Global Digital Compact

This page provides coverage of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) process, including the latest updates, reports from meetings, past developments, and readings of the various GDC drafts. Please let us know your questions and suggestions about the GDC process via email to


In 2020, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN), member states pledged to improve digital cooperation and shape ‘a digital future that show[s] the full potential for beneficial technology usage’. Building on this, the UN Secretary-General, in his 2021 report Our Common Agenda, proposed that a Global Digital Compact (GDC) be developed to ‘outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all’.

The GDC is the latest step in a lengthy policy journey to have, at least, a shared understanding of key digital principles globally and, at most, common rules that will guide the development of our digital future.

The idea of a GDC has additional roots in the 2019 report The age of digital interdependence, published by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and the 2020 Roadmap for digital cooperation issued by the UN Secretary-General. Additional fine-tuning of this initiative is provided by the UN SG Policy Brief 5: A Global Digital Compact – an Open, Free and Secure Digital Future for All.

Development of the GDC

Spotlight: Readings of GDC drafts (zero draft and rev.1) by Sorina Teleanu

Our Common Agenda envisions that the GDC is to be agreed on during a Summit of the Future: ‘Building on the recommendations of the road map for digital cooperation (see A/74/821), the United Nations, Governments, the private sector and civil society could come together as a multi-stakeholder digital technology track in preparation for a Summit of the Future to agree on a Global Digital Compact.’ According to a decision of the UN General Assembly, the summit is to be held on 22 and 23 September 2024, in New York. It was preceded by a preparatory ministerial meeting on 21 September 2023

In the lead-up to the Summit, a public consultation launched by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology – and open until 30 April 2023 – was intended to collect input from interested stakeholders for consideration for the GDC. 

In October 2022, the permanent representatives of Rwanda and Sweden to the UN were appointed as co-facilitators to lead the intergovernmental process on the GDC. In January 2023, the co-facilitators announced the roadmap for the GDC process; the components of this roadmap – thematic deep-dives, the publication of a policy brief and an issues paper, and negotiations – can be seen via the timeline below. Updates were brought to the roadmap in December 2023, when the co-facilitators announced a calendar of informal consultations and intergovernmental negotiations for the first half of 2024.

In May 2023, the UN Secretary-General issued a policy brief for the GDC, outlining areas in which ‘the need for multistakeholder digital cooperation is urgent’: closing the digital divide and advancing sustainable development goals (SDGs), making the online space open and safe for everyone, and governing AI for humanity. 

UN Secretary-General’s policy brief for the GDC

The brief suggests objectives and actions to advance such cooperation and ‘safeguard and advance our digital future’. These are structured around the following topics:

  • Digital connectivity and capacity building. The overarching objectives here are to close the digital divide and empower people to participate fully in the digital economy. Proposed actions range from common targets for universal and meaningful connectivity to putting in place or strengthening public education for digital literacy. 
  • Digital cooperation to accelerate progress on the SDGs. Objectives include making targeted investments in digital public infrastructure and services, making data representative, interoperable, and accessible, and developing globally harmonised digital sustainability standards. Among the proposed actions are the development of definitions of safe, inclusive, and sustainable digital public infrastructures, fostering open and accessible data ecosystems, and developing a common blueprint on digital transformation (something the UN would do).
  • Upholding human rights. Putting human rights at the centre of the digital future, ending the gender digital divide, and protecting workers are the outlined objectives in this area. One key proposed action is the establishment of a digital human rights advisory mechanism, facilitated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to provide guidance on human rights and technology issues. 
  • An inclusive, open, secure, and shared internet. There are two objectives: safeguarding the free and shared nature of the internet, and reinforcing accountable multistakeholder governance. Some of the proposed actions include commitments from governments to avoid blanket internet shutdowns and refrain from actions disrupting critical infrastructures.
  • Digital trust and security. Objectives range from strengthening multistakeholder cooperation to elaborate norms, guidelines, and principles on the responsible use of digital technologies, to building capacity and expanding the global cybersecurity workforce. The proposed overarching action is for stakeholders to commit to developing common standards and industry codes of conduct to address harmful content on digital platforms. 
  • Data protection and empowerment. Ensuring that data are governed for the benefit of all, empowering people to control their personal data, and developing interoperable standards for data quality as envisioned as key objectives. Among the proposed actions are an invitation for countries to consider adopting a declaration on data rights and seeking convergence on principles for data governance through a potential Global Data Compact.
  • Agile governance of AI and other emerging technologies. The proposed objectives relate to ensuring transparency, reliability, safety, and human control in the design and use of AI; putting transparency, fairness, and accountability at the core of AI governance; and combining existing norms, regulations, and standards into a framework for agile governance of AI. Actions envisioned range from establishing a high-level advisory body for AI to building regulatory capacity in the public sector. 
  • Global digital commons. Objectives include ensuring inclusive digital cooperation, enabling regular and sustained exchanges across states, regions, and industry sectors, and developing and governing technologies in ways that enable sustainable development, empower people, and address harms.

