Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Internet Governance Forum
Rio de Janeiro, 12 November 2007

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour, on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, to be with you today and to deliver his message to this Internet Governance Forum. I quote:

“Allow me to convey warm greetings to all those gathered for this important Forum, and to thank the Government and people of Brazil for their generous hospitality. The venue of Rio is particularly auspicious, as it was the home of the 1992 Conference on the Environment and Development. Today, in another landmark event, it is the issue of Internet Governance that brings people from all over to Rio.

The Internet has become the backbone of our globalized world. For the United Nations, it has become a powerful tool in our mission to promote peace and security, development and human rights, particularly in the flows of information and knowledge that it enables.

The United Nations does not have a role in managing the Internet. But we do embrace the opportunity to provide, through this Forum, a platform that helps to ensure the Internet’s global reach. With an estimated one billion Internet users today, some five billion people still do not have access to this empowering tool.

The Internet Governance Forum is not a traditional UN meeting. It is a new model of international cooperation and, just like the Internet, it is in constant evolution. Its purpose is to bring people together from all stakeholder groups. You meet here as equals, not to make decisions or negotiate, but to discuss, exchange information and share good practices.

The Forum can develop a common understanding of how we can maximize the opportunities the Internet offers, how we can use it for the benefit of all nations and peoples, and how we can address risks and challenges. One particular area of hope, but also concern, is the relationship of children and young people with the Internet. The Internet has opened new doors to them, to knowledge and culture. Yet, it can also present a threat to their safety. The programme for this year’s meeting has a strong focus on the protection of children, and I hope that it will contribute to making them safer.

This Forum is modest in its means but not in its aspirations. It may have no power to make decisions, but it can inform and inspire those who are in a position to make them. May your deliberations contribute to the further evolution of the Internet as an effective tool for building a more secure and just world”.

This concludes the message of the Secretary-General.

Please permit me to join him in thanking our fine hosts – and to make a few remarks as head of the UN’s main development department, DESA.

This second meeting of the Internet Governance Forum underlines the important role being played by the UN in shaping dialogue in key policy areas of the world today. The growing interest in Internet governance is reflected by the large audience here today. It also highlights the role of the UN as a convener which can bring together the key stakeholders.

Throughout the debate on Internet governance, development has been one of the key priorities and cross-cutting themes. The Internet is capable of delivering economic opportunities for all. But much remains to be done. And I hope your debate here is rewarding and insightful.

The new economic opportunities that the Internet offers have also a clear link to the social world, particularly in terms of freedom of expression and free flows of information and ideas. The social production of content, the widespread input from individuals into the media, and the instantaneous distribution of such content are reshaping the way we see and understand events around the world. These new insights bring greater understanding between the peoples of the world, thanks to the Internet.

The Internet Governance Forum is a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to develop an innovative dialogue under the auspices of the UN, a dialogue freed from the constraints of negotiating a text. The Forum is also unique in that it brings together people who normally do not meet under the same roof. This includes some of us who are not physically here, but who will engage instead through remote participation.

Looking at the conference programme, the main sessions and the wide variety of workshops and other events, it is clear that this notion of multi-stakeholder involvement and partnership is being embraced by the Forum participants and turned into a reality. The core themes – critical Internet resources, access, diversity, openness, security – will help to structure a rich debate, which should redound to the benefit of all, especially to young people and children.

I wish you well this week and look forward to participating in many of the Forum events.

On the agenda item of taking stock and the way forward, I hope you will be able to reflect upon the issue of selection and appointment of the Advisory Group and the possible ways and means of financing for Internet Governance Forum.

In accordance with the custom of the Forum, the host country chairs the Forum session. Therefore, now it is my honour and pleasure to invite Minster Sérgio Rezende to assume his responsibility. And I wish him a very successful session.