UNESCO Dynamic Coalition of Internet universality expands its partnership at the IGF 2021

On 9 December 2021, UNESCO convened a hybrid meeting with all stakeholders of the Dynamic Coalition (DC) on Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators (IUIs) at the Internet Governance Forum 2021 in Katowice, Poland. The meeting reinforced and expanded the global partnership for promoting human rights-based, open, accessible and inclusive Internet via multi-stakeholder dialogue and digital cooperation.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO’s Assistant-Director General for Communication and Information, stated: “With the support of the IGF community and its Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) chair, UNESCO launched the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators at IGF 2020. The Coalition facilitates advocacy, knowledge sharing and capacity building, so that countries can assess how well their digital ecosystems align to UNESCO’s ROAM principles, and implement recommendations to harness the potential of the Internet and of advanced technologies to promote achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Showcasing the newly-launched national assessment of IUIs in Germany, Dr. Lutz Möller, Deputy Secretary-General of the German National Commission for UNESCO, stated: “The national assessment of Internet Universality Indicators is a tool that provides ‘brutally honest’ evidence, empowering stakeholders and experts to foster the development of their national digital and social environments”.

“The ROAM-X framework serves a holistic framework for uniting the Internet. It contributes to implementing the United Nations Secretary-General’s Roadmap of Digital Cooperation, and to creating a global Digital Compact” pointed out Anriette Estherhuysen, IGF MAG Chair. She stressed that the call for an “Internet United” aims to translate key principles into policymaking and practice, which can be facilitated through the implementation of the ROAM principles and indicators.

Constance Bommelaer, Internet Society’s Area Vice President, Institutional Relations and Empowerment, and Dawit Bekele, Internet Society Africa’s Regional Vice President, underlined synergies that exist between ROAM and ISOC’s work, on topics such as openness and meaningful access. They both reiterated her support of the national assessment of IUIs through ISOC’s various regional chapters, in Africa and beyond.

Dorothy Gordon, UNESCO’s Information for All Programme (IFAP) Chair, affirmed IFAP’s willingness to engage with the IGF community on Internet governance issues. She stated: “Good policy is based on evidence and knowledge-sharing. The IUIs assessments allow us to pull out lessons learned, and to create capacity building opportunities, by fostering multistakeholder engagement through the Dynamic Coalition on IUIs.”

Representing the Council of Europe, Jan Kleijssen, explained that the Council’s engagement in the Dynamic Coalition sparked from the Internet Universality Indicators project being in line with the Council of Europe’s standards. He especially highlighted the 2016 Recommendation on Internet Freedom made by CoE’s Committee of Ministers, which can be used as a means of verification in the assessment of compliance with Internet Universality Indicators.

Alexandre Barbosa and Suada Hadzovic, respectively representing the Regional Center for Studies of the Development of the Information Society (CETIC.br) and ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee’s (GAC) Working Group on Human Rights and International Law (HRILWG), reflected on how the Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators have become a reference for Member States to assess their digital landscapes. They posited that the DC should build capacities of stakeholders involved in IUI assessments, to support formulation of actionable recommendations that lead to concrete Internet reforms.

Mira Milosevic, from the Global Forum for Media Development, Tomasz Komorowski from the Polish National Commission for UNESCO, Anja Gengo from the Internet Governance Forum Secretariat and NRIs, and Kossi Amessinou of the African ICT Foundation, underlined the relevance of the ROAM framework as an evidence base to underpin advocacy for stronger uptake of human rights online as well as for digital cooperation.

Participants were unanimous in pointing out the importance of multistakeholder participation, particularly of national governments as duty bearers, both in the Coalition and in national assessments. A richer range of perspectives enables closer and deeper collaboration towards transforming digital ecosystems.

In her closing statement, Dr. Marielza Oliveira, UNESCO’s Director for Partnerships and Operational Programme Monitoring in the Communications and Information Sector, raised three points. First, with more countries conducting IUIs assessments, regional and global aggregate views become possible, potentially leading to regional and global policy recommendations. Second, she highlighted the importance of funding not only individual national reports, but also capacity development, data collection guidance, quality assurance, aggregate analytics, and other elements from which all countries can benefit.

Finally, she invited all stakeholders to join the Dynamic Coalition, concluding that: “Multistakeholder participation is the key to make the ROAM-X project move forward. So let us all join efforts to further mainstream the universal ROAM principles and apply ROAM-X indicators worldwide. These principles were designed to promote human rights and digital inclusion, so that the Internet can truly serve a as public good, leaving no one behind.”