The document further notes that ‘the success of a GDC will rest on its implementation’. This implementation would be done by different stakeholders at the national, regional, and sectoral levels, and be supported by spaces such as the Internet Governance Forum and the World Summit on the Information Society Forum. One suggested way to support multistakeholder participation is through a trust fund that could sponsor a Digital Cooperation Fellowship Programme. 

As a mechanism to follow up on the implementation of the GDC, the policy brief suggests that the Secretary-General could be tasked to convene an annual Digital Cooperation Forum (DCF). The mandate of the forum would also include, among other things, facilitating collaboration across digital multistakeholder frameworks and reducing duplication; promoting cross-border learning in digital governance; and identifying and promoting policy solutions to emerging digital challenges and governance gaps.

In September 2023, the GDC co-facilitators Rwanda and Sweden released an Issues Paper outlining their assessment of the deep dives and consultations conducted in relation to the GDC. In October, the permanent representatives of Sweden and Zambia to the UN were appointed as co-facilitators of the GDC process for the upcoming year.

GDC co-facilitators’ letter on deep dives and consultations

The co-facilitators note that they have identified ‘wide support from diverse perspectives for the establishment of a GDC that rests on the principles of the UN Charter, Agenda 2030, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, and that ‘joint efforts should aim to strengthen digital cooperation, close the digital divide and ensure an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital future for all, which is anchored in human rights and that enables the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. 

The letter then outlines a summary of main points drawn from the deep dives and the consultations, along several key topics:

  • The role of digital technologies in accelerating progress across all SDGs.Highlighted here are the importance of connectivity and digital public infrastructure, as role as the potential role of the GDC to support exchange of best practices among countries on digitalisation. 
  • Universal, affordable, and accessible connectivity. The need to connect the unconnected, advance digital literacy and skills, build capacities, and promote greater financial investment in affordable, accessible mobile connectivity are among the key issues. 
  • An open, free, and globally accessible internet. The significance of interoperable internet standards and protocols and the need to avoid internet fragmentation are highlighted. The letter also notes that stakeholders expressed support for strengthening the multistakeholder approach to the governance of the internet, and that there is broad consensus that the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) should continue to play a ‘key role in promoting the global and interoperable nature and governance of the internet’. 
  • Data protection and governance. Reference is made to the need to have a GDC that outlines principles to guide regional and national approaches to data protection and governance. Such principles would relate, among other issues, to ensuring that people have control over their data and to finding a balanced approach between free flow of data and data protection. 
  • Digital trust and security. The GDC could promote digital trust and security, and address disinformation, hate speech, and other types of harmful online content, while also advancing transparent and responsible design and application of digital technologies. 
  • Artificial intelligence. Here the focus is placed on the ‘need to further a common understanding of the risks’ associated with AI, with reference being made to potential approaches involving forms of regulations, standards, and guardrails. Also highlighted is the need for human-centric, transparent, and equitable risk-based approaches to the development, use, and governance of AI. 
  • Addressing the digital gender divides was underscored as a cross-cutting issue. 
  • Sustainability. Emphasised here are the role of green technologies and digitalisation in accelerating climate ambitions and the need to address technology-related drivers of climate risk. 

Another point emphasised in the summary is that, while the ‘GDC should not duplicate existing forums and processes’, ‘there is an expressed need to identify and address gaps to make the UN system and international cooperation more efficient and coordinated in responding to new and emerging challenges posed by rapid technological developments’.

