IGF Messages 2022 and Call for Thematic Inputs 2023Marlene Fasolt, SDC
The IGF Secretariat has issued a Call for Thematic Inputs for the IGF 2023 that is still open until Tuesday, 31.01.2023. You can find the form here.
The result of this community survey will later serve as the basis for the workshop selection by the MAG. This means that the more often a topic is mentioned now, the more strongly the topic will be represented in the program later on. We encourage all child rights advocates to support children’s rights featuring prominently in the IGF program 2023.
Looking a few months back to IGF 2022 you may find messages and lessons learned below.
The 17th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was hosted by the Government of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa in a hybrid format from 28 November to 2 December 2022. The IGF Messages summarize the most important lessons learned from this IGF, as well as demands addressed towards the government and private sector. The messages focus on the 5 themes:
- Connecting All People and Safeguarding Human Rights
- Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
- Governing Data and Protecting Privacy
- Enabling Safety, Security and Accountability
- Addressing Advanced Technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Many sessions at this year’s IGF focused on children’s rights and the messages emphasize the need for children to enjoy the same rights and protections online as they do offline. They call to ensure children’s online safety by including digital literacy skills in the educational curricula. Digital literacy skills are important for all age groups and need differentiated approaches for young people and older generations.
The messages also underline the need for lawmakers and digital platforms to take responsibility to ensure children’s safety within a framework of children’s rights online consistent with international rights agreements including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as both stakeholder groups carry the responsibility.
Other messages do not explicitly mention children’s rights, but can be applied to the children’s rights framework. They emphasize the importance of having a human rights-centric framework for meaningful access to the internet. This is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and includes not only having access to the internet, but also the ability for users to express themselves freely, the unfettered exercise of democratic and political participation, and for persons of all backgrounds to experience the Internet without fear of harassment or discrimination.
Translation issues present significant barriers that can inhibit young peoples meaningful engagement with platforms’ community standards and guidelines, as a lot of online content is not available in local languages. Engagement with different language communities to improve the accuracy and relevance of translation is an important part of empowering children and young people to participate. It is necessary to consider the intersectionality of digital disadvantages through the combination of factors related to age, gender, ethnicity, language, social class and other factors.
The IGF messages stress data privacy as a human right that affects the right to privacy, equal treatment and non-discrimination, as well as the right to healthcare, education and public services, free expression and association. Privacy laws should be substantial, evidence-based and capable of clear enforcement. Those affected by them should be able to understand their implications clearly.
The full IGF Messages can be downloaded here.
In the rearview mirror: a children’s rights perspective on the sessions of the IGF 2022 on YouTubeMarlene Fasolt, SDC
The 17th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was hosted by the Government of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa in a hybrid format from 28 November to 2 December 2022. All the sessions were recorded and uploaded to the IGF’s YouTube channel and we have uploaded daily reports on the sessions that relate to growing up in the digital environment on this website. Following are the links to these videos:
In the Day 0 session #35 Harass me not participants were informed on gender-based violence on the Internet in various countries and respective countermeasures.
The Global Youth Summit highlighted young people’s voices and concerns in the digital environment and was prominently featured on Day Zero.
The networking session Safe internet use for all: Helplines working with communities showed that there is great interest from civil society organizations and governments on the African continent to engage in child online protection.
Speakers in the Opening Ceremony: Resilient Internet for a shared sustainable and common future referred to the 2.7 billion people still left offline and encouraged participants in the IGF to find solutions for creating a human-centered and resilient digital future.
Safety and security were also in the focus of WS #523 Youthful approach at data protection in messaging apps. Special attention was given to quantum computing which will have a massive impact on how users’ data disclosed in messaging apps can by analysed and used either for their benefit or detriment.
In the WS #70 Fighting the creators and spreaders of untruths online safer product design, algorithmic transparency, and the development of critical thinking skills to counteract the spreading of untruths was asked for. A professional fact checker in Ethiopia explained how difficult it is to check what is true and what is false in a country where over 80 different languages exist, with content even in the five main languages being difficult to oversee.
The WS #183 Digital Wellbeing of Youth: Selfgenerated sexualised content was organized by the German Children’s Fund and the Digital Opportunities Foundation and dealt with the questions: What does “self-generated" mean? Which answers do legislation and further national policies and transnational strategies provide? How can Internet Governance support a common approach in respect to different political systems and cultural backgrounds?
