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Published 15.02.24

Consider children's rights in internet governance

Torsten Krause, SDC

One in three of the approximately 5 billion people who use the internet and the digital environment worldwide is a child. According to Article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all young people have a right to participate in media from a variety of sources and to be protected in their use of them. In 2021, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child explained in detail how states parties should fulfil this human rights provision in General Comment No. 25.

Against this backdrop, the rights and interests of children are also being discussed in a number of forums on the regulation and organisation of the internet. It is therefore to be expected that these will also be given extensive consideration at the upcoming Internet Governance Forum. The survey carried out at the beginning of the year to determine the IGF topic revealed that most participants in the area of "Cybersecurity and trust" were in favour of addressing the protection of children on the internet. In the topic area "Rights and freedoms", human rights was also voted number one, a concern that is not possible without addressing the rights of children. The request for consultations on media literacy and media education in the area of "Economic issues and development" also speaks in favour of focusing on young people.

At the informal United Nations consultation on the Global Digital Compact on 13 February, several organisations also spoke out in favour of taking young people and their rights and interests into account. It is important not only to focus on the protection rights of young people, but also to address their rights to promotion and participation. In order for this to be achieved effectively, it is advisable to involve them and utilise their experience and knowledge as resources for shaping the digital environment and the internet.

In order to provide a common basis for its own activities in the international area of digital policy, the German government agreed on a strategy for an international digital policy for the first time on 7 February. In due course, this strategy will serve as a guideline for Germany's digital policy activities around the world. Nine principles describe how the German government intends to work internationally to protect fundamental and human rights and promote a global, open, free and secure internet. Value-based technology partnerships, the promotion of human-centric and innovation-friendly rules, the support of trustworthy and secure cross-border data flows and the active shaping of international norms and standards are intended to contribute to this. In addition, the German government is focusing on strengthening secure and sustainable digital infrastructures and mitigate risks in technology value chains. The aim is to contribute to using digitalisation to overcome global challenges.

The fact that the German government is in favour of supporting the multi-stakeholder approach in its strategy for an international digital policy is to be welcomed. Only when politics, the private sector, civil society, science and research come together can effective ideas be found for shaping and regulating the internet. These are necessary to enable children to participate safely in digital environments.