IGF 2021 Parliamentary Track


In recent years, the IGF has sought to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of the forum by facilitating the participation of parliamentarians in discussions on some of the most pressing issues related to the use, evolution and governance of the Internet and related digital technologies. Participants in the 2019 and 2020 parliamentary roundtables recommended, among other issues, that national parliaments cooperate and exchange good practices on dealing with digital policy issues. 

At the 16th IGF, a parliamentary track took place on 7–8 December 2021 on the theme Legislative approaches for a user-centric digital space. Building on previous experiences and in the spirit of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution A/RES/74/304, the event was jointly organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the lower chamber of the Polish parliament, the Sejm. Support was also be provided by the Department of Digital Policy in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, acting as co-facilitator and overall coordinator of the IGF 2021 from the Host Country’s side. 

In the lead-up to IGF 2021, a series of preparatory sessions were held online allowing Members of Parliaments to become familiar with the IGF and the broader Internet governance ecosystem and to engage in dialogue and exchanges of experiences on key digital policy issues. The main points emerging from these discussions formed the basis for the output document from the parliamentary track at IGF 2021. 

Output document

The discussions held in the context of the IGF 2021 parliamentary track are reflected in an Output document.  While not being a negotiated document, the Output suggests parliamentary action on several key digital policy issues: privacy and data protection, harmful online content, artificial intelligence, and a user-centred digital space.

Key topics

Parliamentarians are invited to exchange views and share good practices on tackling three key digital policy challenges:

  • DATA | Privacy rights and legitimate uses of personal data
  • CONTENT POLICY | Balancing freedom of speech and the fight against harmful content: the role of Internet platforms
  • AI GOVERNANCE | Automated decision-making and human-centric approaches

More details on these topics are available in the parliamentary track's concept note.

Parliamentary sessions at IGF 2021

During a dedicated track on 7–8 December, parliamentarians continued the debates on the key topics and convene in a parliamentary roundtable. They were also invited to actively participate in all other IGF 2021 sessions and contribute their views and experiences to the discussions.

Calendar of parliamentary activities are IGF 2021

Please note that times are in CET (UTC+1). 

All sessions, as well as the parliamentary reception, were held at the IGF 2021 venue – the MCK International Congress Centre in Katowice. 

6 December 

19:00 – 20:00 & 20:30 – 22:30

Cocktail reception & Ceremonial music concert
7 December 

10:00 – 11:30

Plenary/Main Meeting Room - Multifunctional Hall C

IGF 2021 Opening Ceremony

14:00 – 15:30


Parliamentary session 1 | Privacy and data protection legislation in the digital age: challenges and approaches

With public and private entities relying on personal data and behavioural information to provide digital services (with varying degrees of transparency), and with surveillance tools increasingly used outside of rule of law frameworks, protecting privacy and personal data in the digital space is an increasingly complex matter. This complexity poses challenges when it comes to defining and implementing relevant legislation. Outlining data subject rights and establishing responsibilities for their protection, clarifying meaningful consent for data processing, and setting conditions for international data transfers are some of the key issues that legislators around the world have to unpack when devising legal frameworks. And while such frameworks have been or are being put in place in many countries around the world, the reality is that there is still a patchwork of different legal approaches to protecting privacy and personal data. How do these many legal approaches work together in the framework of a borderless digital space? What is still missing?

Key contributors

  • Carla Arino Garcia | Data Protection Union, Council of Europe
  • Becky Burr | Member of the Board, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  • Nigel Cassimire | Telecommunications specialist, Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU)
  • Iqra Khalid | Member of the House of Commons, Canada


  • Mattia Fantinati | Member of the House of Representatives, Parliament of Italy‎
16:15 – 17:15

Plenary/Main Meeting Room - Multifunctional Hall C

IGF 2021 Parliamentary roundtable | Legislative approaches for a user-centric digital space

This Parliamentary roundtable was open to all participants at IGF 2021.

