This is the transcription of Valentina Pellizzer’s* speech in the 2012 IGF closing ceremony.
Government does not have the answer.
Business does not have the answer.
Civil society has to propose its answer which is dialogue on the unavoidable human rights framework which is the only one that allows respect for the smallest in the community: the single individual/person.
Those individuals can be looked as user, consumers but primarily they are citizens. And in them reside the legitimacy we all need to derive from.
And this legitimacy asks for open protocols and not for closed ones.
Trust should be our default on privacy but also on security, trust that can generate and host dissent and relegate censorship to the place of bad memories and instead enforce trust as an actual practice in a world of dis-balanced powers.
Leaving our own / stepping out from our comfort zone
Being here in the IGF has not been easy. As a new-comer I had the privilege but also the burden of the invisible.
It is easy to get along with the old same well known plot: where governments are the stronger ones and good or bad according to geography; where business are the strongest because of their overwhelming wealth; where technical community own the key of the mechanism and the code of the answers; where academia analyze and evaluate from the distance; and where, last but not least, civil society is expected to act, scream, contest, protest and most of the time unlistened to.
But in a way or another if we want to inhabit the space, this space, roles need to be challenged and each of us has to step out from his/her own comfort zone. Dialogue ask for critical thinking first of all of ourselves and then of the antagonist or simply diverse other.
Dialogue asks for the ability to host, acknowledge and recognize others not from an empty politically correctness but from a truthful problem solving attitude. And the IGF should be and must be such a space.
Terms of Service
In the layers of the internet that connect people one to each other we need to acknowledge the immense power that Terms of Service have and acknowledging this, say that they cannot become the accidental constitution and the pre-condition of all our relationship and transactions. The constitution and pre-condition of our content and others internet transactions must be based on a human rights framework because it is only this framework than can guarantee legitimacy and accountability in the interaction between users/citizens and internet intermediaries and the government. Last but not least practices that offer premium services of a better internet to those who can afford it will only serve to exacerbate discrimination and inequality between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the marginalized. This we must reject fully.
Here in Azerbaijan I learned, we all learned from Emin Milli, a writer, about Autocracy 2.0 and we cannot leave this space, this country without expressing our strong disagreement with the practice of intimidating and violating human rights in particular freedom of expression of journalists and activists. What is Autocracy 2.0?
Autocracy 2.0 hides behind formal online freedom to identify and monitor critical voices which are then silenced in the offline world.
So Autocracy 2.0 is not only the efficient and effective framework of Azerbaijan but it is becoming more and more the preferred framework of all the imperfect democracy we live in, in our least but also most developed countries. Autocracy 2.0 signs conventions, declarations and do not formally restrict the internet but use others laws to shrink the space. One example for all countries: copyrights claims against bloggers!
Guarantee human rights online as much as offline IGF as a multi-stakeholder space should not only work towards creating frameworks for an open, diverse and accessible future but has to be understood and practiced as a safe harbor for online human rights activists. Also it is a physical space that must acknowledge and accept dissent and host it in a transparent and accountable manner.
We can never stop or limit freedom of expression, even less we can deny solidarity to local voices that ask to be heard. A no-censorship policy should be embedded in the code of IGF as space where each and every one accepts challenges to their own comfort zone and its power of denial.
People’s security has to be understood not in terms of excluding and preventing incidents but in the ability to accept, include and host diversity.
In short, human rights must be encoded into the fabric of our dialogues, the space we create for these negotiations and the future of the internet we are walking towards.
(*) Valentina is from Bosnia-Herzegovina, is member of OneWorld Platform for Southeast Europe Foundation (OWPSEE) and also a member of APC’s board of directors.
Image by Shawna Finnegan