Support for internet governance consensus-building at the Latin American IGF

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By Dafne Sabanes Plou for APCNews

Argentina, 18 August 2014

The seventh Internet Governance Forum of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC IGF), held in San Salvador July 16-18, 2014, provided a useful opportunity for expanding reflections and contributions to internet governance in the region. On this occasion the forum was attended by 120 people, and 2980 people followed the discussions remotely in 38 countries, in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

This was the first regional IGF to be held in Central America, and it was one of the most participatory meetings, captivating the audience during all the sessions. Was this a consequence of the interest raised previously by the NETmundial meeting, held in April in Brazil? Or was it due to an interesting agenda, with sessions on the most demanding issues, including controversial and sensitive matters?

For all these reasons, the forum concluded with participants giving substantive support to the development of participatory, inclusive, democratic and multi-stakeholder modes of consensus building for internet governance processes. The principles approved at NETmundial were considered one at a time in plenary sessions, especially those relevant to the region; others not included at NETmundial but regarded as crucial for LAC were added. The following principles received the most attention: freedom of expression; privacy and protection of personal data; access to information; freedom of association on the internet, and the full enjoyment of human rights as means to address internet governance in the region. Regional concerns were also added: the discussion of open standards, multi-stakeholder participation, respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, transparency and accountability.

Issues to be further explored were also identified, with the goal of setting a truly meaningful road map for the region. Among these were the need to promote universal human rights beyond the borders of the region; increase understanding of the checks and balances between intellectual property and access to knowledge; broaden discussion of internet neutrality; deepen the debate on issues of surveillance and privacy and review surveillance practices in the region; debate the use of internet for peace; strengthen creation and development of local content and applications; widen comprehension and discussion of the responsibility of internet intermediaries; continue the debate on an open and interoperable internet within the digital ecosystem; and explore mechanisms to foment the development of infrastructure necessary to close the digital gap in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The seventh LAC IGF concluded with the firm conviction that it is essential to do more work in the region to develop processes and create mechanisms for significant participation by each sector in the multi-stakeholder internet governance model. It was also considered important to tak advantage of already established structures like the eLAC Plan, CITEL and Regulatel to build synergies, promote closer ties between groups and foster academic activities related to internet governance. There was clear interest in carrying out national forums and encouraging multi-participatory mechanisms in the different countries, and to put the issues being debated before local communities.

The contribution of Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression, to the human rights panel deserves special mention. La Rue said plainly that “the internet is a space under construction that needs the participation of all voices” and that the internet is an instrument for freedom of expression in two dimensions: in terms of access to information, and in terms of the possibility of constructing personal thought. “Access to the internet must be universal and must be democratic. Since human rights are universal, their exercise on the internet should also be universal,” he said.

Clearly, this LAC IGF meeting produced proposals and challenges that open up good opportunities for multi-participatory work. It will be important to continue to work towards constructing a viable road map to establish consistent development of internet governance in the region.

Videos of the LAC IGF sessions can be seen at: http://www.lacigf.org/sp/lacigf7/media.html

Event photographs Flickr image posted by lacigf.

(END/2014)

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