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The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) believes that the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) remains at the heart of the internet governance ecosystem. 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. In addition, as the evolution of the IGF has proven, an important part of the value of the IGF lies in its potential to encourage critical debate and conversation, to share information about the situation in a particular country and discuss possibilities to respond to the diverse ways in which people, groups and communities are impacted by different factors in their own contexts. That makes the IGF a unique space to engage with different stakeholders in constructive conversation.

Below, we provide some basic information about the 2023 global event, as well as highlighting this year’s strategic priorities for APC.

1.1 Themes

The 18th edition of the global Internet Governance Forum, under the overarching theme The Internet We Want – Empowering All People, will happen as a hybrid event, to be held online and in Kyoto, Japan, from 8 to 12 October 2023.

The meeting programme is guided by eight themes:

  1.  AI and Emerging Technologies

  2. Avoiding Internet Fragmentation

  3. Cybersecurity, Cybercrime and Online Safety

  4. Data Governance and Trust

  5. Digital Divides and Inclusion

  6. Global Digital Governance and Cooperation

  7. Human Rights and Freedoms

  8. Sustainability and Environment.

1.2 Hybrid modality

As in 2022, the IGF sessions will have speakers/moderators/rapporteurs participating entirely online or in a mixed setting. APC welcomes the valuable efforts to include diverse stakeholders from different time zones in the sessions, also acknowledging the challenges that it will present for participants wanting to join from the Americas, in particular, but also other regions.

1.3 Types of sessions and spaces

The programme of the IGF is organised in main sessions, workshops, open forums, town halls, networking sessions, lightning talks, launches/awards, Dynamic Coalition (DC) sessions, and National, Regional and Youth Initiative (NRI) sessions. There will also be High-Level, Parliamentary and Youth tracks. The full agenda can be found here.

APC staff and members will be engaged in a number of these sessions. Check the APC schedule for the 2023 IGF here.

During the IGF, interested stakeholders can display or distribute relevant information about their internet governance-related activities at the IGF Village, which consists of physical and virtual display booths, located in the meeting's exhibition area and online. APC will have a physical booth at the Village (booth 64), where visitors will be able to learn more about our priorities and campaigns, engage in activities and find interesting materials.

2. Situation with visas

Despite the efforts by the host country and the IGF Secretariat to facilitate participation of the different stakeholders, some of our members and staff located in global South countries have experienced difficulties with the visa process and obtaining a visa.

As a human rights and feminist global networked organisation composed of more than 60 organisational members and dozens of associates active in 74 countries and more than 50 staff, most of them situated in the global South, we are deeply concerned by the difficulties confronted by people attempting to obtain visas for Japan. APC does not see this situation as isolated from systemic barriers and increasingly discriminatory practices across the board with regard to travel and migratory policies for people from the global South, and Africa in particular.

We work to create a just and sustainable world by harnessing the collective power of activists, organisations, excluded groups, communities and social movements, to challenge existing power structures and ensure that the internet is developed and governed as a global public good. Restrictive and discriminatory travel policies and practices prevent in-person engagement in key decision-making, deliberation and discussion spaces. They stifle the voices of those most affected and exclude them from physical convenings, networking, advocacy and other opportunities, and from having a say in the definition of agendas that impact on the configuration of the digital present and future.

Decisions on host countries for future editions of annual IGFs should take into consideration the commitment of the government to ease visa-related barriers and/or to adopt visa-free regimes. Measures include ensuring that host governments instruct their missions and embassies as early as possible on the need to facilitate visa processes for people from the global South, in particular from Africa. It could also include establishing an accountability process for states that do not adhere to these measures.

All actors and stakeholders who are part of the internet governance ecosystem, particularly governments, have a role to play in ensuring that people from different countries and with different passports are able to cross borders safely and with dignity.