The WS #269 Data privacy gap: the Global South youth perspective called for data protection being mandatory in school education, for young people to understand the concept of protecting their privacy.
In WS #369 Harmonising online safety regulation speakers addressed the question how it can be ensured that regulatory regimes are interoperable and how co-operation to protect human rights online can be well organised.
Later that day in the Main Session Our Digital Future: How Dynamic Coalitions support the Global Digital Compact representatives from various Dynamic Coalitions discussed how specific intersessional activities of IGF dynamic coalitions can contribute to the evolution of the so-called IGF+ eco-system.
The WS #341 Global youth engagement in IG: successes and opportunities dealt with the opportunities for involvement that already exist for young people in the Internet Governance community, youth-oriented programmes and building a platform for dialogue and exchange of experiences and outcomes between participants and organisers of various projects, programmes and training in Internet Governance.
The WS #318 Gen-Z in Cyberspace: Are We Safe Online? underlined that the safety of children and young people not only lies in the parent’s responsibility, but it requires many distinct stakeholders including the government, technical experts and civil society.
Early on Day 3 the Dynamic Coalition on Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment held their session Translating data & laws into action for digital child rights. Faced with growing concern about the safety, security and privacy of children in digital environments, experts have long highlighted a broad range of data, legal, regulatory, policy and technology gaps needed to build robust prevention and response mechanisms. The link to this video will be uploaded soon.
The day closed with the Main Session Connecting All People & Safeguarding Human Rights. In this session regulation was discussed as a mean to address the various threats that the online environment pose to human rights, as for example internet shutdowns restricting the human right to access of information and freedom of speech. The link to this video will be uploaded soon.
On the final day of the IGF the so-called National and Regional IGFs from around the world held their joint session under the title Actions needed to keep our children safe online. Representatives stressed that the rights of every child must be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment, and children should have access to age-appropriate and empowering digital content, and information from a wide diversity of trusted sources while being protected from various dangerous risks. The link to this video will be uploaded soon.
The WS #471 Addressing children’s privacy and edtech apps emphasized that the use of edtech apps by children and adolescents generate different risks, especially with regard to privacy and the protection of their personal data. Large corporations that create and provide these services, some of which are free, can collect massive amounts of data and use it to send personalized advertising and behavioral modulation based on their vulnerabilities.
The WS #252 Building a safe & trustworthy digital world for all children, showed that while the Internet offers many opportunities for learning, communication, creativity & entertainment, two thirds of the world’s children don’t have internet access at home. Going online is essential for future generations to reap the benefits of digital transformation & support a sustainable future, but bringing children online requires more than expanding connectivity: it needs to respond to specific risks. The link to this video will be uploaded soon.
The WS #352 Youth lenses on Meaningful Access and Universal Connectivity showed that the concept of universal access has evolved over time however, evidence increasingly indicates that access to connectivity is not sufficient on its own. People and institutions from all sectors and stakeholder groups should reflect on connectivity in a holistic way that takes into account how people are able to make use of connectivity once they do have access.
Focus on the people: The 17th United Nations Internet Governance Forum ended on Friday, 02 December in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaJutta Croll, SDC
The 17th Internet Governance Forum concluded on 2 December with a call to urgently connect the 2.7 billion who are unconnected by increasing infrastructure investment, fostering digital literacy, harnessing advanced technologies, and building a safe and secure digital space where fundamental human rights are realized.
Over the course of five days, more than 5.100 participants representing 170 countries gathered in person in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and joined online with one mission in mind - to build a resilient Internet that is open, free, safe and inclusive.
The human-centered approach of the event was mirrored by an abundance of sessions dedicated to children’s rights and child protection. On the final day of the IGF the so-called National and Regional IGFs from around the world held their joint session under the title “Actions needed to keep our children safe online”. Representatives from Slovenia, Chad, China, Nepal, Nigeria and France stressed the need for further action to make the international vision for online conditions for children come true: the rights of every child must be respected, protected and fulfilled in the digital environment, and children should have access to age-appropriate and empowering digital content, and information from a wide diversity of trusted sources while being protected from various dangerous risks.
The Internet Governance Forum 2022 put a spotlight on Africa which is the least connected region in the world, with 60 per cent of the population offline. Aiming for a better digital future that provides space for everybody to participate, this year’s IGF saw an increase in representation from the Global South, with 44% of participants coming from Africa. Speaking on behalf of the host country, H.E. Mr. Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “Ethiopia has persisted in its drive for prosperity and in building a digital economy”. The continent’s growing youth population holds the key to transforming the region’s digital future.
