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Mr Arnold van Rhijn (Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy) and Ms Marjolijn Bonthuis (Platform voor de InformatieSamenleving [ECP]) as the hosts of the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) 2019, welcomed the participants in situ and online. They expressed their hopes for an interesting and challenging programme.
Ms Pauline Krikke (Mayor of The Hague) noted that The Hague has a historical tradition starting from the 19th century on building a better, more peaceful, just, and safe world. 'In the 21st century this tradition has to take the cyberspace into account', Krikke noted. However, this presents us with a set of complexities, such as determining the boundary between what is and what is not acceptable in the digital world. Deciding on where freedom of expression ends and censorship begins is an example of this. An additional challenge is accountability, as it is unclear to what extent society should rely on governments or commercial parties to decide which developments come next and what we see when we explore the digital world. She expressed concerns that while a great deal of research has been done about the capacity of social media in promoting democracy and building bridges, at the same time it becomes clear that social media can create deeper societal divides.
Krikke stressed that as the city of peace and justice, The Hague will be actively involved in finding appropriate solutions to issues arising from the challenges of the digital age. The Internet should remain free, safe, and accessible to all; because this is the only way to strengthen democracy, support innovation, and see social and economic progress. 'Attempts to nationalise it and place it under government control will rob the Internet of its unique power and the dynamism that comes from the fact that everyone can put something on it', Krikke emphasised. She invited the participants to engage in co-operation and international dialogue by building trust between parties, confidence between nations, and faith between businesses.
Building on the importance of dialogue, Ms Sandra Hoferichter (Secretary-General, EuroDIG) shared her view that the 2019 motto of 'Co-operating in the Digital Age' is the strongest motto EuroDIG has ever had. It describes a need that is becoming more evident as no single stakeholder can claim to have the solution to shape our digital future. The emphasis on co-operation also comes timely. In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Paris Call of Trust and Security in Cyberspace, and in June the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation released its report on 'The Age of Digital Interdependence'.
'However, co-operation is a big word', Hoferichter added. It is better understood than Internet governance as it is a universal word and has similar syntax across the globe, but 'it bears a promise that can be broken', she warned. EuroDIG will engage in these discussions and present key messages as the outcomes of each session. She also invited participants to take into account the key messages that are the result of the fifth South Eastern European Dialogue on Internet Governance (SEEDIG) that took place in May 2019.
In her final remarks, Hoferichter explained the Dutch concept of 'polder' that comes from a process of draining land from the sea and literally means 'finding common ground'. She invited participants to continue promoting multistakeholder dialogue and co-operation in the digital age.
By Jana Misic