Athens, Greece

30 October 2006

Secretary-General's message to the Internet Governance Forum (delivered by Mr. Nitin Desai, Special Adviser for the World Summit on the Information Society)

It gives me pleasure to send my greetings to this inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, generously hosted by the Government and people of Greece.

The Forum is an important new vehicle for multistakeholder policy dialogue. It sustains the momentum generated by the two-phase World Summit on the Information Society. And it represents further progress in our efforts to extend the benefits of information and communications technologies to all the world's people. Indeed, I am very encouraged that during the preparatory process, all stakeholders acknowledged that the Internet can play a powerful role in helping developing countries to advance their economic and social well-being, and agreed on the development dimension as overarching priority of the Forum.

Today, the Forum enters uncharted waters. Its mandate, decided upon at the highest political level, calls on it to serve not as a convenor of governments, but of all stakeholders. The Forum will thus have to develop procedures and practices for cultivating meaningful cooperation among these disparate partners. While this will be a challenge, the Internet lends itself particularly well to this search for new forms of global collaboration.

With more than one billion users world-wide and still growing dramatically, the Internet has outgrown its origins as a network run by and for computer specialists. Indeed it has become too important, for almost every country's economy and administration, for Governments not to take an interest. The challenge therefore is to bring two cultures together: the non-governmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal, bottom-up decision-making, and the more formal, structured world of Governments and intergovernmental organizations.

The Internet Governance Forum is well placed to contribute to that effort by fostering dialogue, and by giving voice to a wide range of views, including developing-country individuals and institutions involved in Internet governance. Its emphasis will be on voluntary cooperation, not legal compulsion. And while the Forum is not designed to take decisions, it can identify issues that need to be tackled through formal intergovernmental processes.

I hope this inaugural meeting will launch a process of mutual learning, generate new ideas, and perhaps even see the emergence of some new partnerships. Please accept my best wishes for a successful gathering.