prevention, Digital Innovation in Nature Conservation, Internet, Technology and International Law, Introduction to Digital Social Science Research, Technology, Society and Decision- making, The Politics of Digital Design, AI and Politics, Internet Governance and Economics, Technology and Development, and Digital Diplomacy and Power Relations on Cyberspace. Digital skills workshops are also organised for students to provide them with basic digital competence for their future professional or academic life, including big data analysis, introduction to programming with R and Python, and data analysis in various contexts.

The Executive Education Course, upskill series, titled Artificial Intelligence: A Strategic Asset for Diplomacy and Organisations, caters to diplomats and professionals in international missions and organisations. Recognising the increasing reliance on AI and digital technologies in these settings, the two-day course delves into the transformative impact of these tools on decision-making, negotiation, administrative tasks, and future scenario prediction. Through concrete applications and case studies, participants explore the promises and pitfalls of AI, including its geopolitical implications. The second day is dedicated to hands-on practice, allowing participants to use and discuss innovative digital tools for enhancing their professional activities.

Over the years, the Institute has developed a performing IT infrastructure with secured data storage space and digital platforms (e.g. Campus, Moodle, TurntIn, Zoom, MyHR, Salesforces, Converis) to provide seamless services as well as dematerialised/paperless processes (e.g. student applications, course registration) for students, staff, and professors.

The Institute has developed digital tools (e.g. app for students, responsive website) and used digital services (e.g. social media, Facebook, Google ads) for many years in its student recruitment and communication campaigns.

Digital tools are also part of the pedagogical methods to improve learning. Flipped classrooms, MOOCs, SPOCs, and podcasts, to name a few, are used by professors in Master’s and PhD programmes, as well as in executive education. The Institute also supports professors in developing pedagogical skills and in using digital tools. Workshops are offered to all faculty members at the end of the summer to prepare them for hybrid teaching and the use of new technological tools in the classroom.

The Institute also organises workshops, seminars, film screenings, and other events on the digital turn, ranging from the digital divide and the governance and regulatory aspects of data to cybersecurity.

Digital policy issues

Some of the Institute’s prominent research initiatives are listed under respective digital policy issues sections.

Artificial intelligence

Conflict and peacebuilding

The faculty carries out a number of digital policy-related research projects, some of which focus on AI in particular. For example, the project titled Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) and War Crimes: Who is to Bear Responsibility? aims to clarify whether and to what extent the requirements for ascribing criminal responsibility for the commission of an act – and in particular, the key concepts of culpability theories – can be applied to the use of LAWS in combat operations. This analysis will serve to identify lacunae and inconsistencies in the current legal framework in the face of the advent of military robotics.

This project explores how the increasing digitalisation of peace processes affects international peace building efforts that take place in a global environment characterised by friction between liberal and authoritarian approaches. To make sense of these dynamics, the project draws on the concept of apomediation, to suggest that solutions to conflict are no longer simply supplied by human agents, but through a complex entanglement of human-machine networks.

The Intrepid Project aims to develop a general understanding of how policy announcements by state agencies are interpreted by journalists in ways that send signals, indicate intent, and otherwise provoke economic and political reactions. Machine learning (ML) techniques and the semantic and syntactic properties of announcement texts are then used to develop models of the announcement interpretation process.

Global Health

A number of projects carried out by the Institute’s members address the relationship between digital technologies and health. For instance, the Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition (MERIAM) project uses computer models to test and scale up cost effective means to improve the prediction and monitoring of undernutrition in difficult contexts.

The Institute hosted the new Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) (new HealthAI) directed by former Ambassador of India and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute Amandeep Gill. I-DAIR aims to create a platform to promote responsible and inclusive AI research and digital technology development for health. This platform is supported by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA).

The project Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing up in a Digital World, hosted at the Global Health Centre (GHC), explores how to ensure that digital development helps improve the health and well-being of all, and especially among children and young people. It focuses on examining integrative policies for digital health, AI, and universal health coverage to support the attainment of the third sustainable development goal (SDG).

Democracy

Questions about the potential impact of the internet are now routinely raised in relation to political events and elections in most places. The project on the Digital Infrastructuring of Democracy asks how the digital infrastructuring of democracy unfolds through regulatory and political processes, with a heuristic focus on both its transnational dimension and its specific reverberations in democracies of the Global South. The project concentrates on one thematic controversy related to each aspect of infrastructure: the accountability of algorithms for code, data protection for content, and encryption for circulation.