3. APC’s thematic priorities at the IGF 2023
3.1 Global digital governance and cooperation

Almost 20 years ago, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) articulated a vision and key values that still today are key for the configuration of the digital future as well as digital global policies, governance and cooperation. There is broad agreement that common principles to make the internet and other digital technologies and their governance more inclusive, human rights-based and compliant with environmental justice goals are needed. For those principles to be framed and implemented, recognition of the internet and other information technologies as a public good that should be governed and managed as such is a basic foundation. Several processes are being undertaken and/or shaped currently that will impact on how the WSIS vision and values will be reinterpreted to respond to the constantly changing digital society that we live in today and the challenges resulting from it, including the intersecting and multiple forms of systemic and structural inequality and injustice.

Those processes include the Global Digital Compact, the Sustainable Development Summit, the Summit of the Future, the WSIS+20 review, the Open-Ended Working Group on Cybersecurity, and the Ad Hoc Committee to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on cybercrime, among others.

APC believes that the IGF is well suited to build ownership and support the implementation of the upcoming Global Digital Compact and to play a key role in connecting the different processes, nurturing them with inputs for policy decision making and contributing to build synergies between them. The IGF is also a unique space for bringing to practice the principles of multistakeholder participation and collaboration, whose learnings can be extrapolated to other processes, including multilateral ones, as a means of ensuring that the perspectives and realities all those who are affected by digitalisation, particularly historically marginalised groups, are taken into consideration in internet governance and digital technologies policies at all levels.

At the IGF 2023, APC along with prominent organisations and institutions is hosting a conversation between member states and civil society organisations about how to make gender a cross-cutting priority theme of the Global Digital Compact, acknowledging the critical importance and opportunity that the Compact presents for the different stakeholders to contribute to establishing agreed principles for digital governance and frame a long-term vision for what we want the internet, digital technologies and the digital realm to be, and what we do not want it to be – and more broadly, for digitalisation and its relationship to sustainable development and to social, gender and environmental justice. Valeria Betancourt, from APC’s global policy advocacy team, will be part of the main session on the Global Digital Compact and Beyond: A Multistakeholder Perspective.

APC considers the 2023 IGF a valuable opportunity to discuss how the WSIS+20 review process could be used to contribute to renew and strengthen the mandate of the Internet Governance Forum, operationalise global digital cooperation and bridge the gap between deliberative spaces and decision-making processes. We will be, therefore, engaging actively in WSIS+20-related consultations and conversations happening in Kyoto. Our executive director, Chat Garcia Ramilo, will bring APC’s perspectives to the High Level Panel III – Looking ahead to WSIS+20: Accelerating the Multistakeholder Process.

At the IGF 2023, we are also organising a session aimed at fostering debate about the nature of the internet from the point of view of it as a right, as a public good and/or as a commons, contrasting the pros and cons of those approaches and gaining insights into concrete obligations that arise from different governance models for the internet, looking at specific responsibilities and accountability schemes that would apply to different stakeholders.

3.2 Bringing the value of the IGF to the forefront: #TheIGFWeWant campaign

APC believes that the IGF, in both its global and regional iterations, stands as one of the strongest pathways for dismantling the digital divide globally. 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. 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.

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 – The Internet We Want – 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.

The campaign will be engaging various internet governance stakeholder groups and representatives in both reflection and consultation about the value of the IGF, collectively and strongly advocating for its maintenance and strengthening. This is in response to the ongoing and upcoming processes of the UN’s Global Digital Compact 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.

3.3 A gendered approach to cybersecurity

In response to the fact that in the last years there has been a flurry of global, regional and national cybersecurity-related initiatives, amidst continued threats to the availability, confidentiality and integrity of information and its underlying infrastructure, APC has been actively engaging in different forums and processes, advocating for gender and human rights-based approaches to cybersecurity. The IGF has a role to play in contributing to a better understanding of the linkages between cybersecurity and gender equality/justice and human rights frameworks.

