WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024

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Twenty years ago, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) set the framework for global digital cooperation with a vision to cultivate people-centric, inclusive, and development-oriented information and knowledge societies. The WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024 commemorated a significant milestone, marking two decades of progress in implementing the WSIS outcomes, which occurred in two phases — Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005.

Organized from 27-31 May 2024 in Geneva, the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event provided a platform for multistakeholder discussions to assess achievements, key trends, challenges, and opportunities since the inception of the Geneva Plan of Action in 2003.

The event was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, and UNCTAD and co-hosted by ITU and the Swiss Confederation, with the support of remote participation.

At the event, IT for Change was involved in the following key discussions:

1. WSIS+20: Reclaiming a People-centred Information Society – Priorities for the Global South

Date: 29 May 2024

Time: 09:00 AM CEST

Organizer: Association for Progressive Communications

This session was oriented to provoke reflection to stimulate, contribute to, and help frame the deliberations in upcoming WSIS+20 events from a civil society and social justice perspective. During the session, participants discussed the WSIS vision for a people-centered human rights-oriented information society; deliberated whether inclusion has become a central component of digital policy and implementation today; and analyzed the role of civil society's influence in the digital space. The event also witnessed a brief presentation of ‘WSIS+20: Reimagining Horizons of Dignity, Equity and Justice for Our Digital Future,’ to which IT for Change contributed.

IT for Change’s Anita Gurumurthy facilitated this session alongside Anriette Esterhuysen and Valeria Betancourt from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

Know more about the event here.

2. Unlocking Multistakeholder Cooperation within the UN System: Global Partnerships for Open Internet

Date: 29 May 2024

Time: 03:00 PM CEST

Organizer: European Union

This roundtable discussion aimed to facilitate a policy conversation and offer recommendations on integrating Open Internet principles, as outlined, among others in the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, into ongoing processes such as WSIS+20, the Global Digital Compact, and other UN-related multistakeholder initiatives. It also sought to explore how to expand the scope, approach, and instruments dedicated to realizing these principles within the UN system through multistakeholder partnerships. The discussion was moderated by Raquel Jorge Ricart, Project Lead, Global Initiative on the Future of the Internet, EU Institute.

IT for Change’s Anita Gurumurthy participated in this discussion, highlighting the need to ensure stakeholder accountability, and structure governance processes in alignment with human rights, dignity, equity, and global justice. Read her complete input here.

Besides Anita, the following speakers participated in the session:

1. Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer, UNDP

2. Fabrizia Benini, Head of the Next Generation Internet Unit, DG CONNECT, European Commission

3. Carl Gahnberg, Director, Policy Development and Research, Internet Society

4. Chrissy Marin Meier, Policy Director, DIAL

5. Lene Wendland, Chief of the Business and Human Rights Unit, OHCHR

6. Alex Wong, Senior Advisor, Strategic Engagement and Initiatives, Secretary-General's Executive Office, ITU

Watch the recording of the session here and learn more.

View the outcome document of the event here.

3. Gender Equality and Inclusion in our Digital Future

Date: 29 May 2024

Time: 05:00 PM CEST

Organizers: World Association for Christian Communication and Global Alliance on Gender and Media

IT for Change's Anita Gurumurthy participated in this session, where speakers presented their views on the Zero Draft of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) from a gender and women's rights perspective. Hoping to address crucial aspects of gender and digital rights, the discussion explored ways in which the GDC can be strengthened further and made responsive to concerns specific to women and girls.

The agenda for the session was to review the GDC and to advocate for strengthening gender equality in the global and national digital ecosystems. The call was modeled along GAMAG's proposal on a new gender deal in media and digital communications launched at the Generation Equality Forum in 2021.

The session was moderated by Prof. Aimee Vega (Global Alliance on Media and Gender) and besides Anita, the following speakers took part in the discussion:

1. Philip Lee, General Secretary, World Association for Christian Communication (Canada & UK)

2. Albertina Piterbarg, UNESCO (France)

3. Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls (Jordan)

Watch the recording of the session here and learn more about the event here.

View the outcome document of the event here.

4. Towards Inclusive Digital Innovation Ecosystems - Do’s and Don'ts and What Next?

Date: 30 May 2024

Time: 10:00 AM CEST

Organizer: IT for Change

IT for Change organized this panel discussion which aimed to examine global digital governance paradigms and how they impact human rights and freedoms. The 45-minute session was packed with crucial discussions about the approaches, policies, and laws needed to democratize innovation and equitable digital development, in addition to what the path ahead looks like. The conversation was moderated by IT for Change’s Anita Gurumurthy. She was joined by the following group of speakers:

1. Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics, UN Trade and Development

2. Yolanda Martínez, Senior Project Coordinator, GovStack Initiative, ITU

3. Vahini Naidu, Programme Coordinator of the Trade for Development Programme (TDP), South Centre

4. Carlos Baca, Expert in ICT networks and trainer for indigenous and community technicians at Rhizomatica

Learn more about the event here and watch the recording of the discussion here.

View the outcome document of the event here.

5. Digital Policy Perspectives

Date: 30 May 2024

Time: 02:00 PM CEST

Organizers: ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development

IT for Change’s Anita Gurumurthy participated in this panel discussion, which convened a distinguished panel of experts from the Broadband Commission alongside high-level guest speakers from a mix of private, public, government, and civil society sectors to share insights on how digital policies can foster an environment that champions both equity and inclusion, ensuring that no one is left behind. The speakers explored these pivotal areas, discussing how fostering equity and inclusion in AI, connectivity, government digital services, and data governance can form the cornerstone of progressive digital policies.

In particular, Anita highlighted the perils of ‘adverse inclusion’ into digital society and economy, and provided insights into attaining ‘meaningful inclusion.’

The session was moderated by Leona Verdadero, Programme Specialist, Digital Policies & Digital Transformation Section UNESCO. Anita was joined by the following group of speakers:

1. Nur Sulyna Abdullah, Executive Director, Broadband Commission and Chief of Strategic Planning and Membership Department, ITU

2. Rumman Chowdhury, Parity Consulting, Parity Responsible Innovation Fund

3. Melle Tiel Groenestege, Senior Director Digital Inclusion, GSMA

4. Cedric Wachholz Chief, Section for Digital Policy and Digital Transformation, UNESCO

5. Stephan A. Lang, Ambassador, Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State

Watch the recording of the session here and learn more.

At the closing plenary, the Global Digital Justice Forum (GDJ Forum) submitted a civil society statement to the Chairperson and organizers of WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024, listing out the expectations of civil society from the WSIS+ 20 review process to realize a digital future with dignity for all. Read the statement here.

Read a wrap-up report of the event here.