By Maja RomanoPublished on
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With digital technologies evolving at a dizzying pace and inequalities creating access barriers, holding space for all sectors of society to come together and discuss internet governance is crucial to maintaining a free and open internet.
Established as a key global meeting point for discussion of internet-related policy, the UN’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) “serves to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet.”
APC is using the opportunity of the 2023 IGF to launch a campaign for #TheIGFWeWant, calling attention to the importance of the IGF. #TheIGFWeWant goes hand in hand with this year’s IGF theme – #TheInternetWeWant – because both the internet and the IGF need to be inclusive of diverse stakeholders in order to be meaningful. To have the internet we want, we need a strengthened Internet Governance Forum. This campaign is in response to the ongoing and upcoming processes of the UN’s Global Digital Compact (GDC) to be adopted at the Summit of the Future in 2024, and the subsequent IGF+20 Review that will commence at WSIS+20 in 2025.
There is a huge community that believes that the IGF, in its global, regional and national iterations, stands as one of the strongest pathways for dismantling the digital divide globally. “The IGF has contributed greatly to the global discussions concerning the governance of the internet and it can continue to renew and reshape its role to become even more relevant and influential in the future,” according to Paula Martins, APC’s human rights policy advocacy lead.
There are no other spaces that are comparable when it comes to allowing civil society to engage with the public and private sectors, and with each other, to positively shape the policies that affect our use and development of the internet. “What the IGF needs is commitment and innovation. It will become as much a place for opportunities and empowerment as we dedicate efforts to it. We all are the motor behind its success,” stressed Martins. With the IGF's impressive track record, we wish to see its mandate renewed and strengthened so it can continue to grow and serve as a central space for multistakeholder engagement.
Launching a global campaign
The origins of the IGF go back to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005, where the IGF emerged as a major outcome. Created as a “a central component of recent UN initiatives aimed at tackling digital issues of global concern and fostering digital cooperation,” the IGF has had its mandate reviewed and renewed in 2010 and 2015 and is scheduled for its next review, along with WSIS, by the UN General Assembly at the end of its third mandate in 2025.
These reviews are happening in parallel with another key UN-led process, the Global Digital Compact (GDC), which is currently developing a framework to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.” APC believes that the GDC can and should help strengthen the IGF's mandate, operationalise global digital cooperation and bridge the gap between deliberative spaces and decision-making processes.
#TheIGFWeWant campaign will engage various internet governance stakeholder groups and representatives in both reflection and consultation about the value of the IGF. Its intention is to mobilise civil society organisations and other stakeholders to collectively and strongly advocate for the maintenance and strengthening of the IGF.
Through video testimonies, interviews, resource documentation and other actions, this global campaign will attempt to influence the decision not only to maintain this crucial space but do so in a way that strengthens its unique characteristics, as part of debates around the internet governance of the future.
“APC believes that the IGF remains at the heart of the internet governance ecosystem,” according to a statement delivered by APC for the Global Digital Compact. “There is no equivalent space for enabling public participation, shared learning, monitoring of progress in achieving inclusive, human rights-based, people-centred internet and digital governance, and discussing the positive and negative impacts of the internet and internet policies in a multidisciplinary and multistakeholder setting.”
The testimonies that depict #TheIGFWeWant will be available on a special website (coming soon!) and replicated on social media platforms.
Speaking out in support of the IGF
As part of this campaign, key referents in the internet governance and digital rights field from different stakeholder groups across the world have begun voicing their support for the IGF as a unique and essential multistakeholder platform. Some quotes from the videos you will find on the campaign website:
“From the global South, we tend to be forgotten; the views of actors from the global South are not considered or recognised. The IGF has empowered many young Africans because it has a unique way of operating. The process does start from the local, so it’s the perfect bottom-up model that we have so far in this internet ecosystem.”
-Arsène Tungali, executive director of Rudi International, member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group for the African IGF (DRC)
“One of the greatest values of the IGF is its support for regional and local discussions, and providing a space for local communities to gather together and decide for themselves what are the topics that they are concerned and passionate about regarding the internet.”
-Joyce Chen, APNIC (Australia)
"This forum has had a fundamental impact on the issue of governance, empowering many people on how to manage technologies, use the internet and make better decisions in its use."
-Maria Encalada, Derechos Digitales (Chile)
“It has been a rich and very fruitful experience in terms of learning, sharing and networking.”
-Lisa Dacanay, ISEA (Philippines)
“The IGF builds connections, collaboration, understanding of the role of different stakeholders and it builds friendships. It facilitates a more inclusive, open approach to addressing the challenges we are facing in Africa, to ensure there is a free internet for everyone.”
-Anriette Esterhuysen, senior advisor on internet governance, APC (South Africa)
"The IGF is an event that allows people to network – people of similar passion, ideals and interests around tech, internet, freedom of expression and digital rights. It's a potpourri of ideas and people from all walks of life, coming together to discuss and advance issues that concern them."
-Olumide Babalola, researcher and digital activist (Nigeria)
Make your voice heard! Join the campaign
IGF 2023 is the ideal time to begin to come together and share our support. The WSIS and IGF reviews will be informed by the Global Digital Compact, to be adopted at the Summit of the Future in 2024. With your support, we can come together and demonstrate unequivocally that the IGF is needed now more than ever, particularly “as new technologies deepen their imprint on societies.”
We invite you to join the campaign to bring forward #TheIGFWeWant. Join us in bringing the value of the IGF to the forefront. Make your voice heard! Send your testimony.
How can you join the campaign?
Head over to the campaign page to stay updated and submit your own video there about why the IGF matters.
Come to the APC booth at the IGF in Japan, record your testimony on the value of the IGF and get a campaign pin.
Participate in IGF sessions on the Global Digital Compact and the future of internet governance and raise the value of the IGF!