Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

12 November 2007

Secretary-General's message to the Internet Governance Forum [delivered by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs]

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.