Second Statement of Konstantinos Komaitis to the United Nations on the Global Digital Compact

Delivered before the United Nations on the topic of the Global Digital Compact, identifying opportunities it presents

Second Statement of Konstantinos Komaitis to the United Nations on the Global Digital Compact

Share this story

BANNER: DFRLab Senior Resident Fellow for Global and Democratic Governance Konstantinos Komaitis speaking at an event.

The United Nations will hold a “Summit of the Future” in September 2024. The event, inspired by the UN Secretary-General’s “Our Common Agenda” report, is intended to reshape and modernize the world’s multilateral system to address the challenges of 2030 and beyond. As part of the Summit, the UN Secretary-General tasked his Envoy on Technology to initiate the negotiation of a Global Digital Compact (GDC) to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.”

Global civil society and democratic governments alike have been closely following the subsequent GDC consultation processes and the UN Secretary General’s own policy brief on the subject. The GDC is currently being drafted, with the Swedish and Zambian chairs hosting consultations with member states, civil society, industry, and the technical community. On March 1, the chairs hosted a consultation for civil society and other stakeholders. The following is the second statement from Konstantinos Komaitis, the DFRLab’s Resident Senior Fellow for Global and Democratic Governance, submitted to the chairs of the GDC as part their consultations with nongovernmental stakeholders. His first statement can be found here.

Dear Excellencies,

My name is Konstantinos Komaitis, and I am the Resident Senior Fellow for Global and Democratic Governance at the Atlantic Council’s Democracy + Tech Initiative.

First of all, I would like to thank the excellencies of Sweden and Zambia and all their efforts to ensure an inclusive GDC process. Since last year, stakeholders have contributed their expertise and ideas to this process, and I am hoping that our views will assist the co-facilitators in their work of preparing a zero draft.

The story of the internet is a story of people, their ideas, and the projects they worked on. It is not the story of one person or a single project, and it is not the story of a single application, whether it is the electronic mail, the system of transferring files, the World Wide Web (www), video or machine-to-machine communication. It is a story of collaboration.

It is in that spirit of collaboration that the Global Digital Compact (GDC) should proceed. At the outset, as member states consider ways towards digital cooperation and how to strengthen the multilateral model, they should lean on the multitude of stakeholders that form the internet’s multistakeholder community.

One of the core issues the past twenty years of internet governance has demonstrated is how collaboration and the input of non-state actors has helped fill the governance deficit that was identified during the WSIS [World Summit on the Information Society] process. The way the internet has evolved over the past decades is a testament to how multistakeholder governance can help improve the performance and effectiveness of global governance mechanisms. We have all been witness to how the ability to include a wide range of stakeholders improves representation and, in the end, increases the legitimacy of the international system. This is an achievement of the multistakeholder model that should not be underestimated.

More specifically, member states should use the GDC as an opportunity to do four main things:

  • First, use the GDC to commit to the single, open, global, and interoperable internet. The GDC should not relitigate the internet’s normative framework; instead, it should uphold and protect the properties that make the internet what it is today as well as the processes and the policies that have been built around them. In doing so, the GDC should acknowledge that the internet is a general-purpose, decentralized technology, based on interoperability, open standards, and mutual agreement, accessible by anyone and driven by bottom-up coordination. Any deviation from these characteristics is not the internet.
  • Second, use the GDC to acknowledge that issues of connectivity, data governance, and governance of emerging technologies, to name a few, are complex and, therefore, require the participation and input of other actors. In fact, one of the core things that emerged from the written submissions last year is how much stakeholders depend on multistakeholder arrangements to discuss such issues and how such arrangements have influenced and have informed national, regional, and international processes. 
  • Third, use the GDC to identify financial mechanisms to accelerate the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and bridge the digital divide. Even though significant strides have been made since WSIS towards more inclusion and participation, we are still a long way from meeting the SDGs and ensuring that no one is left behind. Getting the unconnected connected should become a priority and, this includes, addressing the challenges of meaningful connectivity and universal access.
  • Fourth, use the GDC to uphold existing internet governance processes and, specifically, the IGF [Internet Governance Forum]. One of the core themes that emerged from the written submissions is the broader community’s support for the IGF and the wish of stakeholders to be preserved. The GDC must not displace, replace, or undermine the IGF; instead, it should uphold and strengthen it.

Soon after the conclusion of the GDC process and before member states reconvene for the Summit of the Future in September, there is the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS)+20 High Level Forum. Member states and the UN should take advantage of this timely meeting and the fact that it is hosted by a UN institution. This means that GDC discussions should feed into, inform, and shape the conversations that will happen at the WSIS+20 High Level Forum. Ensuring continuity and consistency among the various processes is the only way to strengthen the internet governance ecosystem.

The internet is the most human technology to date. In fact, there is something profoundly human with the ability of networks to act autonomously and set their own internal policies while, at the same time, collaborate and interoperate with other networks, making them part of the collective whole. To this end, human rights should underscore internet governance discussions and member states should be vigilant in ensuring that every user that connects to the internet, and uses its applications and services, is fully protected through the human rights framework.

The internet has a long history of successful innovation through broad-based collaboration. As the internet has grown, continuing the same kind of collaboration has become more challenging. And yet, innovation happens, and collaboration continues. Now more than ever, the GDC should be cautious not to disrupt this collaboration which has been key for the growth of the internet and the innovation that has taken place. To this end, it becomes important that the GDC process enhances and further advances this collaboration.

Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Konstantinos Komaitis

Cite this statement:

Konstantinos Komaitis, “Second Statement of Konstantinos Komaitis to the United Nations on the Global Digital Compact,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), March 1, 2024,