Legal and Governance Tour

Summary report

Each month, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) organises a virtual tour connecting actors working on the same digital policy issues in Geneva. The series of 12 Tours to Navigate Digital Geneva helps the Geneva community to navigate International Geneva by different digital issues. In October 2021, the GIP held the Legal and Governance Tour.


  • In Geneva there is a significant concentration on discussions on governance and legal issues associated with the Internet. However, what is happening in Geneva is a part of a broader discussion. International Geneva, for its part, can contribute with its expertise in the traditional areas (such as human rights, international humanitarian law) it has been recognized for and with its capacity to convene all the relevant actors on international law.
  • Despite the fact there are many discussions, the international community should develop clear applicable rules, while having a clear understanding of the operationalisation of those rules. Geneva offers a strong basis for bringing these conversations forth.
  • States should recognize a need for more cooperation more coordination at the national level and more cooperation on the international level especially on Internet governance-related issues.
  • Accountability of conducts carried out in cyberspace is still disputable issue despite the numerous discussions focusing on the responsible behaviour in cyberspace. Actors, such as the CyberPeace Institute (CPI), pave the way forward in determining a framework for accountability. Geneva has a great potential to foster and to contribute to the discussions related to emerging issues on the digital technologies intersecting with the environment, health governance, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI).

The Tour discussed legal and governance issues on the Internet by looking at the existing processes and actors of the Geneva landscape. Prof. Jovan Kurbalija (Director of the DiploFoundation and Head of the GIP) pointed out that mainstreaming traditional political issues via digital and the Internet can lead to more division, more conflicts and more fragmentation. Internet governance discussion should be aware of the fact that fragmentation of policy debates can potentially lead to further fragmentation of the internet.

Dr Roxana Radu, Research Associate at the Global Governance Centre at Graduate Institute (IHEID) & CyberPeace Institute, reflected on the traditional areas linked to Geneva and emerging issues in digital governance. Regarding the traditional areas, Geneva has always been associated with legal matters and international humanitarian law, human rights, trade and labour negotiations and with standardization for communications. Except for trade and labour negotiations which tend to be siloed communities, other areas have gained considerable attraction in cyber discussions (e.g. UN OEWG, Human Rights Council). However, there is a great potential for Geneva to contribute more to the negotiations in the emerging areas such as AI, health governance, the environmental cost of digital governance and to enhance discussions on the accountability of violations in cyberspace.                    

Ms Anja Gengo, associate programme expert and a focal point for the national, regional and youth initiatives at the UN Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), similarly stressed the importance of environmental issues and how they relate to digital governance. Since 2019 the topic of environmental sustainability has received significant attention in the IGF community. In 2020, the so-called Call for Thematic Inputs resulted in a number of inputs submitted to IGF having a dedicated thematic track only to the environment. Hence, among the focus topics for the upcoming IGF 2021 in Katowice is environmental sustainability. The Policy Network on Environment(PNE) presents an intersessional workstream focused on intersections between environment and digitalisation processes.

Dr Richard Hill, President of the Association for Proper Internet Governance, stated that in times when we need more international engagement to solve global issues, there is less and less willingness for international cooperation. We see rather an increase in tensions associated with internet issues. World has become increasingly integrated at all levels due to the internet but in order for that to work we need international cooperation. Despite the fact we are living in very turbulent times, Geneva could be the place where the tensions could be resolved.

Amb. Janis Karklins, Latvia Mission to the Council of Europe, reflected on the latest developments in the field of digital governance in Strasbourg. Firstly, the Council of Europe is currently in the process of finalizing the draft of Second Additional Protocol to  Budapest Convention on Cybercrime that will be open to signature next year. Secondly, the Council of Europe is preparing grounds for negotiations of a legal framework for the development, design and application of artificial intelligence, that would include a legally binding instrument of a transversal character. The expert process should be finalised in December this year by publishing elements of possible legal framework and next year will begin the intergovernmental negotiation process.

Prepared by Kristína Hojstricová