About the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology
In June 2019, the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, The Age of Digital Interdependence, described potential roles for a future Envoy on Technology to contribute to stronger digital cooperation.
The report noted that such an envoy ”could identify over-the-horizon concerns that need improved cooperation or governance; provide light-touch coordination of multi-stakeholder actors to address shared concerns; reinforce principles and norms developed in forums with relevant mandates; and work with UN member states, civil society and businesses to support compliance with agreed norms.”
Additional possible roles that the Panel envisaged for the Envoy included “coordinating the digital technology related efforts of UN entities; improving communication and collaboration among technology experts within the UN; and advising the UN Secretary-General on new technology issues. Finally, the Envoy could promote partnerships to build and maintain international digital common resources that could be used to help achieve the [Sustainable Development Goals].”
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation responds to the report of the High-Level Panel, setting out the Secretary-General’s vision and noting that ”the United Nations is ready to serve as a platform for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on…emerging technologies”.
“To facilitate such a dialogue”, the Secretary-General would appoint an Envoy on Technology “whose role will be to advise the senior leadership of the United Nations on key trends in technology, so as to guide the strategic approach taken by the Organization on such issues. The Envoy will also serve as an advocate and focal point for digital cooperation – so that Member States, the technology industry civil society and other stakeholders will have a first port of call for the broader United Nations system.”
In the General Assembly declaration on the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations of 21 September 2020 (GA resolution 75/1), Member States recognized the importance of technology as a fundamental global issue and pledged to “improve digital cooperation” to be able to maximize the benefits digital technologies can bring while curtailing risks. Member States also agreed that “the United Nations can provide a platform for all stakeholders to participate in such deliberations.”
The Secretary-General’s Common Agenda, developed in response to the UN75 Declaration, prioritizes the digital space, and the need to “protect the online space and strengthen its governance”. It also proposes a Global Digital Compact to be developed through a multistakeholder track, which would outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.
Accordingly, the Office of the Envoy on Technology is committed to working in the open, inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach which has characterized the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation and the development and implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation, and will underpin the work towards a Global Digital Compact.
The Office also works closely with all United Nations entities to ensure synergy and non-duplication, participates in interagency and United Nations systemwide processes, and collaborates with ongoing multilateral and international processes and forums, in particular the Internet Governance Forum.
In line with the areas of responsibility outlined in the Secretary-General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology focuses on the following key areas:
- Leads implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap, coordinating the range of actions envisaged therein and working closely with the various United Nations entities and multi-stakeholder groups, so as to ensure that there is overall coherence, with full respect for the mandates of different United Nations entities.
- Facilitates dialogue on the recommendations of the Roadmap and related parts of the Common Agenda to accelerate global digital cooperation, seizing on the opportunities that are presented by technology – while mitigating the risks – to ensure collective progress towards achieving the Goals by 2030.
- Serves as an advocate and focal point for digital cooperation so that Member States, the private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities, and other stakeholders have a first port of call for the broader United Nations system.