Legislation relevant for the Internet and the broader digital space covers many areas, from security and human rights, to competition and intellectual property. Having such legislation in place is an important element in addressing risks, protecting rights, and ensuring a level-playing field for market actors. But this also comes with challenges. For instance, how to balance the different rights and interests at stake when developing legislation to address harmful content or protect copyright? How to devise regulations to tackle risks that advanced technologies may pose without unduly harming innovation? And how to minimise the risk that legislation adopted at the national and regional level could threaten the global, interoperable and unfragmented nature of the Internet? As we consider these and similar questions, is there a toolkit of principles that legislators need to keep in mind to ensure that the rules and regulations they define achieve their objectives without creating unintended consequences?

Opening remarks

  • Ryszard Terlecki | Vice Marshal of the Sejm of Poland 
  • Liu Zhenmin | UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
  • Duarte Pacheco | President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union 

Key contributors

  • Abdulla Althawadi | Member of the ​​Council of Representatives of the Kingdom of Bahrain
  • Marina Kaljurand | Member of the European Parliament
  • Alexander Khinshtein | Chairman of the Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, State Duma, Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation
  • Alhagie Mbow | Member of Parliament, Gambia
  • Gabriel Silva | Member of National Assembly, Panama


  • Thomas Schneider | Ambassador and Director of International Affairs at the Swiss Federal Office of Communication

18:00 – 19:30 

Conference room 20 & 24

Parliamentary reception
8 December
09:30 – 11:00


Parliamentary session 2 | Balancing freedom of speech and the fight against harmful content

Diversity of opinion and freedom of speech form the core of democracy. The Internet has made it easier to exercise these rights, but it has also created new opportunities for abuse. Harmful content is now easily spread online, sometimes with dire consequences for democracy itself and for human rights. As Internet platforms and regulators devise mechanisms to address such challenges, several questions are raised: Where does the responsibility of Internet platforms start and where does it end when it comes to tackling harmful content? Should platforms be left to determine on their own what is harmful content and how to deal with it? Or should legislators step it and establish clear roles and responsibilities? And if laws are adopted, what are the key principles that they need to embed in order to ensure that a proper balance is achieved between fighting harmful content and protecting freedom of speech and other human rights?

Key contributors

  • Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi | Chief, Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists Section, UNESCO
  • Arda Gerkens | Vice-president of the Senate, Netherlands
  • Marcin Olender | Public Policy and Government Relations Manager Central and Eastern Europe, Google
  • Jeremy Wright | Member of Parliament, UK


  • Neema Lugangira | Member of Parliament, Tanzania
11:30 – 13:00


Parliamentary session 3 | AI governance: What do we regulate and how?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now at the core of multiple digital services and products, from guiding our online experiences and powering smart devices, to shaping the decisions others make about us (e.g. in the context of recruitment processes, financial services, or the judiciary system). Beyond its promises, AI also comes with pitfalls; for instance, algorithmic decision-making could result in discrimination, harmful stereotypes and wider social inequality, while AI-based systems may pose risks to human safety. Some jurisdictions around the world have started working on regulatory frameworks to address such pitfalls. But what is it about AI that needs to be regulated? To what extent do we need new laws and how do existing ones apply to AI? How should regulations for AI be developed, and what principles should they embed? And to what extent can regulations developed in some jurisdictions serve as inspiration for others?

Key contributors

  • Alessandra Basso | Member of the European Parliament
  • Laura Galindo | AI Policy Analyst, OECD
  • Alison Gillwald | Executive Director, Research ICT Africa


  • Sabin Sărmaș | Chairman, Committee on information and communications technology, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania


Online preparatory sessions

A series of online preparatory sessions took place between September and November 2021.

These sessions informed the parliamentary outcome document from IGF 2021.


Documents & further information

Any questions related to the parliamentary track can be addressed to parliamentarytrack[at]intgovforum.org.

Invitation (also in FR and ES)

IGF 2021 parliamentary track | Programme for IGF 2021 (December)

IGF 2021 parliamentary track concept note & provisional programme (also in FR and ES)

Practical information for the parliamentary track (also in FR and ES)