Mr Chengetai Masango, Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Programme and Technology Manager, moderated the opening ceremony of the 12th annual IGF meeting.
In the welcome address, Ms Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, underscored the necessity of cooperation and exchange of experience among stakeholders. It is ‘essential to have a dialogue if we want to make sure that we have an information society which is centred on the human being’, Leuthard said. She urged that dialogue be strengthened between governments and other stakeholders and that that dialogue be effective and truly inclusive. In this perspective Leuthard mentioned national Swiss strategies and ongoing multistakeholder dialogue in Switzerland in the process of shaping the digital future.
In a short video message, Mr António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), warned against an Internet that is polarised and used for criminal activity. The Internet should serve to improve human conditions.
Mr Liu Zhenmin, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, UN, briefly reminded how the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was created and for what purpose. He mentioned how it is important to be aware of the past when preparing for the future. Liu acknowledged the positive role of IGF in the development of public policy on the Internet as regards human rights online, cybersecurity, and critical Internet resources. He also appreciated how the Internet is harnessed for self-sustainable development.
The next speaker, Mr Michael Møller, the Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva, expressed his opinion that the Internet is one of the best inventions of our era. The Internet allows for various means of instant communication all over the world and delivers comprehensive information within seconds. On the other hand the Internet facilitates mass surveillance, the rise of the influence and power of some IT companies, and new battlefields. Society faces an urgent governance challenge if it wants to safeguard the good part of the Internet. Themechanisms of regulation established have to be people centred, inclusive, and to link all stakeholders together.
Mr Houlin Zhao, the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), talked about the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) process and how this contributed to the creation of the IGF and the WSIS forum. Both events have evolved into two major platforms enabling debate on Internet governance issues. Zhao mentioned ITU’s mission, its dialogue and participation with various stakeholders, and its cooperation with the IGF.
Mr Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General Communication and Information at the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), appreciated how the Internet has developed over the years accenting various aspects and needs of society. The only gap La Rue sees is that society does not utilise the possibility of making the Internet a stronger and better peace building tool by sharing information. At the end, La Rue mentioned the R.O.A.M principles, that the Internet should be (i) human Rights-based (ii) Open, (iii) Accessible to all, and (iv) nurtured by Multistakeholder participation, that UNESCO endorses for Internet universality.
Mr Pierre Maudet, the Counsellor of State, the Council of State of Geneva, called for better security of the Internet, and mentioned activities of Geneva Digital Talks initiative where various stakeholders from global organisations can openly discuss their views of a safer Internet and share their expertise.
The last speaker, Mr Rémy Pagani, the Mayor of Geneva, highlighted the principle of net neutrality as a central attribute which makes Internet a common good and questioned recent revision of net neutrality policy by the United States’ administration. Pagani expressed his belief that the digital world per se will not resolve all our problems, and asked for active ownership of humans and organisations in the digital revolution.
At the end of opening ceremony Leuthard resumed the presidency on behalf of the government of Switzerland and together with Liu formally opened the IGF meeting.
The opening ceremony accompanied Enrico Lenzin with musical performance combining traditional Swiss musical instruments and digital tools.
by Radek Bejdak