Last month, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth ran a campaign to celebrate International Youth Day (which falls on 12th August every year). This initiative was aimed at showcasing young people’s resilience, resourcefulness and leadership to create a better world for all under the theme of “Celebrating Ways Youth Lead as Agents of Change for the Global Goals”. Ahmed Hussain – a student of our MSc in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP) programme – was one of the young leaders featured in the Youth2030 Pulse Newsletter as part of this campaign.
After finishing his MPP courses earlier this year, Ahmed began contributing to the drafting of a code of conduct document which will be presented by the UN Secretary-General at the Summit of the Future 2024. In this blog post, he tells us more about his participation in this initiative.
Text below written by Ahmed Hussain, soon-to-be graduate of our 2022-23 MPP cohort
We are here at a pivotal moment, standing at a crossroads in our digital evolution.
As a part of the 61st United Nations Graduate Programme at the UN Office in Geneva, I have been tasked with a unique project under the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s direction: contributing to drafting the United Nations Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on Digital Platforms. The project aims to address the spread of online hate speech, mis- and disinformation on digital platforms through broader consultations with relevant stakeholders and member states. This task is pertinent to today’s world where hate speech and the spread of mis- and disinformation have become widespread concerns.
I understand that the regulation of information integrity is a complex task. It’s about striking a delicate balance – preserving freedom of speech while curbing the spread of misinformation, disinformation, or hateful content that can lead to real harm. This Code of Conduct proposes a human rights-based, multi-stakeholder, multi-dimensional approach to foster a digital environment that champions truth and fights against hate speech.
Coming from Pakistan, –a country that has been battling with the effects of online hate speech against religious and ethnic minorities, women and marginalised groups– my desire to personally participate in this project was driven by the loss of countless innocent lives due to the spread of online hate speech, misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms. During the drafting process, I came to realise that we as young leaders can play an important role in improving this landscape to turn technology into a positive force for humanity.
For that purpose, the Code establishes guidelines to regulate the information diffused through digital platforms. Through it, we seek to support independent media, protect it from unwarranted influences and safeguard its role as a critical watchdog of truthful information. In line with SDG number 16 (transparent, effective and accountable institutions at all levels), this Code aims to ensure that digital platforms are trustworthy and the consent of its users is free and informed. User empowerment is the key so that they can control their personal data, discern truth from fabrication and opinions from hate. This includes enhancing research and data access, to aid the process of devising effective, data-driven responses to the challenges of the future.
The code of conduct we draft as a working group will be sent directly to the United Nations HQ in New York for consideration during the drafting process. The final work will be presented by the UN Secretary-General at the much-anticipated Summit of the Future in 2024.
Knowing the potential global impact of our work motivates me daily and reaffirms the importance of striving for a safer, more accountable digital landscape for all. As the digital world continues to evolve, so too must our efforts to ensure its integrity. This is the beginning of our journey. Let’s shape this future together!
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
Header image from the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; photos provided by Ahmed Hussain, taken by an official UN photographer (name unknown).