The interlinkages between the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and all facets of digital space governance were evident in the over 300 sessions that took place throughout the week. Over 45 entities from the UN system, including the Heads of Global Communications and the Human Rights Office, and the UN Envoy on Technology lent their support in the IGF dialogues and deliberations that will inform the Global Digital Compact development process.
The Addis Ababa IGF Messages encapsulate the urgent priorities and actionable recommendations from governments, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders for a safe, sustainable and inclusive digital future.
The 18. IGF will be held Oct. 8 -12, 2023 in Kyoto, Japan
You will find further information on all sessions related to children’s rights and child protection in our daily reports from the event:
How do we get this Right? - Day 2 and 3 dealing with Rights and Responsibilities?SDC
Day 2 started with WS #369 Harmonising online safety regulation.
The session was organized by statutory regulatory agencies dealing with online safety issues. Speakers addressed the question how it can be ensured that regulatory regimes are interoperable and how co-operation to protect human rights online can be well organised. They pointed out that the global regulatory landscape for online safety is rapidly evolving. Australia passed legislation to establish an online safety regulator in 2015, and Fiji followed in 2018. The European Union is seeking to set global standards with the enactment of the Digital Services Act, and the UK has aspirations to be the safest place to be online, via its Online Safety Bill. These so-called First movers in online safety regulation have formed the new Global Online Safety Regulators Network.
The session concluded with the following key takeaways:
- Legislators around the world are increasingly engaging with online safety questions, and implementing novel regulatory regimes aimed at enhancing online safety and addressing various online safety risks. In this context, more and more independent online safety regulators are emerging, whose job it is to implement and enforce novel online safety regulations.
- To ensure people are protected online and to ensure that regulation is effective and consistent across boarders, international collaboration amongst regulators is essential. While substantive rules may differ across the world, there is significant scope for alignment around regulatory toolboxes and for the sharing of best-practices and expertise. The new Global Online Safety Regulators Network will serve as a crucial vehicle for collaboration.
Later that day in the main session Our Digital Future: How Dynamic Coalitions support the Global Digital Compact representatives from various Dynamic Coalitions discussed how specific intersessional activities of IGF dynamic coalitions can contribute to the evolution of the so-called IGF+ eco-system. Jutta Croll was speaking for the Dynamic Coalition on Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment. She referred to the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation that outlines the prevalence of child sexual exploitation and abuse as a major concern. Croll stressed children’s rights are a cross-cutting issue that the Dynamic Coalition is addressing with a strategic focus on facilitating the stakeholder dialogue on human rights advocating for children being respected as rights holders and early adopters of new technology. In dialogue with Amandeep Singh Gill - UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology (Tech Envoy), Ex-Officio Member of IGF Leadership Panel (LP) the panelists outlined how the IGF community of stakeholders will advance equitable and secure the digital transformation in support of sustainable development and greater social well-being worldwide. Amandeep Singh Gill encouraged the community to contribute to the Global Digital Compact thus shaping the future based on human rights, also children’s rights, and equal opportunities in education and profession.
Early on Day 3 the Dynamic Coalition on Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment held their session Translating data & laws into action for digital child rights.
Faced with growing concern about the safety, security and privacy of children in digital environments, experts have long highlighted a broad range of data, legal, regulatory, policy and technology gaps needed to build robust prevention and response mechanisms. Finding a balance between these areas of intervention continues to be a complex issue and is the topic of much ongoing debate at national, regional and global level. At the same time, there have been significant developments across all of these areas in recent years. The session started with an introduction to General Comment No. 25 on Children’s Rights in the Digital Environment that emphasises in para 30 regularly updated data and research as being crucial to understanding the implications of the digital environment for children’s lives, evaluating its impact on their rights and assessing the effectiveness of State interventions. The research done by the Disrupting Harm project conducted in 13 countries in Southeast Asia and Southern and Eastern Africa by ECPAT International, UNICEF Innocenti and INTERPOL being presented next is paying tribute to this. In a second step an instrument developed by ecpat and the Digital Opportunities Foundation was shown, providing a a framework for assessing violence against children. Jutta Croll emphasized the need to address sexual violence not only when it has already happened and is spread online in the form of child sexual abuse material. Service providers and people who care for children need to understand where the escalation of sexual violence starts from and were to implement countermeasures to combat the most horrific forms of exploitation and abuse.
