Opening Ceremony



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The opening ceremony highlighted the urgent need to enhance the multistakeholder model of co-operation in digital issues to include social, political, and ethical aspects. All the speakers addressed the issues of fighting inequalities, enhancing multidisciplinary co-operation, and the need for creative solutions for the future.

Ms Audrey Auzulay, Director-General of UNESCO, acknowledged the engagement of different stakeholders in the room - civil society, governments, private sector and academia - in discussing the digital future. Auzulay stressed the role of UNESCO in achieving the 2030 Agenda, which includes fighting inequality between developing and developed countries, socioeconomic layers of society, and the gender gap. She described the need for the education of youth to ensure participation in the digital space and the need for multistakeholder participation in resolving current issues arising out of technological progress.

Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,  stated that technological development has reached  a point where the input of all of the society is needed to proceed further. Guterres called for philosophers, writers, social scientists, and anthropologists to join the conversation on the digital issues of today. He warned that new issues related to cybersecurity, data censorship, and content control feed into online hatred, tribalism, and religious intolerance. Guterres introduced a co-operation mechanism between the IGF and individual states with the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation and stated that it should be improved. The first improvement should  include a multidisciplinary model within the multistakeholder model , as current digital discussions are still silos leading to suboptimal policies. Secondly, there should be a shared language and references, requiring all forums to deal with inequalities including  missing and marginalised voices. Guterres said that the IGF must adapt in order to stay relevant and find creative approaches in moving beyond the usual suspects. The IGF has to include local communities, people with disabilities, youth, and all genders in discussions about educational and cultural systems, transformations of the labour market, and meaningful access to the Internet. Guterres emphasised the need to adapt the current public policy approaches, since classic regulations do not work in a multi-level, multi-stakeholder environment.

Guterres concluded by stating that the IGF discussions have the support of ECOSOC and the MAG, as well as WSIS. The UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation will provide new ideas for creative and bold governance solutions.

Mr Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, welcomed participants to Paris Digital Week 2018, with the IGF, Paris Peace Forum, and GovTech Summit. Macron stated that the acceleration of the digital world in all domains - production, consumption, and government, causes ongoing cultural, social, and philosophical revolutions. Most changes, according to Macron, are happening in the AI and IoT sectors requiring new approaches to cybersecurity. Macron addressed threats to the Internet, such as fracturing, which may greatly lessen the functionality of the Internet as we know it. Macron called for a joint and coherent effort to prevent this  fracture. Further, Macron addressed the importance of cybersecurity for democracy, anti-terrorism efforts, an environmental agenda, and the rights of women and minorities. While keeping the Internet open, Macron said, there is a need to address the misuse of the Internet by extremists, terrorists, and authoritarian regimes in order to attack democracy and civil society. 

Macron emphasised network neutrality as one of the essential attributes of the Internet, stressing the need for a free, open, secure, Internet that respects democratic values. Macron called for responsible actors to provide regulation and enhance trust in the Internet. He specified not only the importance of governmental interference, but the input of other stakeholders for the Internet to stay safe and accessible. Macron described the risks of interference by authoritarian regimes in democratic electoral systems, calling for a  free, but regulated Internet. Macron praised current international co-operation such as the Tech for Good Declaration, a judicial co-operation based on the Cloud Act, as well as the co-operation of Facebook and France in securing the privacy of its citizens. Macron also highlighted the Paris Call for Digital Peace, a multistakeholder declaration outlining the duties of all actors of cyberspace to restore a safer digital environment, and current OECD initiatives. In addition, Macron touched on issues of digital taxation, inequality, and the need for more technological, ethical, social, and political creativity to advance and innovate the Internet.


By Pavlina Ittelson

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