Taking stock of the centrality of AI in society and in the citizen-government relation, this project hosted at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy seeks to engage with youth in Switzerland to explore the future role of AI in democracy through storytelling and narrative foresight. It will give a voice to the citizens of tomorrow and collaborate with art schools to design participatory AI art.

Future of work

Focusing on the Global South, the project African Futures: Digital Labor and Blockchain Technology strengthened empirical knowledge on changing trends in employment in the region by way of a two-pronged approach to the increasingly interconnected global division of labour: (1) App-based work mediated by online service platforms and (2) the use of blockchain technology in mining sites for ethical sourcing, traceability, and proof of origin.

The emergence of AI and digitally mediated work represents a fundamental challenge for most developing economies. Coupled with jobless economic growth, rising human productivity, and the exponential increase of the available labour pool, few jobs can be said to be safe from automated labour. This project examines the impact of digital work and automation in the Global South, from blockchain technology to ride-sharing apps, to inform debates on automation, computerisation and non-standard forms of work.

Inclusive finance

Projects carried out by the Institute’s members also address the role of digital technologies in enhancing financial inclusion. The project Effects of Digital Economy on Banking and Finance studies digital innovations and how fintech extends financial services to firms and households and improves credit allocation using loan-account level data comparing fintech and traditional banking.

Digital tools

  • Digital collections that allow free access to historical documents, texts, and photographs on international relations from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.
  • Two free online courses (MOOCs) on globalisation and global governance.
  • Podcasts showcasing professors’ and guests’ expertise (What matters today, In conversation with, Parlons en).
  • Podcasts are also integrated into the curricula of several international histories and interdisciplinary Master’s courses to encourage students to use social network platforms to popularise their findings.

Future of meetings

Events, sessions, and seminars are held online (usually on Zoom), for example, information sessions for admitted and prospective students take place online.

Social media channels

Facebook @graduateinstitute

Instagram @graduateinstitute

LinkedIn @geneva graduate institute

X @GVAGrad

YouTube @Geneva Graduate Institute

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Acronym: UNECE

Established: 1947

Address: Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

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

Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

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

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

Digital activities

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

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

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

Digital policy issues

Digital standards

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

Internet of things and artificial intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Artificial intelligence for energy

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

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

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

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

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

    Automated driving

    Blockchain

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

    Critical infrastructure

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

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

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

    Under the 1958 Agreement (binding to 54 countries)

  • World Trade Organization

    Acronym: WTO

    Established: 1995

    Address: Centre William Rappard, Rue de Lausanne 154, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland

    Website: https://www.wto.org/

    Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations

    WTO is an intergovernmental organisation that deals with the rules of trade among its members. Its main functions include administering WTO trade agreements, providing a forum for trade negotiations, settling trade disputes, monitoring national trade policies, providing technical assistance and training for developing countries, and ensuring cooperation with other international organisations.

    WTO members have negotiated and agreed upon rules regulating international trade, fostering transparency and predictability in the international trading system. The main agreements are the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

    Digital activities

    Several internet governance and digital trade policy-related issues are discussed in WTO. E-commerce discussions are ongoing under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and among a group of 90 WTO members currently negotiating e-commerce rules under the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-commerce. Discussions focus on several digital issues, including data flows and data localisation, source code, cybersecurity, privacy, consumer protection, capacity building, and customs duties on electronic transmissions.

    As part of its outreach activities, WTO organises numerous events such as the Aid for Trade Global Review and an annual Public Forum, which brings together governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, businesses, and other stakeholders for discussions on a broad range of issues, including many relating to the digital economy.

    Digital policy issues

    Telecommunications

    In 1997, WTO members successfully concluded negotiations on market access for basic telecommunications services, which resulted in new specific commitments in the sector for a significant part of  WTO  membership.  These negotiations also resulted in the Reference Paper, a set of regulatory principles for basic telecommunication services that various members have inscribed in their schedules of commitments. Since 1997, the number of members that have undertaken market access commitments on telecommunications and subscribed to the Reference Paper has continued to increase as a result of new governments joining WTO through the process of accession. Under the JSI negotiations, participants are discussing a proposal that seeks to update the provisions of the Reference Paper.

    Digital standards The issue of digital standards is addressed as ‘standards and regulations’ within the work of WTO.

