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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) values the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a convening space to substantively engage in and contribute to internet policy discussions with a broad range of stakeholders, not only during the global session, but throughout the intersessional work.
Below we provide some basic information about the 2022 global session, as well as highlighting this year’s strategic priorities for APC.
The 17th edition of the global IGF, under the overarching theme Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future, was confirmed as a hybrid event, to be held online and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 28 November to 2 December 2022.
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).
1.2 Hybrid modality
IGF sessions may have speakers/moderators/rapporteurs participating entirely online or in a mixed setting. Regardless, each session will be allocated a physical room at the venue with a screen projecting the Zoom room. The sessions will follow the local time in Addis Ababa.
The previous IGF had an extended preparatory phase before the in-person meeting in Katowice, Poland. APC had welcomed that initiative as evidence of the efforts to include diverse stakeholders from different time zones in the IGF sessions, accounting for those who were unable to join the sessions in Poland and are based in time zones where Polish time may have been challenging. Although this was not possible during 2022, we recommend similar efforts to be reconsidered for 2023.
1.3 Types of sessions and spaces
The programme of the IGF is organised in main sessions, workshops, open forums, town halls, networking sessions, lightning talks, launches/awards, Dynamic Coalition (DC) sessions, and National, Regional and Youth Initiative (NRI) sessions. There will also be High-Level, Parliamentary and Youth tracks. In total, more than 255 sessions are scheduled. The full agenda can be found here.
APC staff and members will be engaged in a number of these sessions. Check the APC agenda for the 2022 IGF here.
During the IGF, interested stakeholders can display or distribute relevant information about their internet governance-related activities at the IGF Village, which consists of physical and virtual display booths, located in the meeting's exhibition area and online. APC will be hosting a booth on-site as it does every year.
2. Human rights situation in Ethiopia
During the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) 2022, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and APC collaborated to provide an opportunity for the internet governance community to learn about and discuss the human rights and media freedom situation in Ethiopia. The purpose of the session was to enable interaction between civil society organisations who plan to participate in the IGF with the IGF Secretariat and the Ethiopian IGF Committee. It also aimed to facilitate interaction between civil society, digital rights activists and members of the technical community in Africa and globally with civil society and academics working in Ethiopia. The session was also an opportunity for people wishing to participate in this year’s IGF to ask questions related to safety and other concerns in the context of the recent conflict in the northern parts of the country.
During the session, the head of the IGF Secretariat outlined the principles that have governed the planning of the IGF meeting. The country representative was asked how the planning committee was constituted, about his work as a committee member, and to give a more detailed overview of the role of the Ethiopian government in the IGF – particularly the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. A speaker from Addis Ababa University representing the academic sector was tasked with providing a short historical overview of recent history in Ethiopia and how this led to the current political context in the country. Following that presentation, a human rights and media professional from Ethiopia gave an overview of the foremost human rights challenges that are being faced by Ethiopians. She contended that Ethiopians are living through a period of grave and escalated human rights violations. She indicated that although the conflict in Tigray has been widely reported, there are also other areas of conflict that have not gotten as much media attention – in particular in Welega, Oromia and the southern part of the country. She noted that Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have called out all parties involved in these conflicts for human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. She indicated that egregious human rights violations have affected the most vulnerable communities and minority groups. The manager at Access Now’s #KeepItOn campaign then explained that, according to Access Now’s shutdown tracker optimisation database, Ethiopia is a major perpetrator of internet shutdowns in sub-Saharan Africa, logging at least 22 incidents of internet shutdowns between 2015 and 2021. Over the last two years, the people of Tigray have been denied access to the internet and the impacts of lack of connectivity are notorious.
In view of the information shared, a debate took place around questions such as: Should the IGF be hosted in Ethiopia? Is the IGF really a space for dissenting voices? Will human rights defenders be given a platform to speak out about national agendas at the IGF? Will the Code of Conduct affect their ability to do so? Are there safety and security concerns for participants attending the IGF?
