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[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The session was opened by Ms Krystyna Marty Lang addressing the attendees on behalf of the Swiss Confederation, who thanked all the participants for theie innovative ideas. According to Lang, the IGF is the world’s most important platform for inclusive global dialogue on digital governance on equal footing, and it helping to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). She underlined cyber capacity building as being crucial, and reminded the participants that the Geneva Initiative on Capacity Development in Digital Policy was announced, aimed at harvesting the experience in Geneva. She also emphasised the importance of dialogue about setting the rules and responsibilities in cyberspace. She said that Switzerland plans to launch an initiative to clarify roles and responsibilities in cyberspace, which may form a Geneva model for responsible behaviour in cyberspace. Lang also saidd that the Geneva Messages were introduced to this IGF, which were drafted in co-operation with the IGF Secretariat, Switzerland, and the session organisers, and captured key findings gained from the main sessions, including the following:

  • digital global governance should be based on values, inclusive, open and transparent
  • core Internet values need to remain human-centred
  • multistakeholder co-operation is necessary
  • digital economy depends on the free flow of data, balanced with data protection and privacy.

The Geneva Messages are available on IGF web and will be incorporated into the Chair Summary Report.

The microphone was then opened for taking stock by participants, chaired by Ambassador Thomas Schneider, Head the International Relations Service of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), Mr Armin Plum, UNDESA, and Ms Lynn St Amour, the Chair of the MAG.

A delegate from India expressed their support of the Best Practices Forum (BPF) format of the IGF, and reminded the attendees of the important proposal by the Global Commission on Cyberspace (GCSC) on protecting the public core of the Internet that was discussed. A MAG member suggested ensuring a transition between MAG members, and expressed their dissatisfaction that the BPF on Remote Participation (RP) was not approved for this IGF in spite of the importance of RP for inclusiveness, and invited for more licences for RP software. A Google representative also praised the introduction of the GCSC proposal of a norm for protecting the public core of the Internet, and general discussions about norms at the IGF. A delegate from the Netherlands supported the BPF format, suggested better links of BPF with similar good practices of other fora like the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE), and invited the IGF to better communicate its successes, such as BPF outputs – through the media, websites and communities.

A delegate from Rotary International emphasised the importance of the Internet for greater connectivity, education, and the protection of human rights. A representative of Telefonica said that about 60% of selected workshops were proposed by civil society, while the private sector would also like to put important topics on the agenda, and asked the IGF Secretariat to analyse the selected workshops and ensure better representation of all stakeholders in workshops. StAmour explained the selection procedure of workshops, and asked for further recommendations on how to improve the process. She informed the participants that the host of the next IGF is not yet known, even though there are candidates, and expressed her expectation that the host will be known in early 2018; nevertheless, she informed that the host of 2019 IGF has already committed, while there are few strong candidates for the hosts of the 2020 and 2021 IGFs.

A delegate from the Iraqi civil society warned about the under-representation of the MENA region, and invited the IGF to do more; he also invited the Arab IGF to open up to civil society and particularly those defending human rights participation, as they all work in the same direction. A remote participant praised the RP of the 2017 IGF, even though there were problems with the webcasts, and thanked all RP moderators. He suggested that next year, a virtual IGF could take place in cyberspace, and suggested that national and regional IGFs could do the same if needed, which may be less costly and also bring some high-level delegates. He called for more interaction through Twitter, suggesting that RP moderators could engage in this regard, and supported the greater visibility of the BPF but also called for a discussion of worst practices. He added that workshops focus too much on the diversity of stakeholders, even though they sometimes say the same thing, and suggested that the IGF should have a mechanism to incorporate last-minute digital/political developments to the programme in order to remain actual.

A delegate from DiploFoundation thanked Switzerland for all the support provided to the IGF throughout years. He stressed the importance of RP ’beyond a simple service’, and thanked young people that acted as RP moderators for their great work, and Switzerland for bringing them on board. He invited MAG members to continue organising IGF sessions for newcomers, and suggested that future IGFs should include a comprehensive year-long capacity building programme to prepare new participants, which should be combined with fellowship schemes – and invited for funding commitment for this to happen. A participant from Africa emphasised the importance of ensuring the greater participation of governments and technical community from all the regions. He reminded the attendees that ’illiteracy is a disability’ and invited the IGF to do more with regards to education. A representative from the European Parliament asked to put the topic of copyright reforms higher on the IGF agenda and discuss it more widely.

A coordinator from the Dynamic Coalition for accessibility and disability, spoke of the need for better RP tools for people with disabilities, since Webex is not suitable for blind people. She said that the ITU is testing other tools, and suggested that Cisco could work on designing something for blind people. She also asked for better support on the spot for persons with disabilities, and suggested that local university students could be invited to help with wheelchairs. She concluded inviting everyone to be aware of people with disabilities. Mr Chengetai Massango, Head of the IGF Secretariat, confirmed that the planning for the accessibility issues should start as early as spring 2018.

A delegate of the Dutch youth asked for greater involvement of young people at the IGF, including through additional funding for fellowships and greater outreach to local communities. He praised the existence of queue microphones and asked for those to be in each session room in order to increase participation.

A delegate from Cuba shared the success of his organisation in increasing the development of ICTs for the benefit of Cuban society. They created more than 600 technology centres have with access to the Internet, and education in the use of ICTs.

An IGF youth representative said that it would be good to have young panellists not just at youth events, but to to actually allow them to be heard and ‘not just give them the mic and say, yes, there was youth participation in the session, while they're actually marginalised or kept for the end’. She also proposed to set a quota for the participation of young delegates.

A representative from the private sector noted that great progress was being made at the IGF as they had her, from the private sector,moderate a government open forum.

A Nepalese youth IGF delegate  said that the awareness about the forum is very low in his country, and proposed further work on increasing awareness, so that a lot of people such as herself, could take part.

One of the participants was somewhat critical of the IGF’s heavy dependence on the Office of the United Nations Secretary General, which appoints in a top-down process. This has resulted in a forum composition dominated by governments and industry.

The Indian delegate spoke about the possibility of establishing an IGF level working group to draft a standard on the freedom of speech and the right to information, that would be acceptable in each country.

One of the attendees expressed a regret that some workshops were poorly organised, or lacked speakers to provide a fruitful discussion.

Delegates from Brazil and Peru promoted the open letter from Latin American and Caribbean organisations on the issue of fake news in elections, which can be found on Twitter under #fakenewsIGF2017.

Mr Nigel Hickson, ICANN, called for the IGF continue, for us to be passionate about the forum, as ‘it is the only true global venue where we're all able to put forward our points. And we must protect it’.

A delegate from Lebanon and MAG member,  gave insight on the factthat several countries expressed interest in hosting the next IGF forum in the second half of 2018.

A delegate from the Democratic Republic of Congo was concerned with the under-representation of Central African countries at the forum, though they have great potential.

Ms Darija Medic, DiploFoundation, thanked the IGF secretariat for their support of the Art@IGF exhibition  - an experiment on bridging art and digital policy.

A delegate from Haiti stressed the importance of keeping in mind that to some regions such Haiti, electricity is something of a luxury,  thus cybersecurity, smart cities, and artificial intelligence are terms that only experts are familiar with.

By Vladimir Radunovic and Illona Stadnik

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