    International standards are important to the global digital economy as they can enable interconnectivity and interoperability for telecommunications and internet infrastructures. The WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT Agreement) aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures affecting trade in goods (including telecommunications products) are non-discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The TBT Agreement strongly encourages that such regulatory measures be based on relevant international standards. The TBT Committee serves as a forum where governments discuss and address concerns with specific regulations, including those affecting digital trade. Examples of relevant TBT measures notified to or discussed at the TBT Committee include (1) measures addressing the internet of things (IoT) and related devices in terms of their safety, interoperability, national security/cybersecurity, performance, and quality; (2) measures regulating 5G cellular network technology for reasons related to, among others, national security and interoperability; (3) measures regulating 3D printing (additive manufacturing) devices; (4) measures regulating drones (small unmanned aircraft systems) due to risks for humans/consumers, interoperability problems, and national security risks; and (5) measures dealing with autonomous vehicles, mostly concerned with their safety and performance.

    Cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity issues have been addressed in several WTO bodies. For example, the TBT Committee has discussed national cybersecurity regulations applicable to information and communications technology (ICT) products and their potential impact on trade. In the TBT Committee, WTO members have raised specific trade concerns related to cybersecurity regulations. Some of the specific issues discussed include how cybersecurity regulations discriminating against foreign companies and technologies can negatively impact international trade in ICT products. Proposals on cybersecurity have also been tabled in the JSI on e-commerce where negotiations are ongoing.

    Data governance

    The growth of the global digital economy is fuelled by data. Discussions on how provisions of WTO agreements apply to data flows are ongoing among WTO members. In this context, is particularly relevant, as it applies to trade in services such as (1) data transmission and data processing by any form of technology (e.g. mobile or cloud technologies); (2) new ICT business models such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS); (3) online distribution services e.g. (e-commerce market platforms); and (4) financial services such as mobile payments. The extent to which members can impose restrictions on data or information flows affecting trade in services is determined by their GATS schedules of commitments. Under the JSI, proposals on cross-border data flows have been submitted and are being discussed. These proposals envision a general rule establishing the free flow of data for commercial activities. Proposed exceptions to this general rule are, to a large extent, similar to the existing GATS General and Security Exceptions and relate to, for example, protection of personal data, protection of legitimate public policy objectives, national security interests, and exclusion of governmental data. Issues related to data flows have also been raised by members in other contexts at the WTO, such as in the Council for Trade in Services, for instance, when national cybersecurity measures adopted have been considered by some members as trade barriers.

    Intellectual property rights

    The TRIPS Agreement is a key international instrument for the protection of IP and is of relevance to e-commerce. The technologies that underpin the internet and enable digital commerce such as software, routers, networks, switches, and user interfaces are protected by IP. In addition, e-commerce transactions can involve digital products with IP-protected content, such as e-books, software, or blueprints for 3D-printing. As IP licences often regulate the usage rights for such intangible digital products, the TRIPS Agreement and the international IP Conventions provide much of the legal infrastructure for digital trade.

    These conventions include:

    The role of IP in promoting innovation and trade in the digital age has been highlighted in recent WTO World Trade Reports.

    IP-related issues are also being discussed in the JSI. Submitted proposals include text on limiting requests to the access or transfer of source code. The source code or the data analysis used in the operation of programmes or services is often legally protected by IP law through copyright, patent, or trade secret provisions. The main goal of the JSI proposals on access to source code is to prevent members from requiring access or transfer of the source code owned by a national of another member state as a condition for market access. Some exceptions to this general prohibition have also been proposed. For example, for software that is used for critical infrastructures and public procurement transactions.

    Electronic commerce

    WTO agreements cover a broad spectrum of trade topics, including some related to e-commerce, which has been on the WTO agenda since 1998 when the ministers adopted the Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce. The Declaration instructed the General Council to establish a Work Programme on electronic commerce. In that Declaration, members also agreed to continue the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions (the ’moratorium’). The Work Programme provides a broad definition of e-commerce and instructs four WTO bodies (Council for Trade in Goods; Council for Trade in Services; TRIPS Council; and the Committee on Trade and Development) to explore the relationship between WTO Agreements and e-commerce. The Work Programme and the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions have been periodically reviewed and renewed. At its recently concluded 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022, WTO members agreed to reinvigorate the Work Programme, particularly in line with its development dimension, and to intensify discussions on the moratorium, including on its scope, definition, and impact. Furthermore, members agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC13. WT/MIN(22)/32; WT/L/1143