The event was closed with a call for collaborative action. A local human rights activist extended an open invitation to civil society organisations to come together and share their experiences, and to coordinate with local Ethiopian civil society organisations on their shared struggles. The moderator expressed the hope that participants will join the IGF in Ethiopia and continue these discussions in that context, finding a way to raise concerns around the failure of states and others to uphold human rights, while also making use of the IGF as an open and inclusive multistakeholder platform for dialogue and debate on internet-related matters.
A full account of the discussions can be found here.
As the evolution of the IGF has proven, an important part of the value of the IGF lies in its potential to encourage critical debate and conversation, to share information about the situation in a particular country and discuss possibilities to respond to the diverse ways in which people, groups and communities are impacted by different factors in their own contexts.
APC is interested in contributing to identify ways to adapt the IGF Code of Conduct to specifically accommodate contexts where critical voices should be heard.
3. APC’s thematic priorities at the IGF 2022
3.1 Imagining the future of global internet governance and digital cooperation
The internet is run by a myriad of bodies, institutions and entities located in different parts of the world. Its decentralisation has long been praised as the reason behind the innovation, creativity and openness that characterised its early expansion. Today, however, the internet has become a much more controlled, privatised and weaponised space.
In this current context, the manner in which the internet is governed has become an even more relevant and urgent question. The answers, however, are still few and lacking in their commitment to a people-centred model that could ensure rights and freedoms, innovation and openness. Particularly disregarded concerns refer to the intersections between internet governance and environmental sustainability and gender justice.
In 2021, APC and its partners carried out a series of multistakeholder regional dialogues in Asia, Africa and Latin America aimed at discussing what internet governance should look like in 2025. Those inputs were used as the basis for a session at the global IGF 2021 which, through a methodology for thinking through future scenarios, took stock of the IGF process and looked at alternative principles, modalities/structures/dynamics for the future, for a people-centred, bottom-up and impactful internet governance, truly meaningful multistakeholderism, and better coordination of internet-related international policy processes.
In 2022, APC will co-organise a follow-up session with ALAI, APNIC, Derechos Digitales, Dot.Asia, KICNTANet and Pollicy, which will provide continuity to the process and provide regional perspectives in relation to the future of the internet as a contribution to the Global Digital Compact initiative, with a particular focus on two issues: internet governance that promotes environmental justice, and internet governance that promotes gender justice and feminist futures.
As part of the efforts to imagine the future of internet governance, APC will also co-organise with its member Intervozes a session to discuss the regulation of internet platforms, bringing to the table the perspectives and experiences from the global South.
3.2 Changes to digital rights priorities and strategies post COVID-19
This year we celebrate 15 years of Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch). A recent series of reflections published by APC explore the origins of this powerful project while looking toward the future.
During the 2022 IGF, a new edition of this landmark publication will be launched. The research prepared for this edition presents global South voices from around the world addressing how the pandemic has challenged digital rights priorities and strategies, and affected the ways in which civil society organisations do their advocacy work.
The research findings indicate that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals has been set back by years. The trends noted are alarming: a weakening of collective civil society agendas in key areas such as privacy, freedom of expression, digital rights and harms, migration and intellectual property, among others, are likely to be exacerbated by a deepening of the digital and social divides. The surge in internet demand is unlikely to abate, and the trend of more people being online more often is likely to continue. While a lack of internet access for marginalised communities has impacted negatively on their ability to access their rights (such as to education and work), small internet service providers have been thrown into crisis situations due to the unprecedented demand on their services. For those who are working on eradicating online gender-based violence, the terrain has shifted, with new ways in which online gender-based violence is expressed in the context of accelerated digitalisation. The pressure of the pandemic will be felt for a new collective model of civil society engagement, but a new way of engaging will have to be created for this to coalesce. The contributors to this edition have proposed action steps for how to address these challenges and better understand the longer-term impact of the pandemic on internet rights and related advocacy priorities. These include the reinvigoration of grassroots participation in multistakeholder policy processes. APC sees the IGF as a valuable platform for the visibilisation of voices, realities and responses.
