Zero Draft for the Global Digital Compact made available

The Zero Draft of the Global Digital Compact outlines a series of commitments and actions towards an inclusive, open, safe, and secure digital future for all. Among them are proposals for several new mechanisms and processes, such as a UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service, a process to be convened by the UN Statistical Committee and CSTD to develop definitions and standards on the (re)use of data for public goods; aan International Scientific Panel on AI and an annual global dialogue on AI governance; and an office for coordinating digital and emerging technology in the UN Secretariat.

As the process towards a Global Digital Compact (GDC) advances at the UN level, the co-facilitators – the Permanent Missions of Sweden and Zambia – have released a Zero Draft to serve as a basis for intergovernmental negotiations. 

The 13-page long document 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 below. 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.


Overview of GDC commitments

1. Close the digital divide and accelerating progress across the SDGs

Cluster 1. Connectivity

  • Commitments to agree common targets, indicators, and metrics for universal and meaningful connectivity; develop innovative financing mechanisms and incentives to connect the unconnected; invest in and deploy resilient and trustworthy digital infrastructure; map and connect all schools to the internet; agree principles for digital environmental sustainability; incorporate sustainability in the design, production, use, and disposal of ICT equipment; include those in vulnerable and marginalised situations in the development and implementation of digital connectivity strategies; address barriers to meaningful and affordable connectivity for women and girls. 

Cluster 2. Digital literacy, skills, and capacities

  • Commitments to establish digital skills strategies, adapt education curriculum, and provide adult training programmes; increase the availability of digital tech platforms, software and educational curricula in diverse and accessible language and formats; target and tailor capacity-building for women and girls, children and youth, older, disabled and persons from marginalised groups; identify learning gaps through national digital inclusion surveys; prioritise the skilling of public official and institutions; develop vocational training for workers in occupations subject to automation and augmentation; develop common digital competency frameworks and training standards. 

Cluster 3. Digital public goods and infrastructure

  • Commitments to develop safe and secure open-source software, platforms, and standards; promote the adoption of open standards and interoperability to facilitate the use of digital public goods; recognise the digital public goods standard as an enabler of public and private investment and digital cooperation; develop safeguards for safe, inclusive, secure and responsible digital public infrastructure that can be tailored to the specific needs of each society; exchange a best practices and use cases of digital public infrastructure; increase and strategically reallocate investment and funding toward the development of digital public infrastructure, especially in developing countries; encourage the formation of multistakeholder partnerships to design, launch and support initiatives that leverage technology for SDGs.

2. Expanding inclusion in the digital economy

Cluster 1. Access to digital technologies

  • Commitments to support efforts to develop enabling environments for digital transformation, including legal and regulatory frameworks; call on regional and multilateral organisations and governments to support national digital readiness assessments; promote knowledge-sharing and technology transfer initiatives ; encourage South-South and triangular digital cooperation to accelerate knowledge development and expand access to research capacity; pool knowledge and best practices on digital enterprise; foster innovation and entrepreneurship; mainstream cybersecurity infrastructure and skilling in national digital transformation strategies.

3. Fostering an inclusive, open, safe and secure digital space

Cluster 1. Human rights 

  • Commitments to ensure that national legislation relevant to digital technologies is compliant with international law; establish appropriate safeguards to prevent and address adverse human rights impacts arising from the use of digital and emerging technologies; strengthen legal and policy frameworks to protect children and their rights online. 
  • A request for the Secretary-General to submit a proposal to the UN General Assembly (79th session), for the establishment of a UN Digital Human Rights Advisory Service to provide, upon the request, practical guidance on human rights and technology issues to governments, the private sector and relevant stakeholders.
  • Calls on digital technology companies and developers to incorporate human rights law and principles in the development, deployment and use of digital and emerging technologies; on digital technologies companies, developers and social media platforms to commit to promote, protect and respect human rights online, be accountable for violations and abuses, and provide access to effective remedy. 

