Cultural diversity


The Government of Canada and the Government of the French Republic issued a ‘Joint Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the Digital Space’. The Declaration reaffirms the sovereign right of States to adopt policies and measures to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital space, recalls protection and promotion of cultural diversity as inseparable from human rights and fundamental freedoms, confirms support for the principle of neutrality and universality of the Internet and for the multi stakeholder governance of the Internet, and emphasizes the will to support French language cultural content in the digital space. In the spirit of multistakeholder model it affirms that the States, digital platforms, and civil society must pursue common goals to support and promote diversity of cultural expressions online, to contribute to the economic sustainability of content creators and respect for copyright, to promote quality and transparent information and the implementation of algorithms with respect to ranking, recommendations, and access to local content. In addition, the States decided to:

’ - Pursue collaboration between Canada and France on implementing the operational guidelines on the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity Of Cultural Expressions in the digital environment;

- Promote direct and open dialogue between partner States, the private sector, notably digital platforms, and civil society, on their responsibilities in connection with the protection and promotion of cultural diversity in the digital space.’

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE) welcomed the Statement. The CDCE's co-president, Bill Skolnik, stated: ‘the signal sent by Canada and France is very important; at a time where platforms and their recommendation tools do not promote a real diversity of cultural expressions. We are pleased to see that the French and Canadian governments have heard the main concerns of the cultural community. We are eager to find out more about the impact of this statement.’

According to the recently released World Report on Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) by EURid and UNESCO, IDNs now comprise 3% of the world's domains, with a total number of 8.7 million IDNs registered as of December 2016 (with a growth rate of 28% compared to the previous year). The number includes IDNs registered both in generic top-level domains and country code top-level domains, both at first and second levels. Most IDNs are registered in the Asia and Pacific region. The report concludes that IDNs help to enhance linguistic diversity in cyberspace, and that IDN scripts are an accurate predictor of the language of web content. But it also notes that there is a slow progress in addressing some of the major challenges to the mass uptake of IDNs, such as their poor usability in email, online user identifiers, and in browsers, applications, and devices.

The Canadian government made a deal with Netflix, which has agreed to invest 500 million Canadian dollars to create Canadian content. The company will establish a 'permanent production presence' in Canada, which will be the first time it has done so outside of the USA. Netflix has received criticism, as people fear that local content will disappear in the face of what some consider to be unfair competition. Yet there are concerns that the Canada-Netflix deal will not solve these issues, as 'the company has not had to abide by the same regulatory rules as Canadian broadcasters'. In addition, Quebec's Minister of Culture and Communications said he felt 'angry' and 'speechless' that the deal did not define the proportion of the money that would be dedicated to original French-language content. The government did not decide to impose special taxes on Netflix, as was suggested in January.

UNESCO has announced the publication of its Internet governance glossary in Arabic, an important tool for policymakers, academics, and Internet governance experts. Multilingual support is an important priority of many organisations, with this glossary joining other resources from ICANN (Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, French, and English), as well as DiploFoundation's An Introduction to Internet Governance (2017 edition in Spanish and English,  2016 edition in French and Thai, and earlier editions in seven other languages) and its Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (Spanish and English). 

Turkey's Minister of Communication announced in a television interview that the country is creating a domestic search engine and e-mail service 'compatible with national culture and values'. The measures would be taken in response to the 'need to store user data within Turkey's borders and ensure that communications could be fully analysed domestically'. However, activists fear Turkey's complete isolation from the international community, as several global Internet companies (e.g. PayPal, Amazon, and eBay) have already been blocked in Turkey, and others (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) are often temporarily blocked in response to political incidents and attacks.

From 12-15 December 2016 UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expression held its tenth ordinary session. During the session, Committee’s selection of six projects recipients of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in the framework of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions were announced. The Committee adopted the preliminary draft Operational Guidelines on the implementation of the Convention in the digital environment. The draft document requires states to update their respective laws “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment.” The Guidelines recognize the need to address issues such as the digital divide between developed and less developed countries when it comes to the flow of cultural goods and services, digital literacy and access to local cultural content.

Since its early days, the Internet has been a predominantly English-language medium. According to some statistics, approximately 56% of Web content is in English, whereas 75% of the world’s population does not speak English. This situation has prompted many countries to take concerted action to promote multilingualism and to protect cultural diversity. The promotion of multilingualism is not only a cultural issue; it is directly related to the need for the further development of the Internet. If the Internet is to be used by wider parts of society and not just national elites, content must be accessible in more languages.



Cultural diversity is a wide concept, and can include diversity of language, national identities, traditions and religions. The relation between the Internet (or, more broadly, information and communications technologies) and cultural diversity, in its various forms, is two-fold. On one hand, the Internet, through its ability to facilitate both exchanges between individuals with different cultural backgrounds, and access to vast resources of information and knowledge, can contribute to the promotion of cultural diversity at a global level. The Internet also offers individuals new possibilities to express themselves in ways that reflect their national and cultural identities; user-generated content therefore becomes a new modality through which the diversity of cultures is better reflected and promoted worldwide. On the other hand, and as underlined during the World Summit on the Information Society, cultural diversity is essential to the development of an inclusive information society that is based on dialogue and respect among cultures.

