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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) receives with optimism the long-awaited announcement by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres of the appointment of Amandeep Singh Gill as his Envoy on Technology, and takes this opportunity to congratulate and welcome Mr. Singh Gill to his new role.

APC believes in the relevance of the UN Tech Envoy mandate as crucial, particularly in the current historic moment when humanity and the planet are traversing the impacts of the overlapping social, economic, environmental and political crises. Since the establishment of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Digital Cooperation, progress has been made in shaping the roadmap for fostering improved coordination and synergy among different spaces and processes concerning internet governance and global digital cooperation. Recommendations have also been forged in different forums towards addressing the most urgent issues and challenges on the digital agenda and the challenges related to the internet governance architecture. The proximity of the WSIS+20 review process opens the possibility to reinterpret the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) vision to respond to the type of constantly changing digital society that we have today.

The challenges ahead are many, with the COVID-19 recovery to come, acceleration of digital transformation, constant developments in emerging technologies, and various persistent and emerging challenges of the digital age, including the environmental crisis. The world needs improved internet governance and global digital cooperation, and APC believes the UN has much to contribute to promoting ecosystems that are human-centred, gender-sensitive and rights-conducive, and that promote the internet as a commons. In that sense, APC sees the Tech Envoy role as instrumental towards shaping a digital future where social, gender and environmental justice are realised.

Our expectation is that the digital cooperation agenda, the working methods and the modalities of collaboration of the UN Tech Envoy mandate will build on the lessons learned from years of multistakeholder cooperation and set parameters for safeguarding multistakeholderism, transparency, inclusivity, dialogue and accountability across the board. We also expect that the mandate will take into account, embody and respond to the issues that impact the lives of the groups that have historically been situated in the intersection of different forms of marginalisation, exclusion, oppression and violence, and will be committed to bringing a gender lens into the mandate.

In particular, APC believes that the dedicated high-level leadership of the mandate can play a substantive role to build bridges for cross-fertilisation with the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) process and contribute to its strengthening as most significant multistakeholder platform for discussing internet governance, as well as a critical piece in the internet governance and global digital cooperation ecosystems for bringing together key stakeholders for policy dialogue, collaboration, coordination, capacity building and networking, and as a platform to raise human rights concerns and contribute to shaping internet policies worldwide.

The Tech Envoy has a critical role to play in linking the IGF and other global and regional processes that relate to the governance of the internet with the digital technology agenda more broadly, both at the UN and beyond. The presence of the Tech Envoy in the IGF Leadership Panel should serve to ensure a direct and constant dialogue with the IGF community. Our expectation is that the IGF’s key messages and discussions will inform the Tech Envoy’s plan of action and that further development of his agenda will be established in consultation with the IGF community.

We also consider that the Tech Envoy will have a critical role in supporting the shaping and the format of the process that will lead to the elaboration and adoption of the Global Digital Compact, foreseen by the UN Secretary-General in Our Common Agenda. We call on the Tech Envoy to promote a process that is open, participatory and multistakeholder, ensuring civil society agency and voice in the modalities of drafting and negotiation.

Reflecting on the process this far, we consider that our expectations in relation to having access to timely information about the timeline and modalities of the appointment process were not met. In order to ensure meaningful multistakeholder engagement and collaboration around the mandate, it is imperative to ensure an open, transparent and inclusive process of crystallisation of the mandate. In that regard, we suggest that the UN Tech Envoy consider providing regular updates on activities and opportunities to engage.

We have worked closely with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology since its establishment and continue to do so. We consider that progress has been made in engagement, participation and transparency, especially at the level of the operationalisation of activities and dialogue with relevant staff. We hope that strategic decision making will also follow this progress, especially driven by the new leadership. 

In accordance, APC reinforces its support to the mandate. We look forward to establishing a dynamic of dialogue and collaboration with the Tech Envoy in relation to the setting up of the mandate’s agenda and work plan, and we stand ready to work together constructively to navigate the critical digital cooperation issues.

APC is a global network of civil society organisations whose mission is to create a just and sustainable world by harnessing the collective power of activists, organisations, excluded groups, communities and social movements, to challenge existing power structures and ensure that the internet is developed and governed as a global public good.