Four days with 115 events geared to cooperation for a better future
Session description: This was the opening session of the 2009 Internet Governance Forum meeting, set in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Nov. 15-18. The IGF was established by global participants in the World Summits on the Information Society (held in the early 2000’s in Geneva and Tunis) to inspire dialogue resulting in informed leadership. The document establishing IGF, the Tunis Agenda (2005) states: “The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations … for a people-centered, inclusive, development-oriented and non-discriminatory Information Society.”
They joined 1,800 people from nearly 100 countries who participated in 115 different sessions at this event – representatives of governments, international non-profit organizations and businesses, the Internet community, academics and other stakeholders in the future of the Internet, in Egypt for the fourth global Internet Governance Forum.
November 15, 2009 – Robert Kahn and Ian Peter, pioneers of the Internet, Jerry Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo, and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, were among the headline-makers playing important roles on the first day of the Internet Governance Forum.
The Internet continues to boom, the new growth being powered by prospect for mobile devices to sweep more people in the developing world online. According to the International Telecommunication Union there are now 4.6 billion mobile cellular subscribers, and just 600 million of them are broadband subscribers. The mobile Internet is expected to be the primary outlet for the next billion or two to be added to the 1.7 billion people now using the global network of networks tied together by the Internet protocol.
This meeting of IGF was chaired by Tarek Kamel, Egyptian Minister of Communication and Information Technology. “The IGF is not just an isolated parallel process but has managed to bring on board all the relevant stakeholders and key players, as evidenced here this week,” he said. “With opportunities there are also responsibilities. It is our clear responsibility to further dig into current mechanisms and propose creative models to address policy challenges.”
Sha Zukang, under-secretary-general of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also assisted in the opening event. Sha said IGF is a “neutral space where all actors have a chance to express their views and to be heard and to create momentum for mobilizing decisions and actions.”
The main theme for the 2009 meeting was “Internet Governance – Creating Opportunities for All.” Those gathering for the annual four-day global IGF meeting worked to develop a common understanding of how to maximize the opportunities of the Internet. One of the looming issues for participants in this conference was the question of the extension of the IGF process past the five-year mandate set by leaders of the World Summit on the Information Society(WSIS) process.
The Geneva Declaration – WSIS first established the “Geneva Declaration of Principles,” – a common commitment to “build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The second major WSIS gathering established the Tunis Agenda, which put the IGF process into motion with an initial projection of five such global gatherings before assessment of the value of the continuance of this process. The IGF process is a new model “multistakeholder” governance, in which not only governments and international organizations but also the private sector, civil society, academics, the technical community and others are invited to actively participate directly in policy dialogue. The forum is not a policy-making or decision-making body, instead encouraging the probing of challenges and opportunities to support the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development.
IGF 2009 Topics – Panel discussions, workshops and other meetings were aimed at illuminating many issues, including: freedom of information and freedom of expression of the media on the Internet; human rights and principles in Internet governance; the domain name system; Internet protocol addresses; the root server system; technical standards; the mobile Internet; interconnection and telecommunications; trust online and the fight against cybercrime; issues of copyright; legal issues related to social media; privacy and social networking; combating cybercrime through capacity building; Internet governance and climate change; child online safety; gender issues; accessibility and disability; open standards; managing internet addresses; and language and cultural diversity.
The three previous meetings of IGF were held in Athens, Greece, in November 2006; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November 2007; and in Hyderabad, India, in November 2008. IGF will hold its 2010 session in Vilnius, Lithuania. If there is a sixth IGF, it will take place in Nairobi, Kenya.
– Senior segment producer, Janna Anderson
Additional reporting by Andie Diemer, Eugene Daniel,
Shelley Russell, Drew Smith and Dan Anderson
Related documents are available at these links:
A synthesis paper summarizing comments on the mandate of the IGF can be found here.
Background paper developed by the United Nations Internet Governance Forum Secretariat, can be found here.