In the online environment, the preservation, enhancement and promotion of cultural diversity can be achieved, among others, through encouraging the development of local content, which is relevant to the culture and languages of individuals. As local content has the potential to reflect national identities and cultural specificities, having more local content online translates into additional opportunities for making the Internet a more diverse and inclusive space, and for promoting these exact identities and specificities at a global level.

One way to achieve this is by encouraging the development of user-generated content at a local level, as well as fostering digital literacy within local communities. Once local communities are able to use digital tools, they can then generate content and contribute to the promotion of their cultures and identities. Local media is also another potential promoter and distributor of local content in the digital space.

Additionally, the translation, adaptation and online distribution of existing local content, and the preservation of varied information reflecting indigenous knowledge and traditions through digital means represent other forms of promoting cultural diversity. Digital archives can also contribute to strengthening local communities, documenting and preserving local heritage. This is particularly relevant for communities that are isolated or nomadic, whose technological needs might require approaches that are entirely localised. The production and distribution of software in local languages also has the potential to increase the rates of Internet adoption.

Among the organisations working for the promotion of cultural diversity, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) instigated many initiatives focusing on multilingualism, including the adoption of important documents. The main instruments in this field are in fact adopted by UNESCO: the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), the Charter of the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003), and the Convention on the Protection and promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.




UNESCO facilitates


UNESCO facilitates global advocacy and discussions on freedom of expression and relevant issues including privacy at the WSIS and the Internet Governance Forum. It further explores freedom of expression online in-depth through its flagship publication of Internet Freedom. UNESCO also defines key indicators to help stakeholders assess the local situation. Media development indicators are an analytic tool designed to assess the state of the media and measure the impact of media development programmes. Internet Universality Indicators aims to build a framework of indicators through which to assess levels of achievement, in individual countries and internationally, on four fundamental principles:  human rights, openness, accessibility and multistakeholderism.


ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System.


ICANN is responsible for coordinating the evolution and operation of the Domain Name System. The organisation coordinates the allocation and assignment of names in the root zone of the DNS, and the development and implementation of policies concerning the registration of second-level domain names in generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It also facilitates the coordination and evolution of the DNS root name server system. When it comes to gTLDs, ICANN concludes agreements with registry operators (for the administration of each gTLD), and accredits registrars. In the case of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), ICANN only goes as far as (re)delegating them on the basis of some high-level guidelines.


Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t


Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.


The Internet Society approaches net neutrality largely from a user-centric perspective, and its work in this a


The Internet Society approaches net neutrality largely from a user-centric perspective, and its work in this area focuses, among others, on: allowing freedom of expression, supporting user choice, and preventing discrimination. It also collaborates with businesses to develop solutions on issues such as network traffic management, pricing, and business models. Net neutrality also falls within the scope of the Internet Society’s research and capacity development activities. The organisation has produced several policy papers and other publications touching on aspects such as open inter-networking and zero rating. Its policy brief tutorial on net neutrality provides an overview of the key considerations, challenges, and guiding principles of net neutrality.


Over-the-top services, next generation networks, the collaborative economy, and artificial intelligence are am


Over-the-top services, next generation networks, the collaborative economy, and artificial intelligence are among the issues the European Commission is paying particular attention to. The Electronic Communications Code proposed by the Commission in September 2016 plans to introduce some level of regulation for OTT services. Encouraging the deployment of NGN networks able to better support the provision of converged services is a priority for the Commission, as part of its Broadband Strategy and Policy. The EU executive body has also issued guidelines and policy recommendations for the collaborative economy, while its Digitising European Industry strategy identified artificial intelligence and robotics are cornerstone technologies to be supported.



Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)

Other Instruments

Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (WSIS) (2005)



Reimagining the Internet as a Mosaic of Regional Cultures (2016)
Multilingualism and the Internet - Briefing Paper (2009)


Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)


Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption (2016)
State of Connectivity 2015: A Report on Global Internet Access (2016)
Digital Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean (2016)
Closing the Coverage Gap: Digital Inclusion in Latin America (2016)
Proliferation of Indian Languages on Internet (2016)
Multilingualism in Cyberspace: Indigenous Languages for Empowerment (2015)
Mobile for Development Impact (2015)
Best Practice Forum on Creating an Enabling Environment for the Development of Local Content (2014)
Local World - Content for the Next Wave of Growth (2014)
The Relationship between Local Content, Internet Development and Access Prices (2013)
Smart Policies to Close the Digital Divide: Best Practices from Around the World (2012)

GIP event reports

Universal Acceptance – Is the Internet Reaching the People it Needs to? (2018)


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WSIS Forum 2019

13th IGF 2018


WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WSIS Forum 2016


IGF 2015

IGF 2016 Report


The need to foster cultural diversity and multilingualism on the Internet emerged in many sessions at IGF 2016. For the Internet to enable inclusive and sustainable growth, it is essen- tial that Internet users be able to create and access content, and have software tools in their own languages and scripts (Enhancing Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace - WS19). Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) can contribute to a more diverse cyberspace, but problems related to universal acceptance (e-mail addresses in non-Latin scripts, recognition of IDNs by search engines) still need to be addressed (Enabling Every User with a Unique Internet Culture ID - WS144).

Moreover, countries need to develop favourable and dynamic policies to encourage and protect local content. Infrastructure and access to digital tools are also necessary to support both the devel- opment of and access to local content (Local content and sustainable growth - WS22). 


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