Q4/2019 - 14th Internet Governance Forum

Berlin, 25 – 29 November 2019

The 14th UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held from 25 to 29 November was the largest and most successful IGF since the forum was launched in 2006. 7,000 participants from 111 countries – 50 percent of them remote – discussed at more than 200 sessions (plenaries, workshops, round tables, best practice fora, dynamic coalitions etc.) under the slogan “One World. One Net. One Vision”. The discussions focused on three themes: (1) Data Governance; (2) Digital Inclusion and (3) Security, Safety, Stability & Resilience. In the accompanying exhibition, the IGF Village, 50 organisations presented themselves. 55 so-called „remote hubs“ channelled online participation. The number of regional and national IGFs (NRIs) has increased to 120 by now[1].

Keynotes of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The Berlin IGF gained its political significance also through the two opening speeches by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres demanded that the further development of the Internet must be more closely connected to the achievement of the sustainable UN development goals (SDGs). Even 15 years after the UN World Summit on the Information Society, the world was still digitally divided. And since then, new problems had arisen, especially in connection with the emergence of completely innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Guterres complained that the political world was not sufficiently prepared for such new challenges and expressed strong support for close cooperation between politics, the private sector, academia and civil society, i.e. for the multistakeholder principle. The political sector could benefit from procedures used in the private sector and academia. By not doing anything the world put the “universally accessible, free, secure, and open Internet” at risk. The danger of a fragmented Internet was real. The digital revolution had to be used to create maximum opportunity at minimum risk for all. The IGF could and had to take on a constructive role in this. Guterres made three suggestions for the future course of the IGF. He referred to the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, which he had set up, and to the report “The Age of Digital Interdependence” published in June 2019. [2]

In her opening speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel touched on a variety of Internet topics. Her central issue was freedom and sovereignty. She developed a dialectical approach to the internationally controversial problem of “cyber sovereignty”. She said: “This is a very difficult topic. … We have to clarify what we mean when, on the one hand, we want to retain our digital sovereignty but, on the other, we want to act multilaterally, and not shut ourselves off. Of course digital sovereignty is very important. But it may be that we all have come to understand something different by that, even though we are using the same term. As I understand it, digital sovereignty does not mean protectionism, or that state authorities say what information can be disseminated – censorship, in other words; rather, it describes the ability both of individuals and of society to shape the digital transformation in a self-determined way. So, in the digital world as elsewhere, technological innovation has to be in the service of humanity, not the other way around. Having found success with the social market economy system, we in Germany know that technological innovations do not just happen, that companies do not simply evolve automatically, but that they always need parameters and guidelines. That was the case in the industrial revolution, and it will need to be the same in the internet age. In other words, we need sovereignty over what happens. And so, if we are convinced that isolationism is not an expression of sovereignty, but that we have to base our actions on a shared understanding and shared values, then precisely that – a commitment to a shared, free, open and secure global internet – is in fact an expression of sovereignty.” [3].

Discussion of UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation

One of the politically most relevant IGF plenary sessions was the discussion of the report of the “UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation” of June 2019. The discussion was chaired by UN Assistant Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild. It centered around the proposals of the UN Panel regarding the establishment of mechanisms to promote digital cooperation and the adoption of new documents, such as a “Global Commitment on Digital Cooperation”.

In the discussion on mechanisms, a preference emerged for the UN Panel's proposal to expand the IGF into an IGF+. It referred in particular to the idea of adding a "Cooperation Accelerator" and a "Policy Incubator" to the IGF. With these mechanisms, the IGF could succeed in closing the gap that currently exists between the discussion of Internet problems (within the IGF) and decision-making (within the framework of multilateral negotiations) without fundamentally changing the mandate of the IGF, which had been limited deliberately by the WSIS Summit in Tunis.

As to the Panel’s proposals for developing new instruments, the discussion revealed a preference for adopting a “Global Commitment on Digital Cooperation” on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The proposal for a “Global Commitment on Trust and Security” was not supported in the same way. Some of the discussants referred to the already existing “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace” and to the negotiations on cyber security issues just started within the OEWG and the UNGGE6. In their opinion another document could not add much to this. However, basic considerations on strengthening trust and security in cyberspace should be incorporated in the planned “Global Commitment on Digital Cooperation”.

IGF Output & Fringe Events

The IGF in Berlin responded to the years of criticism of the IGF for producing too little tangible output with a rich output mix of both traditional and new formats:

  • IGF Messages
  • Chair's Summary
  • Jimmy Schulz Call: Messages from the Parliamentarians
  • Elements of SMEs’ Digital Charter
  • Summary of the Intergovernmental High-Level Meeting
  • IGF 2019 Session Reports[4].

For the first time ever, a meeting of parliamentarians was arranged within the framework of the IGF. It was attended by 160 members of the parliaments of 70 countries. The parliamentarians decided to hold such kind of meeting at all future IGFs and to establish a parliamentary IGF Group. The closing document of the meeting was titled “Jimmy Schulz Call” in memory of Jimmy Schulz, member of German parliament, who had deceased on the eve of the Berlin IGF[5]. Schulz had been the first German parliamentarian to take part in an IGF in Nairobi in 2011 and had committed himself to bringing the UN-IGF to Germany. Schulz was chairman of the Bundestag's Committee on Digital Policy until his death.