In February 2024, the co-facilitators published a document outlining ‘possible structural elements’ of the GDC (more details below, under GDC topics).

Possible elements of the Global Digital Compact

As the process towards a GDC advances, the co-facilitators – the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Zambia to the United Nations – have published a document outlining ‘possible structural elements’ of the GDC

These elements, which ‘do not constitute specific language proposals’, include:

  • preamble to reaffirm, among other elements, that the foundations of strengthened digital cooperation (including the governance of emerging digital technologies) are the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Agenda 2030. 
  • A section on principles to guide digital cooperation, such as: closing the digital divide; protecting human rights; advancing inclusive access to digital technologies; promoting responsible and accountable development of digital technologies; and recognising the role and responsibility of governments, private sector, civil society, and the UN and other international organisations within their respective mandates. 
  • A section on commitments and actions, structured around four main areas: closing the digital divide and accelerating progress across the SDGs; fostering an inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital space; advancing data governance; and governing emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence. 
  • A section on follow-up and review, to include elements such as monitoring implementation and reviewing progress against commitments; promoting coherence and coordination among stakeholders; and building on existing mechanisms and avoiding duplication. 

This was followed, on 1 April 2024, by the publication of the Zero Draft, to serve as starting point for intergovernmental negotiations.

GDC Zero Draft: overview

The Zero Draft outlines five main objectives and ten principles to be pursued in order to achieve an inclusive, safe, and secure digital future for all. 

The objectives include: close the digital divide and accelerating progress across the SDGs; expand opportunities for inclusion in the digital economy;  foster an inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital space; advance equitable international data governance; govern emerging technologies, including AI, for humanity. 

The principles – which are meant to guide digital cooperation efforts – are: inclusive, development-focused, human rights-based, gender equal, environmentally sustainable, accessible and interoperable, responsible and accountable, innovation-friendly, multistakeholder, and forward-looking.

The Zero Draft then outlines a set of actions and commitments to support the achievement of the objectives. An overview of these commitments is presented here. Some of them refer to the creation of new mechanisms and processes, such as an UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service, an International Scientific Panel on AI to conduct independent multi-disciplinary scientific risk and evidence-based opportunity assessments, and an annual global dialogue on AI governance

In terms of GDC follow-up and review, the Zero Draft makes references to existing UN agencies, mechanisms, and processes in the following ways:

  • A commitment to build on the processes emanating from WSIS to support the GDC implementation. 
  • A recognition of the role of CSTD in reviewing WSIS progress, and an invitation for the Commission to ‘consider how it can contribute further to the implementation of the Compact’.
  • An indication that the WSIS+2 review in 2025 is to identify ‘how WSIS processes can support practical implementation, including by adapting WSIS action lines to reflect Compact commitments and actions’
  • A recognition of the role of the OHCHR in supporting all stakeholder to implement the Compact, in particular in relation to human rights, and of the Human Rights Council in tracking progress to foster an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital space.
  • A recognition of the role of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and of ECOSOC in monitoring and reviewing progress of the Compact’s objectives.
  • A request for all UN agencies, funds and programmes to support GDC implementation. 
  • A reaffirmation of the role of the IGF as a ‘key multistakeholder platform for internet governance and the promotion of an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital space’.
    • Stakeholders are encouraged to engage in the IGF ‘with a view to advancing Compact commitments on internet governance’

This section also includes a recommendation for the GA to establish a dedicated office for coordinating digital and emerging technology in the Secretariat. A proposal on the operational functions, structure, resources and staffing – including provisions for a liaison presence in Geneva – is to be submitted by the Secretary-General during UNGA79. 

The Secretary-General is also requested to provide a Compact implementation map and establish a GDC portal for member states and stakeholder to report voluntarily on GDC implementation (both within 12 months).
Last, but not least, the GA is to convene – every two years, starting with its 80th meeting – a High-Level Review of the GDC, with the participation of all stakeholders.

On 15 May, a revised version of the GDC draft (rev.1) was published.

