Skip to main content

Proposing Human Rights-Centred Digital Compact, Secretary-General Urges Universal Connectivity, Online Autonomy for Ordinary People, at G20 Summit

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, to the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit on Digital Transformation, in Bali, Indonesia, today:

With the right policies in place, digital technology can give an unprecedented boost to sustainable development, particularly for the poorest countries.  This calls for more connectivity; and less digital fragmentation.  More bridges across digital divides; and fewer barriers.  Greater autonomy for ordinary people; less abuse and disinformation.

It is clear that without guidance and guardrails, digital technology also has huge potential for harm — from the suppression of free speech, to malicious interference across borders, and the targeting and harassment of people, mainly women, online.

I have therefore proposed a Global Digital Compact on an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all, to be agreed by Governments at the United Nations Summit of the Future in 2024, with input from technology companies, civil society, academia and others.  This Digital Compact is firmly anchored in human rights — the only coherent approach for a technology that affects every aspect of our lives.

It aims to deliver in three areas.  First, universal connectivity means reaching the 3 billion people who are offline, the majority of whom live in the Global South.  We must close the digital divide by promoting digital literacy, and giving access to the digital world to women and girls, migrants, rural and indigenous people.

Second, a human-centred digital space begins with the protection of free speech, freedom of expression and the right to online autonomy and privacy.  But free speech is not a free pass.  The Global Digital Compact should consider the responsibility of Governments, tech companies and social media platforms to prevent online bullying and deadly disinformation that undermines democracy, human rights and science.  I have also called for a global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information — so people can make choices based on fact, not fiction.

Third, data has immense and unexplored potential to boost sustainable development.  We have only half the data we need to understand Sustainable Development Goal progress and measure impact.  At the same time, people’s personal data is being used without their knowledge and consent, sometimes for political control, sometimes for commercial profit.

The Digital Compact could focus on ways in which Governments, working with technology companies and others, can foster the safe and responsible use of data.  The support of G20 countries can help ensure the digital age is safe, inclusive, and transformational.

For information media. Not an official record.