Monthly Report 08/2023 - Executive Summary

Monthly Report 08/2023 - Executive Summary

Current Happenings in the Internet Governance Context in August 2023

Promoting Digital Compentence and Cyber Security

On 18 and 19 August 2023, the annual G20 Digital Ministers Meeting took place in Bengaluru. The Outcome Document, consisting of 29 paragraphs and three annexes, contains recommendations on expanding digital infrastructure in the public sector, strengthening cyber security in the digital economy and new digital education initiatives. The ministers are committed to an "enabling, inclusive, open, fair, non-discriminatory and secure digital economy". The adopted "Framework for Systems of Digital Public Infrastructure" emphasises the principles of "interoperability" and "multistakeholderism". The multistakeholder principle is also solicited in the "G20 High Level Principles to support Business and Building Safety, Security, Resilience and Trust in the Digital Economy". Digital security is a key issue for a functioning digital economy, so the ministers. They recognise that "the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, but we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy." In contrast to the 2021 Digital Ministerial Conference in Indonesia, Russia and China agreed to the final document, but made reservations about paragraph 24, which deals with the Ukraine war, in a footnote. Further information

The summit of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) took place in Johannesburg on 23 August 2023. The final declaration contains sections on cyber security and the digital economy. It supports the negotiations on the UN Convention on Cybercrime and the work of the OEWG on cyber security. The UN should play a leading role in Internet governance and be aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No reference is made to the Global Digital Compact. The document calls for expanded "intra-BRICS cooperation" both in the area of cyber security (bilateral cyber security treaties) and in the development of the digital economy (BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution). "Critical Internet resources" and the role of the ITU are not mentioned. China and Russia had raised this topic at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in May 2023. On 1 January 2024, seven new countries will join BRICS (BRICS+): Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The BRICS Summit 2024 will take place in Kazan/Russia.  Further information

The Digital Compact

The discussion about the Global Digital Compact (GDC) and the future of the IGF intensified further in August 2023. The technical community sees its role being marginalised when the Internet governance ecosystem is led by the UN. It rejects the proposal for a new UN-based "Digital Cooperation Forum" (DCF). There is uncertainty about how the multistakeholder model is going to be implemented in a GDC elaborated on the way to the UN Future Summit (September 2024).

·       ICANN President Sally Costerton, APNIC Chair Paul Wilson and ARIN President John Curran have uttered criticism concerning the GDC in a blog post. The trilateral approach proposed in Policy Brief No.5 by UN Secretary-General António Guterres is rejected. "The statement suggests that there is a new "tripartite" model for digital cooperation... This model excludes the technical community as a distinct component and overlooks the unique and essential roles played by that community's members separately and collectively". The technical community was not part of "civil society" but a separate stakeholder group. "It will certainly continue to play its critical roles in the future of the Internet, and it behoves the U.N. to recognise this reality in its formulation of any future processes related to Internet governance".

· At a meeting of the IGF Strategy Working Group on 21 August 2023, the idea of a DCF was described as a counterproductive initiative that would lead to a waste of already scarce material resources and to completely unnecessary competition. A DCF would weaken the multistakeholder Internet governance model and pave the way for stronger state control of the Internet, despite its authors' assertions to the contrary.

· On 1 September 2023, the two GDC co-conveners (Sweden and Rwanda) published their Issues Paper in the form of a two-page letter summarising in very general terms the discussion since January 2023, including the deep dives. The letter expresses broad support for a GDC and the definition of principles, goals and actions "to collectively harness the benefits and manage the risks of digitalization". It further states that the GDC shall help achieve the UN SDGs by 2030 and bring the remaining 2.7 billion people online. The Internet shall remain "open, free and globally accessible". Interoperable Internet standards and protocols are important to avoid Internet fragmentation. Multistakeholderism, the Tunis Agenda and the IGF are cornerstones for the digital future. A GDC must not duplicate existing forums and processes but must identify gaps. The DCF idea is not mentioned. It is said, however, that there is "a need for regular review and follow up mechanisms". Vint Cerf and Paul Mitchel, chairs of the IGF Leadership Panel and the MAG, had offered the IGF as a platform for a GDC follow-up in July 2023. The letter proposes a "Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms" as a tool against disinformation. Proposals on cyber security and artificial intelligence remain vague. The letter leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre for the digital ministers in New York in September. The actual GDC negotiations will only begin after the conclusion of the 78th UN General Assembly in January 2024.

Combating Cyber Crime

From 24 August to 1 September 2023, the penultimate session of the AHC discussed a new revised draft of a UN Convention on Cybercrime. Progress remained marginal. There is still a long way to go to reach a consensus. Business (Tech Accord) and civil society (Access Now) also still have considerable reservations. These include above all the very broad definition of cyber crimes and the lack of protection of human rights in cross-border prosecution.  Further information

Wolfgang Kleinwächter

Professor Emeritus of Internet Policy & Regulation at Aarhus University