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Online meetings: Reducing carbon and increasing participation

Published on 24 January 2020
Updated on 05 April 2024

Millions of online meetings happen every day in teleconferencing rooms, webinars, Skype, and other online facilities. The nature and dynamics of meetings have been changing. An important impact of online participation can be a reduction in our carbon footprint. This issue is becoming prominent on many national agendas. Only this month, the Swiss federal government has pledged to cut CO2 emissions up to 30% in the next decade. Many governments and international organisations are considering similar moves.

On 29 January, during the Geneva Engage Award event, the panel discussion will focus on success factors for online meetings. Based on the lessons from Diplo’s 20 years long experience of delivering online meetings is that the success of online events depends on organisational, behavioural and organisational aspects.

On carbon reduction, Diplo has saved 814 tons of C02 by having 454 students worldwide participating in online courses in 2019, instead of travelling from their home towns to Geneva. To put that into perspective, it takes more than 30000 trees to process this amount of CO2 annually.

Online meetings: Reducing carbon and increasing participation


In addition, Diplo had  over 1500 participants in other Diplo’s online events (webinars or online debates) in 2019.  Carbon footprint reduction should not be the only reason to support online participation. Online participation increases inclusion and legitimacy in the global policy space, especially for marginalised actors and participants from small and developing countries.

Inclusion processes in Geneva and the idea of multistakeholder (multi actors) participation are on the agenda of the UN agencies. One organisation that walks the talk is the Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Since its beginnings, the IGF has set the tone for striving for meaningful participation in the main event, the IGF, but also in other preparatory Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) meetings, as well as for supporting National and Regional Internet Governance Initiatives (NRIs).  

During the IGF in Berlin (November 2019), there were 200 sessions with a total of 2952 online participants. That is a significant number of participants, and the leading digital policy forum has become native with online participation. This is a culmination of 10 years’ work in efforts to strengthen online participation as a new normal.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other international organisations are following, with the rapidly developing online participation agenda.

This year, the Geneva Engage Award will recognise the work in online participation by handing the award for online participation. The Geneva Engage Award also recognises actors in International Geneva distinguished for their social media outreach and engagement.

The randomised list of top ten organisations in all three categories: International Organisations, Non-Profit Organisations and Associations, and Permanent Representations to the United Nations in Geneva is now posted on the Geneva Engage website.

Online meetings: Reducing carbon and increasing participation


We look forward to seeing you on 29 January, from 16:00h CET, to find out who will be the winners of the 5th Geneva Engage Award.

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