    At MC11 in 2017, a group of members issued the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce to explore work towards future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce. Following the exploratory work, in January 2019, 76 members confirmed their ‘intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce’ and to ‘achieve a high standard out- come that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible’. Negotiations are continuing among 90 members 90 Members as of end of October 2023: Albania; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahrain, Kingdom of; Belgium; Benin; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Côte D’Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; Finland; France; Gambia, Georgia; Germany; Greece; Guatemala;Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; Iceland; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait, the State of; Kyrgyz Republic;the State of; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malaysia; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Mongolia; Montenegro; Myanmar; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Oman; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Singapore; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States; and Uruguay and are structured under five broad themes, namely enabling e-commerce, openness and e-commerce, trust and e-commerce, cross-cutting issues, and telecommunications. JSI participants have reached a high degree of convergence on e-authentication and e-signatures, e-contracts, open government data, online consumer protection, unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam), transparency, open internet access, paperless trading, cybersecurity, electronic transactions frameworks, e-invoicing and single windows. Negotiations on electronic transactions frameworks, source code, cybersecurity, electronic invoicing, privacy, telecommunications, and customs duties on electronic transmissions continue. On the margins of the MC12, the co-convenors of the JSI (Australia, Japan, and Singapore), issued a statement underlining the importance of developing global rules on e-commerce and, together with Switzerland, launched the E-commerce Capacity Building Framework to strengthen digital inclusion and to help developing and least developed countries to harness the opportunities of digital trade.

    Access The issue of arbitration is referred to under the issue of ‘market access’ within the work of WTO.

    Information Technology Agreement (ITA-I and ITA-II)

    The ITA-I was concluded by 29 participants in 1996. Through this agreement, participating WTO members eliminated tariffs and other duties and charges (ODCs) on hundreds of ICT products – including computers, laptops, servers, routers, communication devices (i.e. mobile telephones),  semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing equipment and parts thereof – to foster the development of ICT global value chains and facilitate greater adoption of the ICT products that lie at the core of a global digital economy and power the downstream innovative and competitive capacity of every industry that deploys them. Currently, 83 WTO members are participants in ITA-I, accounting for approximately 97% of world trade in ITA-I products. As technology continues to evolve, ICT is found at the core of an ever-increasing range of products. At the MC10 in Nairobi in 2015, over 50 WTO members concluded ITA-II negotiations and agreed to expand the ITA product coverage by around 200 products. ICT products such as GPS navigation equipment, satellites, and medical equipment were included and tariffs on these products have been eliminated among ITA-II participants. At present, the ITA-II consists of 55 WTO members, representing over 90% of world trade in ITA-II products. The ITA is being discussed in the JSI under the market access focus group.

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    Geneva Internet Platform

    Acronym: GIP

    Established: 2014

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

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

    Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations

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

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

    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 ILO is the United Nations agency for the world of work. It was founded on the conviction that universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.

    The ILO brings together governments, employers, and workers from its 187 member states in a human-centred approach to the future of work based on decent employment creation, rights at work, social protection, and social dialogue.

    The ILO’s tripartite membership drafts, adopts, and monitors the implementation of international labour standards on key world of work issues – ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

    The ILO undertakes research and data collection across the range of world of work topics. It publishes flagship reports and a wide range of publications and working papers. Its globally renowned set of statistical databases is maintained and updated with nationally sourced labour market data.

    The ILO manages a wide range of development cooperation projects in all regions of the world. Realised in partnership with donor countries and organisations, these projects aim to create the conditions for delivery of the ILO’s decent work agenda.

    Three initiatives are central to the ILO’s current work: the establishment of a global coalition to promote social justice, advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, and its four priority action programmes. The latter focuses on the transition from the informal to the formal economy, just transitions towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies, decent work in supply chains, and decent work in crises and post-crisis situations.

    Digital activities

    As the ILO covers the full scope of the world of work, digital issues are present across the organisation’s work. The ILO addresses digitalisation through a wide range of topics including digital labour platforms, digital skills knowledge, employability, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and data governance – and more broadly, the future of work. The ILO also tracks the effects of digitalisation on specific work sectors, for instance, the postal and telecommunication services sector.

    Digital policy issues

    Automation and artificial intelligence

    The ILO is paying close attention to how automation and AI  are changing the labour markets and the ways we work. We have examined the impacts of automation in many publications, for instance, Robotics and Reshoring, Automation and its Employment Effects: A Literature Review of Automotive and Garment Sectors, and the research brief, Who Moves and Who Stays? A number of recent studies have focused on the labour impacts of generative AI and the growing use of AI in specific sectors. Examples include the working papers, Generative AI and Jobs: A Global Analysis of Potential Effects on Job Quantity and Quality and Artificial Intelligence in Human Resource Management: A Challenge for the Human-centred Agenda? AI has been the topic of recent editions of the ILO’s Future of Work Podcast series. 

