We recently caught up with Cosima, Year 13, who had the immense privilege to take part in a recent online consultation discussing the UN’s Global Digital Compact initiative.

What is the UN’s Global Digital Compact?

The Global Digital Compact (GDC) is an initiative facilitated by the Secretary General’s Envoy for Technology as part of the 2021 Common Agenda and 2024 Summit of the Future, aiming to outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.

In its current form, it addresses four main issues; the digital divide, creating a safe and secure digital space, advancing data governance and governing emerging technologies such as AI.

Can you tell us about your participation in a recent consultation event discussing the GDC?

I was fortunate enough to be a stakeholder panellist for a recent consultation as an independent expert and youth voice representative, following my role as a Childnet Digital Champion, and prior youth advocacy work for both the UN and UK Parliament.

The consultation event was hosted in the New York ECOSOC chamber, which I was live-streamed into, after the UK Mission and other delegations, to address each of the four clauses from a specialist point of view, in the form of a speech.

This was an immense privilege as an aspiring Politics and International Relations student!

- Cosima, Year 13

Watch a short clip of Cosima giving her speech to the consultation below.

What did you focus on during your speech?

A key issue I have been involved in the governance of recently is the digital divide in light of recent advances in technology. Over half-term I was invited to the Parliamentary Digital Skills Summit facilitated by Dean Russel, the MP for Watford, and Steven George-Hilley from Centropy PR.

The discussions brought to light the issue of both the gender and socioeconomic digital divide, through which I identified a significant lack of tangible resolutions within the public sector due to lack of funding.

As a result, I touched on the addition of an enumerated provision for investment into digital skills as, whilst equal usage is important, equity can only be achieved through universal literacy online to prevent young people from falling prey to the immense written and visual information gaps in the online world.

I also touched on the matter of a multi-stakeholder approach to governance; having worked on the UK Online Safety Act since it’s inception, I have seen first hand the immense struggle of both unequal global governance, and lack of consideration of the private sector within regulation, in ensuring it’s effectiveness, as no matter what we undertake from the UK and 3rd sector, following the globalisation of the internet, if other countries do not follow suit and firms do not comply, much of our work is rendered limited.

In light of this, I emphasised a need for a clear section within the GDC to call for continued supranational (multi-government) governance of the issue, in collaboration with stakeholders, as well as trust and safety by design in the creation of emerging technologies.

Can you tell us more about the 2024 Summit of the Future?

The 2024 Summit of the Future is what is known as a ‘high level event’, hosted by the UN, to bring together world leaders to reach international consensus on how to safeguard the future, and promote international cooperation, to tackle current and emerging challenges.

Many agreements exist already such as the UN Charter, Declaration of Human Rights and Paris Agreement, but often the ‘how’ of these agreements can be vague and undefined. The Summit therefore aims to fix this, focusing on how we can cooperate better to achieve each goal by creating clear agreements as opposed to vague pledges.

The GDC involves clearly outlined clauses on how internet governance goals can be achieved in the context of varying levels of development, something that really drew me to the opportunity as a geography student currently studying global governance, and the associated issues of it

- Cosima, Year 13

What’s next?

We are currently awaiting the next draft of the GDC in light of the consultation. Once finished, we will make further amendments in anticipation of the Summit of the Future in September.

Thank you to Cosima for taking the time to fill us in on this exciting opportunity to be involved in something that has the potential to be truly transformational.