Cluster 2. Internet governance

  • Commitments to promote a universal, free and secure Internet; support the Internet Governance Forum as a durable bottom-up multistakeholder platform for discussion on public policy issues related to the Internet; continue efforts to increase diverse participation in the IGF; refrain from Internet shutdowns and ensure that any restrictions are in full compliance with international law. 

Cluster 3. Digital trust and safety

  • Commitments to adopt common standards, guidelines and industry actions that promote safe civic spaces and address harmful content on digital platforms; prioritise the development and implementation of national online child safety policies; institutionalise regular collaboration between national online safety institutions to develop shared understandings of actions to protect privacy, freedom of expression and access to information while safeguarding against harm; ensure laws and regulations on the use of technology, in areas such as surveillance and encryption, are consistent with international standards and norms on privacy, freedom of expression, due process and access to information and effective recourse; develop methodologies to measure track and counter online violence against women and girls; monitor and review digital platform policies and practices on countering child sexual exploitation and abuse online.
  • Call on digital tech companies and developers to incorporate the perspectives and needs of diverse groups in the design and delivery of digital tech, and co-develop industry accountability frameworks. 
  • Call on social media platforms to provide online safety training materials and safeguards to children and youth, and establish reporting mechanisms for users to report policy violations. 

Cluster 4. Information integrity 

  • Commitments to roll out digital training curricula to ensure that users can safely and critically interact with content and with information providers; promote diverse and resilient information ecosystems; promote access to information in conflict and crisis situations. 
  • Call on social media platforms to enhance the transparency and accountability of their systems to empower users to make informed choices; to provide researcher access to data to build an evidence base on how to address mis and disinformation. 
  • Call on digital technology companies and communities to develop actions to mitigate risks arising from AI-generated deception, including by identifying AI-generated material, authenticity certification for content and origins, watermarking.

4. Advancing equitable international data governance

Cluster 1. Data privacy and security

  • Commitments to develop international and national data governance frameworks that maximise the benefits of data while protecting privacy and securing data, drawing on existing international and regional privacy guidelines; empower individuals and groups to participate in the processing, control and use of their personal data; ensure that data collection, storage and processing practices are transparent, secure and in full respect of international law; develop skilled workforces capable of collecting, processing, analysing and storing data safely and securely.

Cluster 2. Data exchanges and standards

  • Commitments to develop data and metadata standards that prevent and address bias, discrimination or human rights violations; develop common definitions and standards on the use and reuse of data for public good. 
  • Invite the UN Statistical Commission and the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to convene an intergovernmental multistakeholder process to develop and agree the aforementioned definitions and standards

Cluster 3. Data for development

  • Commitments to increase financing for data and statistics and enhance efforts to build capacity in data skills and responsible data use; strengthen efforts to collect, analyse and disseminate relevant, reliable and disaggregated data for better monitoring and policymaking to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda; develop open and accessible data systems to support effective disaster early-warning and crisis response; create international data collection systems and data commons to advance environmental sustainability and other SDGs. 

Cluster 4. Cross-border data flows

  • Commitments to implement the concept of Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT); advance multistakeholder consultations to identify solutions to DFFT challenges; promote and support the implementation of regional and global data policy frameworks that contribute to harmonised data economies.

5. Governing emerging technologies, including AI, for humanity 

  • Commitment to establish, under the auspices of the UN, an International Scientific Panel on AI to conduct independent multi-disciplinary scientific risk and evidence-based opportunity assessments, and to initiate an annual global dialogue on AI governance with expert representatives of civil society, academia, the technical community, private sector, and of government AI safety institutes or other equivalent offices.
    • The terms of reference and modalities for the establishment and functioning of the International Scientific Panel on AI, as well as modalities for the annual global dialogue on AI governance are to be agreed by the General Assembly.
  • Call on international and national standard-setting organisations to promote the harmonisation of AI standards that uphold safety, reliability, environmental sustainability, gender equality and human rights.
  • Commitment to increased AI capacity-building, and encourage public and private investment on AI for sustainable development through pooled funding arrangements. 
  • Request the Secretary-General to establish a Global Fund for AI and Emerging Technologies for Sustainable Development.