    Access to data

    The ILO has long been a leading resource for policymakers, researchers, and other users of data on the labour markets and all aspects of the world of work. ILOSTAT (a portal to its comprehensive labour statistics) and the ILO Knowledge Portal (offering access to country information and data on labour laws, standards, policies, and statistics) make real-time data available to users around the world. The World Employment and Social Outlook Data Finder provides customised datasets on request for measures such as the global labour force, unemployment, and employment by sector. The ILO also has a Development Cooperation Dashboard with data on labour-related policy areas and on the organisation’s field projects, funding, and expenditures. All materials published by the ILO are collected and freely available in Labordoc, the organisation’s digital repository. The ILO’s new Research Repository allows users to easily access our knowledge products by topic and author.

    Future of work

    The future of work has been a key unifying digital issue in the ILO’s activities for many years. In 2015, the ILO Director-General presented a report to the International Labour Conference that proposed a special initiative on the future of work. Since that time, much of the research the ILO has undertaken and many of the reports we have published have fallen under this rubric. In 2019, the ILO established the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work as part of our Future of Work Initiative. The Commission was composed of representatives from government, civil society, academia, and business and worker representatives.

    The Commission published a landmark report, Work for a Brighter Future, that called for a human-centred agenda for the future of work and explored the impacts of technological progress in the fields of 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, which advocated ‘full and productive employment and decent work’ in the context of the digital transformation of work, including platform work. Examining the future of work in its myriad implications remains a primary focus for the organisation to this day.

    Sustainable development

    The ILO is playing a pivotal role in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, most specifically specifically sustainable development goal (SDG) 8 (decent work and economic growth). The ILO is one of the main actors supporting the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions initiative, the UN system’s collective response for addressing the multiple challenges that threaten to erase development progress. The Global Accelerator aims to direct investments to help create at least 400 million decent jobs, primarily in the green, digital, and care economies, and to extend social protection coverage to the over 4 billion people currently excluded. The ILO has also created the Decent Work for Sustainable Development (DW4SD) Resource Platform,  which maps 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. A recent ILO report, Transformative Change and SDG 8, outlines an integrated policy approach that countries can follow to achieve SDG 8.

    Capacity development

    Capacity development is another digital-related issue at the core of the ILO’s activities. As part of our skills, knowledge, and employability initiatives, the ILO helps governments develop education and training systems to take advantage of new educational technologies and give greater attention to digital skills. We support enterprises and employers to make investments to expand education and training programmes, and workers to proactively upgrade their skills or acquire new ones.

    Examples of many resources the ILO has produced are Digital Employment Diagnostic Guidelines, Digitalization of National TVET and Skills Systems and Digitalise Your Business: Digital Strategies for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. These and many more resources are available from the ILO’s Skills and Lifelong Learning knowledge-sharing platform.

    Together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ILO developed the SKILL-UP programme, which assists developing countries in building capacity and improving their digital skills systems, as well as the Skills Innovation Facility. The Facility focuses on identifying and testing innovative ideas and solutions to address current and future skills challenges. In addition, the ILO’s Skills Innovation Network provides a platform for innovators to collaborate and share experiences on developing innovations for skills development.

    The ILO 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.

    Privacy and data protection

    In regard to privacy and data protection, the ILO has published a set of principles on the protection of workers’ personal data, which explores trends, principles, and good practices related to the protection of personal data.

    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. The following digital tools are also available:

    Information on conferences and events is available on the ILO events page.

    Digital tools

    Digital labour platforms and telework

    A key focus of ILO research is the effects of digitalisation on labour market evolution and new forms of work. The organisation has been closely tracking the implications of digital labour platforms digital and remote work (e.g. teleworking). The ILO has published some essential references on these new subjects including the World Employment and Social Outlook report on digital labour platforms and the report, Working from Home, published during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most other ILO studies also reflect digital issues. For example, recent Global Employment Trends for Youth reports cover inequalities in youth labour markets arising from digital transformation, as well as investment in young people’s skills,

    Social media channels

    Facebook @ILO

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    Instagram @iloinfo

    LinkedIn @/international-labour-organization-ilo

    TikTok @ilo

    X @ilo

    YouTube @ilotv

    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. We host expert and intergovernmental discussions and have developed a number of (digital) tools to help improve awareness and understanding of IHL and relevant standards. The ICRC cooperates with other organisations on digital policy issues.

