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Remarks to the High-Level Leaders Meeting at the Internet Governance Forum “Evolution of internet governance: Empowering Sustainable Development”

Monday, 09 November 2015
H.E Lana Nusseibeh
João Pessoa, Brazil


Your Excellencies,


Distinguished Delegates,


Let me also express my deep appreciation to Minister Figueiredo, Minister Pansera, Governor Coutinho, Ambassador Fonseca and the Government of Brazil for the kind invitation to join you today in this beautiful country.  My team and I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and warm generosity of your people.


I address you on behalf of Ambassador Janis Mazeiks and myself in our capacities as co-facilitators of the World Summit for the Information Society/ WSIS + 10 review process at the United Nations, which looks back on the last ten years of internet development, evaluates progress and addresses the challenges that remain.


The WSIS process is currently the most important UN initiative related to ICT and development, including Internet Governance. It was convened under the patronage of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and conducted in two phases:


  • The Geneva phase in 2003, which resulted in Geneva Plan of Action establishing targets and eleven action lines, that guided development in specific areas; and
  • The Tunis phase in 2005, which built on the achievements of the Geneva Plan and resulted in Tunis Agenda addressing additional issues, such as financing and internet governance;


Outcomes of both phases of the Summit were endorsed by the UN General Assembly and were set for implementation by various stakeholders of the WSIS process at the global, regional and national levels; Following ten years of annual evaluations of the implementation of action lines set in Tunis and Geneva, it was decided that UN Member States would conduct a ten-year review in 2015, which would conclude in a High Level Meeting in December.


The purpose of the 10-year review is to produce a negotiated outcome document that would take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS, address existing challenges and indicate areas for continued focus;


Since our appointment as co-facilitators on the 1st of June this year, we have worked closely with all relevant stakeholders to support this Intergovernmental negotiation process. We hosted a stocktaking event on June 10-11 and set forth a roadmap for the review, followed by the first preparatory meeting on the 1st of July.


The President of the General Assembly then hosted an informal interactive stakeholder consultation on the 2nd of July. Views expressed in these meetings and through written submissions over the summer months provided a starting point to identifying key elements of the outcome document, presented through a nonpaper on the 2nd of September. Further written and oral contributions enriched the discussions on how best to achieve the mandate of taking stock of progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of the WSIS, addressing potential gaps and challenges, and identifying priorities for the future. These inputs were integrated in a zero draft on the 9th of October, which formed the basis for discussions during a second informal interactive consultation with multistakeholders, organized by the President of the General Assembly on 19 October, which included remote participation through twitter, as well as UN-hubs in Rio and Geneva. During the session, several perspectives from members of civil society, the private sector and academic and technical communities were shared, through an interactive panel discussion moderated by Experts from the ITU, UNCTAD, UNESCO and UN-DESA.


Most notably, many stakeholders highlighted the catalytic, integral link between ICT access, technological development and sustainable development, thereby calling for a heightened level of ambition in the outcome document. Moreover, suggestions for expanding on the range of measures through which ICTs may be leveraged for development were made: including preserving cultural heritage; ensuring quality education – particularly in STEM fields; promoting peace; supporting humanitarian response; and creating knowledge societies.  Short-term decisions on complex matters of internet governance were cautioned against, as were discussions on human rights and security without the prior definition of new norms around online behaviour. These inputs informed discussions by Member States at the second Preparatory Meeting from the 20th to the 22nd of October.


Through the Second Prepcom, we saw resounding reaffirmation of the WSIS vision and principles drawn up in Geneva and Tunis, despite the rapid changes of the last 10 years. 


Regarding ICT for Development, Members and stakeholders have stressed that this should be the heart of the WSIS agenda, and that the outcome document should highlight the policies, technologies, and financing approaches that increase development benefits of ICT penetration – and bridge the digital divide, especially between men and women.  We heard some initial concepts that range from reverse auctions for universal service, to reduced import tariffs, to ICT mainstreaming in school curricula, and we look forward to submissions on further concrete measures.