GDC rev.1: Some key changes

Some of the key changes introduced in rev.1 include:

  • Overall objectives: Some changes were made to the language associated with the overall objectives and commitments. For instance, objective 5 changed from ‘govern emerging technologies, including AI, for humanity’ to ‘enhance international governance of emerging technologies, including AI, for the benefit of humanity. (see Figure 1 below). 
  • Closing all digital divides and accelerating progress across SDGs. 
    • Recognition that innovative solutions can help deliver high-speed connectivity to remote and rural areas. 
    • Reference that the targets on connectivity will be based on ITU work. 
    • Clarification and expansion of environmental-related provisions (e.g. from ICT equipment to digital tech/equipment). 
    • Commitment to mitigate potential negative consequences from digitalisation/automation for workforces and promote decent work.
    • Reflection of the need for capacity building programmes to respond to tech change. 
    • Commitment to increase investment in both DPG and DPI. 
  • Expanding inclusion in and benefits from the digital economy for all
    • Consistent language on tech transfers ‘on mutually agreed terms’. 
    • New commitment to fostering open, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory digital environment. 
  • Fostering an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital space that respects, promotes and protects HR
    • Reference to HR due dilligence in commitment about safeguards to address adverse HR impacts.
    • New recognition of the need to address the governance of the Internet in a global manner, with the participation of all states and other stakeholders.
    • Changes in language about the IGF and a new commitment about internet fragmentation.
    • New call on tech companies and developers to increase transparency in systems/processes. 
    • New commitment to facilitating access to accurate info to counter mis-/disinformation. 
  • Advancing responsible and equitable international data governance
    • A new commitment to establish definitions and data classifications to promote interoperability and facilitate data exchanges.
    • A new intergovernmental process towards a framework for international data governance.
    • Deletion of commitment to implement DFFT.
  • Enhance international governance of emerging tech, including AI, for the benefit of humanity
    • Scientific Panel to also look at emerging technologies.
    • Global AI dialogue becomes International Contact Group on AI Governance (convened annually).
  • Follow-up and review
    • Clarification that the new office within the UN Secretariat to facilitate coordination on digital issues is to build on the existing Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.
    • A proposal for member states to report on GDC implementation as part of their voluntary national reporting on SDG achievements. 
    • An invitation for the  IGF to establish an annual policy discussion track to facilitate the contribution of all stakeholders to the delivery of the Compact’s commitments and actions
    • A request for UN agencies to leverage the WSIS Forum as they support GDC implementation. 

A second revision of the GDC (rev.2) was released on 26 June.

GDC Rev.2: Some key changes

Below is a high-level overview of some of the key changes introduced in the new draft.

  • Changes regarding the new mechanisms and processes introduced in previous versions:
    • Data governance: Lighter text regarding UNGA deliberations on data governance.
      • Co-facs to be appointed no later than 81st session (before: initiate deliberations during 79th session)
      • ‘International data governance arrangements’ instead of ‘framework for international data governance’.
      • Arrangements ‘could’ include…
      • Removal of the reference to interoperability of governance frameworks.
    • Human rights: Lighter language regarding a UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service (24)
      • From ‘We request the SG to submit a proposal […] for the establishment of a UN Digital HR Advisory Service’ in Zero Draft, to
      • ‘We support the Secretary-General’s call for a UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service within OHCHR’ in Rev.1, 
      • to ‘We take note of OHCHR’s ongoing efforts to provide, upon request expert advice and practical guidance on human rights and technology issues to govs, the PS and other SH,including through the establishment of a UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service within existing resources‘ in Rev.2.
    • AI governance mechanisms:
      • Scientific Panel only for AI (no longer AI and emerging technologies); removed reference to ‘contribute to development of common assessment methodologies, AI definitions and taxonomies, and mitigation measures’. (54a)
      • Reverting to the idea of a Global Dialogue on AI Governance (replacing International Contact Group); lighter language regarding role. (54b)
      • Lighter language regarding Global Fund & no more mention of initial amount. (62)
  • Follow up and review:
    • A more clear role for the IGF. (67. 70)
    • Back to the idea of periodic HL review meetings. First to happen at UNGA82 (2027) (later than in initial versions).
    • Lighter references to member states’ reporting regarding GDC implementation.
  • Some notable new elements:
    • Intellectual property appearing for the first time. (38c)
    • Hate speech’ added to the Information integrity section (in addition to mis-/disinformation).
    • Reference to NetMundial principles in the internet governance section. (27)
    • New commitment to ‘refrain from imposing restrictions on the free flow of information and ideas that are inconsistent with obligations under international law’. (23d)
    • New goal to ‘promote transparency, accountability and robust human oversight of AI systems in compliance with international law’. (53d)
    • New commitment to ‘promote safe, secure and trustworthy AI systems that advance, protect and preserve linguistic and cultural diversity and take into account multilingualism throughout the life cycle of these systems’. (57)
    • Use of ‘critical’ as an adjective for the UN and its role in digital cooperation / AI governance (before: ‘vital’, ‘indispensable’).
    • References to ‘non-military domain’.
  • Some notable removals:
    • Removal of internet speed target. (11c)
    • No more references to ‘marginalised communities’.
    • ‘Scientific consensus‘ replaced with ’scientific understanding’ in AI-related commitments. (53a)
    • ‘Data commons’ replaced with ‘data initiatives’. (40)

