18 June 2019
UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation Calls for 2020 Global Commitment
Photo by Lukas on Unsplash
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The High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation presented its recommendations in a landmark report addressing how digital technology can support achievement of the SDGs and ensure a more inclusive digital economy, among other topics.

The panel is calling on the UN to facilitate the development and adoption of a "global commitment for digital cooperation" by 2020.

10 June 2019: The High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation presented its recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in a landmark report titled, ‘The Age of Digital Interdependence.’ The panel, chaired by philanthropist Melinda Gates and e-business leader Jack Ma, is calling on the UN to facilitate the development and adoption of a “global commitment for digital cooperation” by 2020, drawing on the experience of the World We Want process that helped formulate the SDGs.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres established the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation on 12 July 2018 to strengthen international and multi-stakeholder cooperation and contribute to the public debate on a safe and inclusive digital future for all. The panel met in person in September 2018 and January 2019, and it held regional consultations in Africa and Asia.

The panel addressed three main aspects of the digital revolution, considering: how digital technology can support achievement of the SDGs and ensure a more inclusive digital economy; the implications of digital technologies for human rights and security; and how the global architecture for cooperation on digital technologies can be improved.

At a briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, US, marking the release of the 47-page report, Guterres warned that, while the internet reaches four billion people and the world is experiencing an unprecedented pace of technological change, the lack of preparation and cooperation by the international community to date is “leading to some very bad outcomes.” He cited the use of social media to broadcast hate and violence, and the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to negatively affect employment and produce other social ills. He declared his intention to create a roadmap for the UN’s role with regard to digital technologies, based on the report’s findings and recommendations.

In relation to the SDGs, the High-Level Panel makes four recommendations:

  • every adult should have affordable access to digital networks and digitally-enabled financial and health services by 2030;
  • a multi-stakeholder alliance involving the UN should create a platform for sharing digital public goods, engaging talent and pooling data sets;
  • the UN, governments, multilateral banks, the private sector and civil society should adopt policies to support “full digital inclusion and digital equality” for women and traditionally marginalized groups; and
  • a set of metrics for digital inclusiveness should be urgently agreed, researched and used in reports of the UN, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a foundation for developing strategies and action plans.

On human rights and security, the High-Level Panel recommends that: the UN should review how existing international human rights accords and standards apply to new and emerging digital technologies; social media enterprises should work with governments, international and local civil society organizations and human rights experts to respond to existing or potential human rights violations; and the governance of AI should be strengthened to ensure that humans retain accountability, including for “life and death” decisions, through development of clear standards and principles based on multi-stakeholder and multilateral approaches. The panel also calls for establishing regional and global digital help desks to help governments, civil society and the private sector to understand digital issues and develop capacity to steer cooperation related to the social and economic impacts of digital technologies, and for developing a global commitment on digital trust and security to elucidate a vision for digital stability and norms for the responsible use of technology, and propose priorities for action.

On global digital cooperation, the panel recommends that the UN Secretary-General facilitate an open consultation process to develop updated mechanisms for global digital cooperation, with a view to making a global commitment for digital cooperation by the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020. Such a process could be inspired by the ‘World We Want’ process that helped formulate the SDGs, the Panel suggests.

The High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation has 20 members, including the Co-Chairs. Members serve in their personal capacity and come from a range of backgrounds in developed and developing countries, including governments, businesses, civil society and academia. [UN Digital Cooperation Website] [Publication: The Age of Digital Interdependence]

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