Global cooperation and regulation key in addressing multilayered threats posed by new technology
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) concluded today with a consensus highlighting the importance of the rule of law and global cooperation to ensure a safe cyberspace. The three-day Forum, under the title ‘Internet of Trust, brought more than 3,000 participants from 143 countries together to confront issues ranging from cyber security to ethics, fake news and the spread of disinformation, hate speech, data as a cross-cutting issue, regulation of the internet and people’s rights online.
Addressing high-level attendees at the closing of the Forum, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Fabrizio Hochschild, stressed that it was necessary to address the global deficit of trust between and within countries, noting that the industry, governments as well as individual users need accountability for their actions.
“Society, including a digital one, cannot function without trust.” He further highlighted that change is needed to safeguard the public core of the Internet and in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in today’s landscape of rapid technological changes.
From 12 to 14 November, the Internet Governance Forum provided a dynamic multi-stakeholder platform that engaged and informed discussions on digital trust, and policy issues pertaining to the benefits and challenges offered by new technologies. Participants, nearly half of them women, from governments, businesses, technical communities, and civil society, gathered at UNESCO headquarters in Paris and online to amplify international digital cooperation.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Forum on opening day saying that technology should be harnessed to “empower rather than overpower.” He urged more efforts to turn digital risks into opportunities.
“When it comes to governance, we must be as creative and bold as those who first built the Internet. You can count on my support in this journey towards a prosperous, safe and fair digital future.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France, who hosted the Forum, took the opportunity to not only share his vision on Internet governance but also to launch the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace” – a high-level initiative supported by many countries, private companies and civil society organizations, for regulating the Internet and fighting back against cyber threats.
Issues facing the world’s youth were high on the Forum’s agenda. With over 71 percent of global youth with online access today, issues such as the digital divide, the need for increased education on digital skills and literacy, hate speech, and new technology’s impact on future employment opportunities dominated the conversations. Young people from more than 100 countries also took the opportunity to engage with the IGF live panel sessions via interactive online participation, ensuring their voices were heard.
During the closing ceremony of the Forum, French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi, emphasized that the government doesn’t want to get in the way of an open and free Internet, and to achieve the objective of a digital world for the common good, we need to regulate. “We have been struggling tirelessly because we know that decisions made today will be determining ones for tomorrow for the future. We are firmly convinced inaction on the part of governments is not an option, given the challenges that our society face today.” Urging civil society and private sector to come together to ensure regulation is aligned with technical progress and capabilities, he further emphasized the need for multilateralism.
French Government representative David Martinon, Ambassador for Cyber diplomacy and the Digital Economy, and host co-chair of IGF 2018, elaborated on the French President’s Paris Call initiative and stressed that concrete, pragmatic measures need to be taken and the only way to achieve regulation is to “engage a dialogue with private stakeholders so that we can co-construct and co-draft these standards.”
Daniela Brönstrup, government representative for next year’s host Germany, stated that “we are the multi-stakeholders fighting for an open, secure, reliable, and truly global Internet free from censorship, discrimination and propaganda.”
The commitment to the 2030 Agenda was evident in the centrality of the Sustainable Development Goals in the technology discussions. In his speech, Mr. Guterres called to expand dialogue beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and embrace the voices of underrepresented stakeholders — including addressing the gender gap and persons with disabilities — to leave no one behind. He further stated that “digital solutions are transforming lives and can turbocharge our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Harnessing the power of the internet and ensuring inclusive, equitable and transparent development strategies are key principles in the Forum’s message for reaping the benefits of new technology.