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As preparations for the zero draft of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) start, it is crucial to renew the aspiration that it contribute to strengthening the multistakeholder approach for democratic governance. This means building and expanding on the principles of multistakeholder participation adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), acknowledging that multilateral and multistakeholder approaches are both needed to respond to the different and distributed ways and spaces in which global digital governance is undertaken. Transparency, inclusion and timely information provision are key for the meaningful engagement and participation of civil society.

The basis for a shared vision on global digital cooperation is, on one hand, the acknowledgement that humanity and the planet are experiencing exacerbated and emerging structural inequality and injustice and an unprecedented climate emergency; and, on the other hand, the recognition that no open, free and secure digital future for all can be shaped by excluding the voices and realities of those most affected by the digitalisation of all aspects of life, and allowing the predominance of interests oriented to keep the status quo.

If the Agenda 2030 is to be realised and if the GDC is meant to contribute to it, bold and committed action is needed to:

  • Take the benefits of digitalisation to all countries and peoples.

  • Govern digital resources in a transparent, inclusive and accountable manner, protecting the public core of the internet.

  • Make digital policies and laws fit for catalysing the potential of digital technologies.

None of this is possible without a strong commitment with upholding human rights and the adoption of intersectional and feminist frameworks to address the geopolitics of global inequality and injustice.

In order to harness the opportunities of AI, equality-by-design principles, a human rights approach and an intersectional and gender perspective should be incorporated into the design, development, application and review of AI systems and any algorithmic decision-making systems or digital technologies.

To advance concrete progress in digital cooperation and support the implementation of the GDC, at least three main actions should be ensured:

  • Enhancing and strengthening current processes and mechanisms, especially human rights mechanisms, and aligning them with other initiatives shaping the digital future. Any review mechanism should connect with established processes like the Universal Periodic Review, the Sustainable Development Goals reporting and WSIS action lines implementation. This also applies for other tracks of the Summit of the Future. All of them have digital-related components.

  • Closing the digital gap between those who have technological and financial resources to use the internet and other digital technologies and those who don't. The GDC should establish financing mechanisms and strengthen commitments to develop digital infrastructure, skills and regulatory capacities for all countries. Taxing Big Tech for global and national financing is essential for implementing a global digital compact.

  • The Internet Governance Forum should continue to be strengthened and its mandate should be extended to facilitate the operationalisation of global digital cooperation, bridge the gap between deliberative spaces and decision-making processes, and serve as a central space for multistakeholder engagement.

Civil society voices are vital in the GDC negotiation phase. We would like to urge the co-facilitators and the GDC coordination team to ensure the effective consideration of those voices.