    Digital policy issues

    Artificial intelligence

    The ICRC has explored the impact of AI tools in armed conflict, in particular their use by armed actors. In a document titled Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Armed Conflict: A Human-Centred Approach (2019, revised 2021), we argue: ‘Any new technology of warfare must be used, and must be capable of being used, in compliance with existing rules of international humanitarian law.’ The document touches on the use of AI and machine learning (ML) technologies capable of controlling physical military hardware. It argues that from a humanitarian perspective, AWS are of particular concern given that humans may not be able to control such weapons or the resulting use of force, and AI-controlled AWS would exacerbate these risks. The ICRC has urged states to adopt new international rules on AWS. The position paper also emphasises the potential for AI to exacerbate the risks to civilians and civilian infrastructure posed by cyber and information operations, as well as changing the nature of military decision-making in armed conflict. The ICRC calls for a human-centred approach to the application of AI in armed conflict that preserves human judgement and jointly with the United Nations Secretary-General, ICRC’s president is calling for establishing new prohibitions and restrictions on AWS. The question has been further explored in other reports, such as Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics: Technical Aspects of Human Control (2019). 

    Cyber operations during armed conflict

    The use of cyber operations during armed conflict is a reality today and 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. Our 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, we convene 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 avoiding civilian harm from military cyber operations during armed conflicts. Our 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. The ICRC explores innovative solutions, such as a digital emblem, to protect medical and humanitarian missions in cyberspace. 

    Recently we have focused on non-state actors such as civilians and technological companies getting more and more involved in cyber operations. We first issued three documents. The first focuses on the growing trend of civilians at large getting involved in digital operations and the related risks. The second focuses on when might digital tech companies become targetable in war. And last and more specifically on hacking, we published a paper called 8 Rules for “Civilian Hackers” During War, and 4 Obligations for States to Restrain Them

    ‘Protection’ in the digital agae 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.

    Without undermining the positive impact technology can bring in conflict, including enhancing access to life-saving information and potentially minimising collateral damage, protection work must consider the risks in the digital age. In other words, it must encompass the protection of the rights of people when their lives intersect with the digital sphere. This question remains under-regarded and a blog post tries to shed light on this grey area

    The ICRC puts a special emphasis on the impact of misinformation and disinformation as they can increase people’s exposure to risk and vulnerabilities. For example, if displaced people in need of humanitarian assistance are given intentionally misleading information about life-saving services and resources, they can be misdirected away from help and towards harm.

    Hate speech, meanwhile, contributes directly or indirectly to endangering civilian populations’ safety or dignity. For example, when online hate speech calls for violence against a minority group, it can contribute to psychological and social harm through harassment, defamation, and intimidation. 

    These issues have been tackled in a document we published in 2021 called Harmful Information.

    Misinformation and disinformation can also impact humanitarian organisations’ ability to operate in certain areas, potentially leaving the needs of people affected by armed conflict or other violence unmet. When false and manipulated information spreads, it can erode trust within communities and damage the reputation of humanitarian operations.

    For the ICRC, whose work is founded on trust, the spread of disinformation, especially where tensions are high, could quickly lead to humanitarian personnel being unable to leave their offices, distribute live-saving assistance, visit detainees, or bring news to people who have lost contact with a family member.

    Ultimately, it is important also to note that information operations have limits under IHL!

    Outer space

    Space systems have been employed for military purposes since the dawn of the space era. As the role of these systems in military operations during armed conflicts increases, so too does the likelihood of their being targeted, with a significant risk of harm to civilians and civilian objects on Earth and in space. This is because technology enabled by space systems permeates most aspects of civilian life, making the potential consequences of attacks on space systems a matter of humanitarian concern. Find out more in this blog called War, Law and Outer Space: Pathways to Reduce the Human Cost of Military Space Operations.

    Privacy and data protection

    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, we 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 current data protection principles apply to humanitarian organisations and builds on existing regulations, working procedures, and practices. The second edition 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 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 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.  

    Digital tools

    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 the principles of neutrality, independence, and impartiality.

    Resources

    The ICRC’s Law and Policy blog provides a large number of short pieces on cyber operations, featuring tech expert, legal, and policy perspectives. 

    Online learning is also used by the ICRC to promote the implementation of IHL. In 2019, we 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 the e-briefing library

    The ICRC maintains an online training centre and an app with all ICRC publications in English and French. 

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    Facebook @ICRC

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