The 14th Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
The fourteenth annual meeting of the IGF was hosted by the Government of Germany in Berlin from 25 to 29 November 2019, to discuss the overarching theme of ‘’One World. One Net. One Vision.’’ 5000 onsite and online participants from different stakeholder groups, including some of the most prominent authorities on global Internet governance, attended the Forum. The event was opened by Secretary-General António Guterres and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Discussions at the Forum were held in over 200 different sessions and revolved around the three priority themes of data governance, digital inclusion and security, safety, stability & resilience. In addition, the IGF’s ‘Best Practice Forums’, led by the Internet community, shared experiences on big data, the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, gender and access and local content.
The IGF discussed how digital frontier technologies can benefit our economies and societies, bringing us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also considered a growing number of concerns and challenges that are eroding public trust in cyberspace. The increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks, data and privacy breaches, and the proliferation of hate speech and overly-restrictive forms of censorship, among other emerging challenges, threaten to undermine the beneficial impact of the Internet.
Building capacity and bridging divides by coming together
The IGF is a global multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates public policy discussions related to the Internet. In doing so, its core objective is to ensure that there is a space for engagement and awareness in Internet matters that is accessible to all.
Recognizing this, the host country took steps to promote diverse participation at the 2019 meeting. Funding from the Government of Germany allowed UN DESA to support the travel of close to 140 participants from developing countries to attend the IGF. This included 26 parliamentarians, who were able to take part in the first ever ‘parliamentarians’ track’ over the week.
Feedback from these participants highlighted how they benefited from the opportunity to participate.
“[The IGF is] a hub where long-term cooperation is born to make the Internet an inclusive, secure and reliable tools for development, while respecting our human rights” (Madagascar, Civil Society).
- By working with developing countries in similar situations regionally and globally, we can “move forward together, with a spirit of collaboration much deeper and more effective[ly]” (Bolivia, Technical Community).
- “[We were] able to share experiences with different [participants] from the region and outside and develop collaboration. We have gained experience from other countries regarding how to cope with priority issues in our country” (South Sudan, Technical Community)
Motivated to take action…
- “I am excited about pushing further the IG [Internet Governance] concept… With the help of the IGF local chapter we have scheduled a meeting that will help improve access to internet in Malawi, fair and affordable rates for internet access, and protection of human right[s] online. I am hoping to work further with the members of Parliament to ensure that they are knowledgeable and up-to-date on IG [Internet governance] issues.’’ (Malawi, Member of Parliament)
Learning from other countries’ experiences…
- “I am going to share knowledge and experience I’ve gained during IGF 2019 to bring to the community of Armenia. I will use the experience of developed countries in the accessibility sphere.’’ (Armenia, Civil Society)
- ‘’The most important benefit from the meeting was hearing about the latest research and findings… I plan to bring many inputs to the community of the Vanuatu IGF related to digital literacy, cybersecurity, privacy and human rights, child online protection etc.’’ (Vanuatu, Civil Society)
What’s next? The Way Forward
The IGF in Berlin may have ended on 29 November 2019, but this also marked the beginning of the next chapter in the IGF story!
Over the course of 2020, the IGF will engage in a range of activities that keep up the focus and momentum from Berlin, to feed into the next annual meeting. These include meetings of its Multistakeholder Advisory Group to prepare the annual meeting programmes, and its Thematic Intersessional Work on substantive policy issues.
Integral to the continued vibrancy of the community is the work of the National and Regional IGFs (NRIs). The NRIs are groups that have been inspired by the IGF to start their own local organizations. Over the years, these groups have emerged organically in more than 120 countries and regions. The NRIs are independent but operate on the same principles as the global IGF: inclusive and bottom-up discussions where governments, businesses, civil society and technical communities gather to address digital policy issues, exchange good practices and recommend improvements.
This rolling annual work is highly consultative and engages the community-at-large, to ensure that the annual meetings are relevant and dynamic. For now, the outcomes from Berlin are absorbed and reflected on as we all look forward to the IGF 2020 in Poland!
More information is available at:
Other event outcomes are summarised here