Centre for Internet & Society

This address was delivered by Dr. Anja Kovacs, as a representative of civil society, to the IGF during its closing ceremony.

Good evening, Mr Chairperson and all the distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for this opportunity to address this assembly on behalf of civil society, it is a real honour.  And thank you also to the organisers and to the government of Egypt, for the wonderful arrangements and for creating such a excellent environment for us to work in.

I would like to use this opportunity to celebrate, together with you, two very important achievements in particular that we have made collectively during the four days of our intensive deliberations together.

The first one is the progress we are making in terms of recognising the importance of attention for human rights in ensuring a people-centred, development-oriented, non-discriminatory information society.  Thus, for example, in the main session on security, openness and privacy, speakers across stakeholder groups couched the debate not any more in terms of security vs. privacy, but in terms of security and privacy.  Security or other concerns, it was consistently argued, while obviously deserving our attention, should not be used to justify curtailing longstanding gains made in terms of human rights; rather, it is an improved implementation of already agreed on human rights instruments that we need to reach our goal of an inclusive, people-centred information society.  The growing recognition of this fact is an evolution that civil society welcomes with open arms.

Another very hopeful evolution during this IGF was the central attention devoted to the question of where we stand in terms of promoting a people-centred, development-oriented information society more generally.  The message that came out of the main session on “Internet governance in the light of the WSIS principles” clearly confirmed the urgent need to pay greater attention to this important issue, and several suggestions were made to address this concern.  These include devoting devoting a main session solely to the topic of Internet governance for development in next next year's IGF, and I sincerely hope that these suggestions will be taken up.

While we thus have important reason to celebrate, challenges of course remain.  Throughout the existence of the IGF, and perhaps increasingly so, the value of the multistakeholder model has been recognised and stressed by all stakeholder groups.  However, at the same time, it has also been acknowledged that we need to continue to work to further strengthen participation from currently underrepresented countries and groups.  I would like to note, however, that it is important that we do not restrict our efforts in this regard to capacity building, significant as that may be.  Perhaps even more crucial is that the agenda of the IGF consistently talks to the concerns of actors in the developing parts of the world as well. 

The reconfirmation of the importance of a development agenda that we have seen in this IGF is thus a very important step forward indeed. At the same time, within this larger development agenda, it is crucial that we also as soon as possible start to discuss some of the specific issues that require our attention on an urgent basis.  For example, within the IGF as elsewhere, it is generally acknowledged that access to knowledge is central to development processes; yet the IGF so far has not paid systematic attention to the ways in which the amazing possibilities that the Internet offers in this regard are increasingly threatened by new policies that seem to make intellectual property regimes more stringent day by day.  From a developing country perspective, finding a balanced solution that can address these concerns is an urgent priority.  Starting the debate on how this can be achieved here, in the IGF, is certain to attract a larger number of developing country participants, including from governments.  

Going by the experience of the past years as well as this particular meeting, I have no doubt that if given the opportunity, we will measure up to the challenges before us. Without wanting to preclude the Under-Secretary General's report, the proceedings during this IGF have made clear time and again its crucial significance in Internet governance processes.  I hope with all my heart that we will continue to get the opportunity to work together on addressing these important issues and on resolving tensions and contradictions as they emerge, with the support of an independent secretariat that can ensure an environment genuinely inclusive of all stakeholders.  Only when such open, inclusive conditions govern our own processes, may we in turn, together be able to create a genuinely inclusive information society which will indeed create opportunities for all.

Thank you. 


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