INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM TO HOLD INAUGURAL SESSION IN ATHENS FROM 30 OCTOBER TO 2 NOVEMBER
NEW YORK/GENEVA, 25 October -- The first ever meeting of the Internet Governance Forum will take place in Athens, Greece, from 30 October to 2 November with the overall theme “Internet Governance for Development”.
(PressZoom) - More than 1,200 participants comprised of Government, private sector and civil society representatives, including academic and technical communities, are expected to gather in Athens for the four days to hold interactive discussions on issues related to Internet governance, following the offer by the Greek Government to host the event.
This broad gathering provides a unique opportunity for participants to share information, experiences and best practices aiming to contribute to a better understanding of how the Internet can be used to its full potential for the benefit of all people.
Eight main sessions will focus on the Internet’s openness, security, diversity and access. The Greek Minister of Transport and Communications, Michalis Liapis, will serve as Chairman of the meeting, which will consist of panels of high-level experts from around the world. Nitin Desai, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Internet Governance and Chairman of the Advisory Group tasked with the preparation of the Forum, will chair one of the sessions, which will be devoted to discussing the way forward. Additionally, more than 30 workshops will be held in parallel to the main sessions, focusing on specific issues relevant to Internet governance.
The agenda will be structured along the following themes: openness -- freedom of expression, free flow of information, ideas and knowledge; security -- creating trust and confidence through collaboration; diversity -- promoting multilingualism and local content; access -- Internet connectivity, policy and cost. Capacity-building will be treated as a cross-cutting priority, and discussions on this theme will focus on what needs to be done to ensure meaningful participation of interested parties from developing countries in matters of public policy that may arise in the management of the Internet.
The Internet Governance Forum is not a decision-making body, but a space for dialogue for all those involved to discuss Internet governance issues. There will be no negotiated outcome, but it is hoped that it will be able to build on the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society and create an open and inclusive dialogue among all participants on public policy issues relating to the Internet and create new dynamics between participating institutions.
The Forum can be seen as the beginning of a dialogue between two different cultures: on the one hand, the private sector, civil society and the academic and technical communities and their institutions, who are running the Internet and have their tradition of informal bottom-up decision-making and networked communication; and on the other hand, the more formal and more structured world of Governments and intergovernmental organizations.
Background on Internet Governance Forum
The issue of Internet governance was one of the most widely debated issues at the World Summit on the Information Society, held in two phases in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. It was also one of the most significant outcomes of the Summit. The first phase of the Summit ( Geneva, December 2003) requested the Secretary-General to set up a Working Group on Internet Governance to look into this issue and prepare a report for deliberation and appropriate action by the Summit’s second phase in Tunis in November 2005. Between the two phases, the Working Group created an open process of consultations with the participation of all interested parties, thus contributing to a better understanding of all issues related to Internet governance.
The second phase of the Summit succeeded in reaching an international consensus on Internet governance matters. The Tunis Agenda on the Information Society called for a further “internationalization” of Internet governance arrangements and placed the discussions in a development context calling for greater efforts for capacity-building to enable developing countries to participate effectively in Internet governance matters. It agreed on a broad definition of Internet governance that goes beyond names, numbers and addresses and involves all participants. Furthermore, it identified some priority issues related to the use of the Internet, which require the attention of the international community, such as spam, data protection, freedom of expression, security, cybercrime and the multilingualism of the Internet.
Heads of State and Government meeting in Tunis asked the Secretary-General to convene, in an open and inclusive process, a new forum for broad policy dialogue called the Internet Governance Forum. The mandate of the Forum (as set out in paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society) is, among other things, to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet. Furthermore, the mandate (in paragraph 77 of the Tunis Agenda) also makes clear that “the [Forum] would have no oversight function and would not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations, but would involve them and take advantage of their expertise”.
Soon after the Summit, the Secretary-General asked his Special Adviser on the World Summit and Internet governance, Nitin Desai, to start a broad-based consultative process on this mandate with the aim to develop a common understanding among all interested parties on the nature and character of the Forum. On 16 and 17 February 2006 consultations were held in Geneva open to all interested parties. The meeting indicated an emerging consensus that the activities of the Forum should have an overall development orientation. It was equally recognized that capacity-building should also be an overarching priority and should enable meaningful participation in global Internet policy development and include both assistance to attend meetings and training in the subject matter. Moreover, there was a common understanding that the Forum should meet once a year for a duration of between three to five days.
Based on the outcome of the consultations, the Secretary-General decided to establish a small Secretariat in Geneva, headed by Markus Kummer, who had been serving as Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Working Group on Internet Governance, to assist in the convening of the Forum. In light of the consultations and the contributions submitted to the Secretariat, the Secretary-General established in May a 46-member Advisory Group to assist him in this task. The Group, which is chaired by Mr. Desai, includes members from Governments, the private sector and civil society, including the academic and technical communities, representing all regions.
A second round of consultations, held in Geneva on 19 May 2006, further clarified the substantive priorities for the first meeting of the Forum. Spam, multilingualism, cybercrime, cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, human rights, interconnection costs were among the most frequently mentioned issues for the Forum to deal with. The Advisory Group met on 22 and 23 May and 7 and 8 September to prepare the agenda and programme of the first meeting.
For further information, please visit intgovforum.org or igfgreece2006.gr, or contact: in Geneva, Rolando Gomez, at tel.: 41 22 917 2326, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; in New York, Edoardo Bellando, at tel.: 1 212 963 8275, e-mail: email@example.com; in Brussels, Dimitrios Fatouros, at tel.: 32 2 788.84.68, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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