Key takeaways from the session were as follows:
- The collection of data using tested methodologies that enable comparison is essential to ensure child rights in the digital environment. This can directly influence policy at the national level.
- Education remains essential as a preventive measure but cannot replace the need for proactive measures by online service providers.
The sessions Calls to Action are phrased as follows:
- Governments must provide funding for such data collection and analysis, as outlined in existing legal frameworks.
- Industry must respond in a coordinated way and adopt a safety-by-design approach.
Eventually the day closed with the Main Session Connecting All People & Safeguarding Human Rights. Again in this session regulation was discussed as a means to address the various threats that the online environment poses to human rights, as for example internet shutdowns restricting the human right to access of information and freedom of speech. As further hazards to human rights hate speech and gender-based violence, child sexual exploitation and abuse were mentioned. Dawit Bekele - Regional Vice President for Africa at the Internet Society enthusiastically put it all together in his final remarks: “Any right will need time to be established. Access to the Internet needs to become a right at national as well as on global level. Governments need to accept that. We need to make sure that the Internet is a safe place for everyone.”
Help me if you can … Resilience in the focus of Day 1 at IGF 2022Jutta Croll, SDC
Day 1 of the Internet Governance Forum started with a networking session on helplines working with communities. It turned out there is great interest from civil society organizations and governments on the African continent to engage in child online protection. For example it was reported, Rwanda has adopted a law on child online safety. Representatives from several other African countries and also from India joined the debate how best to protect children online.
Opening Ceremony: Resilient Internet for a shared sustainable and common future
This year’s key themes are focused on the UN Secretary-General’s proposed Digital Compact. Those five themes are:
- Connecting all people and safeguarding human rights
- Avoiding Internet fragmentation
- Governing data and protecting privacy
- Enabling safety, security and accountability
- Addressing advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI)
Speakers in the opening Ceremony of IGF 2022 referred to the 2.7 billion people still left offline and encouraged participants in the IGF to find solutions for creating a human-centered and resilient digital future. Especially Lily Edinam Botsyoe, representing the global youth, called upon the IGF community to close the digital gap and create the conditions for meaningful participation. She regards cooperation for a secure, open and robust Internet as necessary and she claimed “Young people are ready to get involved”. This was echoed by Vint Cerf, so-called father of the Internet, who referred to the Herculean task of achieving safety, security, privacy, utility, accessibility, operational sustainability, adaptability etc., but, he said: “It’s time to take concrete steps, let’s roll-up our sleeves and get to work.”
On behalf of UNESCO Mr. Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, demanded a regulatory framework and cautioned not to take regulation for censorship.
Safety and security were also in the focus of WS #523 Youthful approach at data protection in messaging apps. Special attention was given to quantum computing which will have a massive impact on how users’ data disclosed in messaging apps can by analysed and used either for their benefit or detrimental.
Another issue of safety was discussed in WS #70 Fighting the creators and spreaders of untruths online. Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner asked for a safer product design, algorithmic transparency, and the development of critical thinking skills to counteract the spreading of untruths. Rehobot Ayalew, who is working as a professional fact checker in Ethiopia explained how difficult it is to check what is true and what is false in a country where there exist 80 different languages, with content even in the five main languages being difficult to oversee. The mental health of the fact checkers was also very important to her.
Later in the afternoon WS #183 Digital Wellbeing of Youth: Selfgenerated sexualised content was held, organized by the German Children’s Fund (Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk) and the German Digital Opportunities Foundation (Stiftung Digitale Chancen). Speakers in the session dealt with the following questions:
- What does “self-generated” mean?
- Which answers does legislation provide?
- Which answers do further national policies and transnational strategies provide?
- How can Internet Governance support a common approach in respect of different political systems and cultural backgrounds?
After a lively debate with participants in the room and online the session was concluded with the following key messages:
- Since usually legislation refers to consensuality in order to differentiate images of abuse and sexual violence from usual behaviour in adolesence, a common definition of what "consensual" means is necessary, taking into account cultural differences.
- General Comment 25 on the rights of children in the digital environment provides for a framework to address the issue of sexualised content, that needs to be translated into national legislation and transnational measures.
The session organisers called to action as follows:
- In order to address the issues properly, consider the wording in regard to self-generated sexualised content, the definition of "consensual" and the wording in regard of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexualised violence.
- Make the voices of young people heard in alle matters that affect them and give the views of the child due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Take into account that sexual orientation and the formation of one's own sexual identity is a developmental task in adolescence.