Under the overarching theme Internet United, the Internet Governance Forum held in Katowice, Poland, from Dec. 6th to 10th featured discussions on some of the most pressing Internet and digital policy issues, from meaningful access, digital rights, cybersecurity, environmental sustainability and climate change to the challenges and opportunities offered by advanced technologies such as AI and quantum computing.
As the 16th IGF wrapped up following five days of lively discussions over the course of 250 sessions attended by over 9,600 participants, the United Nations presented the main outcome and recommendations of the event - the Katowice IGF Messages.
With regard to children's rights, IGF 2021 has formulated a clear message: States are called upon to consider transposing the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) General Comment 25 (GC25) on children’s rights in the digital environment into national regulation and legislation, and to ensure compliance. The UNCRC itself is invited to tailor recommendations to individual countries during dialogue and review processes related to GC25.
To ensure that human rights are enforced and upheld in the digital space, it needs to be carefully reflected on how technology serves humanity, as opposed to simply putting in place safeguards around the edges and waiting until harms occur. States’ duty to prevent potential harm of human rights (e.g. through regulation and enforcement) needs to be complemented with (a) effective access to remedy when people are victims of human rights violation, and (b) responsibility on the part of the technical private sectors in integrating human rights due diligence and impact assessments throughout the entire life cycle of a technology.
Women and girls are disproportionately victimised online and find it difficult to obtain support. Governments need to harmonise legislation to protect victims of non consensual intimate image abuse, ensure easy access to redress. Network and platform policies need to accommodate a spectrum of global cultures. Peer support networks for girls who are victims of online gender based violence, such as Safer Internet Centers, must be strengthened, while digital literacy should be improved through school curricula and start from a young age, before they venture online.
Please find the complete messages from Katowice here. Stakeholders are invited to review the messages and provide feedback to email@example.com no later than Monday 20 December 2021.
Once again, the IGF 2021 programme, put together by the United Nations Multistakeholder Advisory Group, has shown that technical innovation and economic success must go hand in hand with the protection of human rights. Only in this way the common objective of a free, inclusive and united internet can be sustained.