The 14th Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was hosted by the Government of Germany, in Berlin, from 25 to 29 November 2019 under the overarching theme One World. One Net. One Vision.
The IGF was established in 2006, by then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to be an open discussion platform for key legal, political, social, and technical issues relating to the internet. It brings in one place all relevant societal groups, such as governments, civil society, business, academia, international organisations and the technical community. The annual meetings are held for discussion, information and inspiration, with the primary objective of facilitating equitable and constructive dialogue between the various representatives. The global trends relating to internet politics, current draft legislation and established practices are regularly discussed at these meetings.
This year the forum focused on the question on how digital technologies bring benefits to our economies and societies, as well as their transformative impact to the future sustainability of our world and the achievements of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The three priority themes for this year were Data Governance, Digital Inclusion, and Security, Safety, Stability & Resilience. In addition, the programme was enriched by the community-led Best Practice Forums on Big Data, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Gender and Access, and Local Content, as well as by the work of 18 multi-stakeholder Dynamic Coalitions and 116 national and regional IGF initiatives. The Forum was open by the UN Secretary-General and the Chancellor of Germany.
This year, UNU-EGOV was represented at the IGF by researchers Soumaya Ben Dhaou and Zoran Jordanoski, who attended numerous sessions, workshops and panel discussions at the Forum. Additionally, both UNU-EGOV representatives participated at the Blockchain & GDPR in-depth-conference for legal and technical experts organised by the EDV-Gerichtstag, and the session on Blockchain, Sustainable Development and Privacy as part of the Internet Governance Forum.
During his speech, the UN Secretary-General noted that even it is clear that we all live in one world, it is not entirely clear that we will live only with one Net, making a parallel with the fall of the Berlin wall 30 years ago. According to Mr. Guterres, it is an “enormous frustration to know that today, not only we are still building physical walls to separate people, but that there is also a tendency to create some virtual walls in the internet, also to separate people.” He named three main dimensions that the world is facing, such as digital, social and political divide. The only way for closing the gap is if we are able to have one vision, one world, and hopefully one internet. The UN Secretary-General encouraged the Forum to become “a platform where government representatives from all parts of the world – along with companies, technical experts and civil society – can come together to share policy expertise, debate emerging technology issues, agree on some basic common principles, and take these ideas back to appropriate norm-setting fora.”
In her speech, Ms Angela Merkel renowned the main IGF value to be a “forum where internet governance actors from all over the world can discuss their experiences and ideas. Basically, this is where the analogue and digital worlds melt into one”. She also emphasized the value of the freedom noting that “we know that freedom is never something that can be taken for granted; we have to keep on fighting for it and defending it.” She asked participants to have inspiration from Berlin, where 30 years ago fall the Berlin Wall. She closed her speech asking participants to speak freely and frankly in the workshops, panel discussions and meetings.