3.3 Freedom of expression and gender justice
APC has been carrying out a series of activities aimed at exploring the key issues that arise from the application of an intersectional gender justice lens to the interpretation and enforcement of freedom of expression.
Among such issues, a key concern has been the intersections between freedom of expression and online gender-based violence (OGBV). Through a series of workshops and consultations in different parts of the world, APC is working to identify how advances in technology have led to new manifestations of OGBV that directly compromise women and gender diverse individuals’ freedom of expression and information. In particular, APC has been collecting information on the drivers, vectors and actors engaged in gendered disinformation and debated the spread of misogynistic speech that could be considered hate speech in view of its gravity and impact. In its policy work, APC seeks to ensure that lack of conceptual clarity and legal recognition does not lead to the invisibilisation of freedom of expression violations disproportionately faced by women, as well as to ensure that clearer categorisations lead to more targeted and improved responses.
As part of this process and on the sidelines of the IGF, APC will organise, in partnership with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion, a regional consultation to discuss freedom of expression and online gender-based violence in Africa, mapping cases and responses. During the IGF, we will co-organise with UNESCO a session dedicated to debating online gender-based violence against journalists and the responsibility of internet platforms.
APC staff have also been supporting the work of the Best Practice Forum (BPF) on Gender and Digital Rights. This BPF has been researching how the extensive use of regulations on digital-related issues may have adverse impacts on women’s rights, in particular their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and religion. The BPF has produced a report that will be shared and discussed with the IGF community during a dedicated session. We welcome and value the work underway by the BPF Gender in this regard.
3.4 Digital inclusion and access
A growing number of voices are recognising the need for innovative complementary access networks and solution models to connect the unconnected and for communities to exercise self-determination in relation to how they connect themselves to the digital realm. During the IGF, APC and Rhizomatica will seek to create a space for the sharing of experiences and reflections on integral capacity-building processes for the creation and management of local solutions for meaningful access in the global South.
A panel will be organised to serve as a further mechanism in consolidating a network of stakeholders that make up an international network of organisations, entities and individuals to promote strategies for meaningful access to telecommunication services through the design and implementation of community training programmes. In particular, the organisations that have been engaged since 2020 in the organisation of the first National Schools of Community Networks in Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Indonesia will participate.
Training people in disconnected communities allows connectivity and access projects to be meaningful and sustainable over time because they are managed by people who know firsthand the needs, dreams and characteristics of the communities where last-mile communication networks are developed. These kinds of training processes also require different learning models that respond to the ways of knowing and learning of each of the territories where they are developed.
APC will also co-organise a workshop entitled “Financing mechanisms for locally owned internet networks”, which is a continuation of the efforts undertaken collectively by Connect Humanity, the Internet Society and APC to analyse the operating models and financing mechanisms that can support the success of these community connectivity providers. These efforts have been consolidated in a report created by Connectivity Capital, which is designed to help those who build and fund broadband infrastructure to identify and support sustainable solutions that can expand connectivity and accelerate digital equity. The report is available here.
APC works towards affordable and meaningful access to the internet for all people and all the time, irrespective of class, identity, gender or disability, or where they live. The IGF remains a dynamic platform for convening, exchanging knowledge and strategising around this critical issue.
For that reason, APC has also been supporting the Policy Network on Meaningful Access (PNMA). Policy Networks are a type of IGF intersessional activity created to establish an expert-led framework network on broad internet governance topics that create spaces for in-depth multistakeholder efforts. The PNMA’s objective is to assess and gather good practices and policy recommendations already discussed at the IGF, identify what the key barriers are to these not being implemented, and facilitate networking among actors from all stakeholder groups that are concerned with the topic. The PNMA officially started its activities in June 2021, aiming to formulate impact-driven, concrete, actionable policy recommendations on how to achieve meaningful and universal internet access aligned with the Secretary-General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2022, the PNMA focused its work on three overarching thematic workstreams: connectivity (infrastructure and business models), digital inclusion through a citizen-centred approach (accessibility and multilingualism: local services and contents in local languages based on local needs and resources), and capacity development (technical skills training), with attention to the highlighted goals and proposed outcomes. With the aim to document good practices and case studies of experiences that can inform concrete actions and interventions to advance universal meaningful access, a call for inputs was published for ample participation of the IGF community and any interested stakeholder. Selected contributions have been included in an output report that will be made available during the IGF.