Members and stakeholders also notably asked to bolster the development section with new language on culture, local content, and linguistic diversity.


Importantly, we heard consensus that WSIS and Agenda 2030 should be aligned, and that this can be accomplished in the outcome document through greater reference to SDG 9 and ICT’s cross-cutting role in the 2030 agenda.  We additionally heard that ICT should be a main focus in the technology facilitation mechanism envisioned by the Addis Agenda, as well as the portfolios of development and commercial finance institutions.


In the internet governance discussions, we heard affirmation that multi-stakeholder approaches are and must be kept a central element.  There is still some divergence on precise arrangements and roles and responsibilities, such as in the context of enhanced cooperation, but we heard what sounded like an emerging compromise that, while sometimes there will be different levels of government engagement based on the topic, governments are committed to always having non-government stakeholders at the table.


On the Internet Governance Forum, whose mandate forms an important part of the review process; it is clear that this will be renewed with the broad and enthusiastic support of the international community, as the IGF is widely regarded as an integral inclusive and unique multi- stakeholder forum and even though this is only my first IGF, I can see why it’s value is so appreciated by many.  Its importance is why many delegations further asked that we stress the need for faster implementation of proposed improvements by the CSTD working group, especially on the commitment to increase participation of representatives from developing countries.


There is continued divergence of the understanding of implementation of enhanced cooperation, and that this will need further discussion.  The same holds true for net neutrality.


Turning to human rights and security, there were different calls about their placement in the document, but there was unequivocal recommitment to full respect for human rights and international law, as well as recognition that cybersecurity is a serious concern, whose importance has grown since Tunis.


On cybersecurity, some Members made strong arguments that it is being dealt with in other fora, and therefore the WSIS review should focus only on the development angle of the topic. Others noted that it must be addressed in the outcome document due to the changes in the landscape with regard to cybersecurity since the Tunis Agenda. This will be a critical focus for compromise on language as we enter the negotiation phase.


With regards to follow-up and review of the WSIS process, there is an openness to consider the possibilities of a future high-level event, and how this would relate to possible linkages between WSIS and the new Sustainable Development Agenda.


The Second Preparatory Meeting was very useful in clarifying major positions, which were reflected in the Draft Outcome Document, released last week on the 4th of November. This is available online, and we invite everyone to provide inputs on this through the web portal, as we enter the final phase of negotiations.


I would like to conclude by saying that my co-facilitator and I have been truly grateful for the role Brazil has played in promoting solutions and advancing common ground positions.


But this is not surprising, and is a reflection of both Brazil’s role in the world today and of your own domestic experience of internet development.


Your model is an inspiring one. I was so interested to learn that Brazil has the fifth largest total number of internet users in the world with 76% of users accessing the internet daily and with the second-highest smartphone penetration in Latin America.


This data gives important insight into the impact of ICTs on economic growth, efficiency and productivity in Brazil – and insight into why Brazil is so effective as a bridge-builder between countries on cooperation around internet issues.


The community of nations represented at the UN are grateful for Brazil’s engagement and we will all see the benefit of it as we move towards final negotiations on the outcome document and the Ministerial meeting in December at the UN in New York.


Let me end by saying this. My role here at the IGF is very simple – I am here to listen to this vibrant and engaged group of stakeholders, to hear views and proposals and to get your feedback and ideas. Though not a formal part of the WSIS+10 Review Process, we recognize that the IGF provides the largest and most inclusive assembly of key representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector and academia in the world. The expertise and ambition present at this forum is exactly what is needed to achieve the WSIS vision of a “people-centered, inclusive, development-oriented information society”, and the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.


With this in mind, we look forward to listening to and learning from the discussions and best practices presented this week, and pledge to ensure that your collective voice and energy informs the final phase of negotiations leading to December.


Thank you.