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Image source: Office of the UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Technology

This statement was delivered by Valeria Betancourt, the manager of APC's Communications and Information Policy Programme, during the informal consultations with stakeholders and member states (civil society, youth, academia) held on 3 February 2023, organised by the Permanent Representatives of Rwanda and Sweden as co-facilitators of the intergovernmental process on the Global Digital Compact.

We value the opportunity to contribute to the Global Digital Compact process. The Association for Progressive Communications firmly believes that the internet is an enabler of human rights, development and justice, including social, gender and environmental justice. 

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was the foundation of digital society global policy. The Global Digital Compact is an opportunity to reinterpret the WSIS vision to respond to the constantly changing digital society that we live in today. There are unquestionably challenges that have persisted since WSIS, while many more have emerged that expose the profound vulnerability of people and groups who have been historically discriminated against and excluded because of intersecting and multiple forms of systemic and structural inequality and injustice.

To overcome digital inclusion and achieve social justice, we must broaden the focus beyond access to connectivity infrastructure and enable political, regulatory, technical, technological and financial conditions to increase individual and collective autonomy, agency and choice in how people connect to digital technology and spaces, as well as how they use, shape, inform or create them once they are connected. There is no social justice without gender and environmental justice. Our digital future should be one in which women and people of diverse sexualities and genders are able to access and enjoy a free and open internet to exercise agency and autonomy, build collective power, strengthen movements, and transform power relations. Human rights need to be at the centre of the development, deployment, utilisation and regulation of the internet and digital technologies. The accelerated digitalisation of all aspects of life can not be dissociated from the need to use the internet and digital technologies to adapt to and combat climate change. For this to be possible, the internet must be recognised and governed as a global public good in an inclusive, transparent, democratic and accountable manner.

The Global Digital Compact could play a key role in ensuring that the lessons learned from years of multistakeholder cooperation feed into future processes of internet policy, internet governance and global digital cooperation and in setting parameters for safeguarding multistakeholderism, transparency, inclusivity, dialogue and accountability.

We believe that the Global Digital Compact could help strengthen the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum, operationalise global digital cooperation and bridge the gap between deliberative spaces and decision-making processes. It can also contribute to identifying the global and specific responses that differential contexts require in order to avoid perpetuating structural disadvantages, while acknowledging that the challenges we face today affect people in many different ways.

In order to achieve this, it is essential to:

  • Have timely access to information about the process of the development of the Compact, including the background document and draft framework of principles. This includes regular communications throughout the process between now and 2024. 

  • Be able to meaningfully participate, as civil society voices from the global South, in all the relevant consultations and discussions, including the Ministerial Meeting in September 2023, in the lead-up to the Summit of the Future. 

  • See recognition of the value of the messages and outputs of the Internet Governance Forum, as a key piece in the evolving digital cooperation landscape. 

We reaffirm our commitment to contributing to the Compact.  Thank you for the opportunity to participate.