3.5 Where environmental concerns intersect with internet governance
Environmental justice and sustainability continue to be a priority issue for APC’s engagement in the IGF. In 2021 the IGF hosted a Policy Network on the Environment (PNE), framed by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A multistakeholder working group was formed in early 2021 and worked on a report. APC staff and members have contributed to the work of the PNE, including in the drafting of the report, which focused on three issue areas: (1) environmental data, (2) food and water systems, and (3) supply chain transparency and circularity, and also included chapters on overarching issues, opportunities and risks.
The report included common themes across the various chapters, including digital inclusion and meaningful access, transparency, trust, and public participation in decision making. It also highlighted that digital technologies pose risks to the environment through the extraction and use of natural resources, and made policy recommendations to help identify and address violations of environmental and human rights.
The PNE report demonstrated that there are myriad links between environmental sustainability and internet governance. We want to build on that work and expand upon it, bring in other relevant stakeholders, and ensure that the work we have done to connect the IGF to the wider sustainable development agenda can continue.
Although the PNE was discontinued, a Dynamic Coalition on Environment (DCE) was created. During the 2022 IGF, the DCE will hold its first meeting, which will primarily focus on following up from the 2021 PNE results. The session itself will be the culmination of the work done to bring together different groups who are working on this topic within the IGF. The goal of this session is to officially kick off the DCE’s activities, while creating a multistakeholder hub to bring together stakeholders interested in the topic and address cross-cutting issues in the context of the environment, sustainability and internet governance (e.g. environmental data).
3.6 Strengthening of the IGF and preparations for WSIS+20
Internet governance processes should be accessible, democratic, transparent, accountable and inclusive. The proliferation of these processes in the last 20 years has, however, led to disarticulation and decentralisation that create, at the same time, gaps and overlaps in roles and mandates. Recent efforts have aimed at addressing these challenges. Among them, the so-called “digital cooperation process”, led by the UN Secretary-General, has been especially significant in view of its potential to mobilise political will, resources and bureaucratic machinery. Two key developments in this regard during 2021-2022 have been the appointment of the UN Envoy on Technology and the nomination of the IGF Leadership Panel.
We view the IGF Leadership Panel as one of the many efforts started 10 years ago towards consolidating the IGF as a platform for identifying viable ways to shape, sustain and strengthen global digital cooperation. APC believes that the IGF Leadership Panel needs to contribute to strengthening and raising the profile of the IGF within the UN system, and must work hand in hand with the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), to complement its efforts. The IGF Leadership Panel should build on the lessons learned from years of MAG operations.
During discussions to be held at the 2022 IGF, APC will seek to promote full engagement with these new governance structures and will advocate for their efforts in securing coordination and complementarity in global digital cooperation and governance, in particular in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the World Summit-on the Information Society (WSIS+20).
We believe that the IGF, as a vital piece of the internet governance ecosystem and a platform conducive to improving coordination and cooperation in global internet governance and global digital cooperation, has to be strengthened, building on its achievements. In order to ensure that the IGF continues to play such a role, APC believes it is important to promote strategic discussions concerning its future and the future of global internet governance more broadly, so that these processes can lead to an internet governance that contributes to social, gender and environmental justice and human rights.
4. APC's activities at the IGF
A full list of events that APC and its members are organising and participating in during IGF 2022 is available here.
5. Follow APC online at IGF 2022
Twitter: @APC_News and @GenderITorg
This document is also available in Japanese (courtesy of our member JCA-NET) here.