What’s next?

As of July 2024, intergovernmental deliberations continue on revision 2 of the Global Digital Compact.

GDC topics

The vision for the Global Digital Compact was outlined in the UN Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report. According to the report, the GDC could address the following issues: reaffirming the fundamental commitment to connecting the unconnected; avoiding fragmentation of the internet; providing people with options as to how their data is used; application of human rights online; promoting a trustworthy internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content; regulation of artificial intelligence (AI)

Building on this issue framing, the GDC co-facilitators organised thematic deep-dives – between March and June 2023 – on eight topics: digital inclusion and connectivity, internet governance, data protection, human rights online, digital trust and security, AI and other emerging technologies, global digital commons, and accelerating progress on the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The policy brief issued by the Secretary-General in May 2023 proposes objectives and actions that the GDC could cover around eight areas: digital connectivity and capacity-building; digital cooperation to accelerate progress on the SDGs; upholding human rights; an inclusive, open, secure and shared internet; digital trust and security; data protection and empowerment; and agile governance of AI and other emerging technologies.

The Issues Paper published by the co-facilitators in September 2023 highlights a series of key issues, including: digital divide; universal, affordable and accessibile connectivity; digital literacy and skills; digital gender divides; digital technologies for sustainable development; inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital future for all; open, free, and globally accessible internet; data protection and governance; digital trust and security; artificial intelligence; and sustainability.

When the document outlining possible elements of the GDC was published, it included a section of commitments and actions structured around four main areas: closing the digital divide and accelerating progress across the SDGs; fostering an inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital space; advancing data governance; and governing emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence. 

Finally, the current GDC draft (rev.1) is built around the following main areas: closing all digital divides and accelerating progress across the SDGs; expanding inclusion in and benefits from the digital economy for all; fostering an inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital space that respects, protects and promotes human rights; advancing responsible and equitable international data governance; and strengthening international governance of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, for the benefit of humanity. 

High-level Advisory Body on AI

In October 2023, the UN Secretary-General appointed a 39-member High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence to advance recommendations for the international governance of AI. In December 2023, the body published its Interim Report: Governing AI for Humanity.

Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) activities

Tech attaches briefing: Navigating the AI and digital governance week in Geneva | May 2024

The briefing included a reading of rev.1, with reflections on changes compared to the Zero Draft.

Tech attaches briefing: Unpacking the GDC Zero Draft | April 2024

The briefing featured a reading of the Zero Draft and a summary of its provisions.

Tech attaches briefing: Unpacking the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on the GDC | May 2023

Hosted in Geneva as part of the GIP’s series of briefings for UN member states missions, the briefing featured a discussion on key elements of the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on the GDC.

Tech attaches briefing: IGF, WSIS, GDC – How does it all fit together | February 2023

The briefing explored the relations between the GDC process and existing processes and initiatives in the global digital governance landscape.

Digital Cooperation Day | Geneva, 25 October 2022

The event was organised by the GIP, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office in Geneva, and the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM). The full summary of the event is available here.

Digital cooperation timeline

This timeline helps you place the GDC process in the broader context of internet/digital developments and digital cooperation initiatives.

  • All
  • Critical internet resources
  • Cybersecurity
    • Critical infrastructure
    • Cyberconflict and warfare
    • Cybercrime
  • E-commerce and trade
  • Digital cooperation
  • Key Internet developments
How it all started
To be continued