In order to bring its feminist perspective and intersectional approach towards gender mainstreaming into cybernorms and cyberpolicy, APC is organising a session for awareness raising and inclusive dialogue with the global community on this issue. This session will build on APC’s framework for gender-responsive cybersecurity policy and a series of conversations that APC and partners have been organising at regional level, and will explore how the recommendations made in the framework could be adapted to be meaningful to particular contexts, unlocking the transformative potential of gender-inclusive cybersecurity policies at all levels.

We expect that participants will expand their knowledge of the intersections of gender and cybersecurity, will gain new tools to promote a stronger intersectional approach and champion gender in their cybersecurity work, and contribute by bringing together speakers representing different stakeholders involved in cyber processes at national, regional and international levels for discussing current gaps and challenges in integrating a gender perspective in cybersecurity.

3.4 Meaningful access

In its input to the GDC earlier this year, APC pointed out that without consideration of the local realities and needs, simply “connecting everyone” may have adverse effects rather than positive ones oriented to ensure social, environmental and gender justice, as well as an open, free and secure digital future. During the 2023 IGF, within the Local Networks initiative, APC will be highlighting the importance of enabling meaningful community-centred connectivity, i.e. connectivity that operates in a local context where it is affordable and accessible in terms of the locally used language(s), location and devices, with the use of the connectivity meeting expressed needs of the community and adding value to people’s personal, social and/or economic lives.

Aiming to discuss how a more enabling environment can be created and what kind of support is needed from whom, APC will address different topics related to community-centred connectivity, such as financing broadband networks to bridge the digital divide, access to universal service funds, supportive policy and regulation examples, experiences showcasing value-added services of community networks, and the importance of capacity-building initiatives. APC is also supporting partner grassroots organisations to bring a bottom-up perspective to this dialogue and will join the Dynamic Coalition on Community Connectivity (DC3) meeting on sustainability and digital sovereignty, contributing to the Coalition’s book to be launched on this topic.

3.5 The intersections between environmental justice and internet governance

In 2022, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in a report on the practical application of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to the technology sector, stated that when a company cannot prevent or mitigate human rights violations within the framework of existing business models, those models may need to be adapted or even transformed. This statement reflects the need to collectively interrogate extractive business models in the technology sector, and support alternative models and frameworks that shape the technology sector. Alternatives models in the technology sector exist in many forms – including cooperative and collective models that support participatory decision making by workers and members. Technology cooperatives and collectives face significant challenges in operating in a sector dominated by large technology companies that seek to extract and monetise our experiences and engagement with technology. Efficiency and scalability are often cited as requirements for digital technologies to meaningfully contribute to sustainable development. As a result, technology cooperatives and collectives are often ignored, and their potential to contribute to accelerate the realisation of development goals is restricted. At present, large technology companies dominate the sector and set the agenda for development, using massive resources to avoid accountability for violations of human rights and the rights of nature.

During the IGF, APC will organise a pre-event to promote debate on transforming models of technology and business, the role of governance and standards, and what changes are needed to ensure that technology companies are held accountable for their violations and to promote models for human rights, earth justice and sustainable development. In addition, Kemly Camacho, director of APC member Sulá Batsú, will from part of the main session panel that will discuss environmental concerns as main track of the IGF.

4. Communications: Follow APC online at IGF 2023

On Twitter: @APC_News and @GenderITorg / On Facebook / On Mastodon / On Instagram

Hashtags to follow: #TheIGFWeWant #TheInternetWeWant #InternetGovernance #IGF2023 #HumanRightsOnline #CommunityNetworks #FeministInternet #GenderandCybersecurity #EnvironmentandICTs

Media contacts: in English, Spanish or Portuguese and in English and Spanish (off-site)

For matters related to APC's engagement in the IGF, contact Valeria Betancourt:

Find a schedule of IGF events organised by APC and its members.

Check out the preparatory recommended resources.

Listen to Local Sound Bites @IGF 2023

If you are on-site at the IGF, come visit APC at our booth!