The IGF in Berlin also gained political relevance through the fringe events, which had been organised in relation with the event by third-party organisations:

  • The Munich Security Conference (MSC) held its annual Cybersecurity Summit on the eve of the IGF;
  • The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) used the Berlin IGF to launch the final version of the “Contract for the Web”;
  • The Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace (GCSC) presented its final report.

In view of the fact that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the invention of the Internet and the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, the appearances of two fathers of these inventions – Vint Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee – also added significance to the Berlin IGF.

New MAG Chair

In the margins of the IGF it was announced that Anriette Esterhuysen, long-term president of the civil society Internet organisation “Association for Progressive Communications” (APC) had been appointed by the UN Secretary-General new chairperson of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG-Chair). Esterhuysen was a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (2013 – 2015) and of the Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace (2017 – 2019) and is member of faculty of the European Summer School for Internet Governance (EURO-SSIG). She is going to succeed Lynn St. Amour, who resigns after three years in office.

The 15th UN Internet Governance Forum will be hold in the Polish city of Katowice from 2 to 6 November 2020. The MAG has scheduled the first preparation round for 15 and 16 January in Geneva. 

Mehr zum Thema
  1. [2] Eröffnungsrede von UN Generalsekretär António Guterres, 14. IGF, Berlin, 26. November 2019, „Digital technology is shaping history, but there is also the sense that it is running away with us, where will it take us? Will our dignity and rights be enhanced or diminished? Will our societies become more equal or less equal? Will we become more or less secure and safe? The answer to these questions depends on our ability to work together across disciplines and vectors, across nations and political divides. We have a collective responsibility to give direction to these technologies so that we maximize benefits and curtail unintended consequences and mall issues use, and so far ‑ malicious use, and so far we've not kept pace. There's an absence of technical expertise among policymakers even in the most developed countries, invention is outpacing policy setting, and measured difference in culture and mind set are creating further challenges. The private sector has an attitude of trial and error moving rapidly and correcting retroactively, meanwhile policymakers prefer consultative processes and are reluctant to define policy frameworks and regulations before there is clarity on all consequences. So while industry has been forging ahead and at times breaking things, policymakers have been watching from the sidelines. Now in the growing number of countries and at Regional levels, the governance gap is being addressed. And what Europe has achieved is not worthy, but there is still a measured deficit at the international level, including even in Europe itself. This puts at risk our common aspiration for a universally accessible, free, secure, and open Internet, One world. One net. One vision. And it is clear for me that we live in one world, but it is not entirely clear that we will live only with one net. Today, an accessible, free, secure, and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines. There is a profound digital divide, a social divide, and a political divide…. Let me to propose three ways in which the Internet Governance Forum can lead the way. First, let us build this fora into a platform where Government representatives from all parts of the world along with companies, technical experts and Civil Society can come together to share policy expertise, debate emerging technology issues, agree on some basic common principles, and take these ideas back to appropriate norm setting fora. Second, I encourage us all to take up the recommendation of the High Level panel on digital cooperation, and explore the possibility of a global commitment on digital trust and security. This political commitment would be open to Governments, industry and institutions worldwide and will help us prevent further political division. It will be built on normal norms for cyberspace and the phi nearing work done for the Paris call and the Christchurch call as well as processes under the auspices of the UN General Assembly. We will consult widely and bring this forward next September as Member States mark the 75th anniversary of United Nations. Lastly, I will soon appoint a technological Envoy to work with governments, industry, and Civil Society to help advance international frameworks and nurture a shared digital future that puts people first, and helps bridge the social divide. Excellencies, these ideas can be building blocks towards a shared digital future that we can be proud to pass down to future generations. A future with One world. One net. and One vision. And I encourage you in your efforts for this week“, in: https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/content/igf-2019-%E2%80%93-day-1-%E2%80%93-convention-hall-ii-%E2%80%93-opening-ceremony-raw
  2. [3] Eröffnungsrede von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, 14. IGF, Berlin, 24. November 2019: „Diese gemeinsame Internetinfrastruktur ist ein Herzstück der globalen Wirtschaft geworden. Sie ist von zentraler Bedeutung für nachhaltige Entwicklung und Innovation weltweit. Milliarden Menschen können ihre Ansichten und Vorstellungen im Internet kundtun. Sie können sich austauschen, Informationen und Erfahrungen teilen. Es finden demokratische Diskurse und politische Meinungsbildung statt – im Guten wie aber auch im nicht so Guten, da manch einer – auch das wurde vom Generalsekretär gesagt – sich nur noch in seiner eigenen Meinungsblase aufhält und sich überhaupt nicht mehr mit Andersgesinnten austauscht. Das ist eine der Herausforderungen, vor die uns das Internet stellt. Es gibt aber noch andere Gründe, aus denen manchem auf der Welt ein Internet der Freiheit und der Offenheit sowie die vielen dezentralen Strukturen des Internets ein Dorn im Auge sind. Nichtdemokratische Staaten und ihre Staatsführungen greifen in die Freiheiten ein, die das Internet schafft. Sie versuchen eigene oder nationale Interessen durchzusetzen und hierfür ihre Netze vom globalen Internet abzuschotten. Auch einige private Unternehmen investieren in eigene, abgeschottete Infrastrukturen. Damit besteht die Gefahr, dass globale Unternehmen Parallelwelten aufbauen – mit jeweils eigenen Regeln und Standards, die sie dann über internationale Gremien auch den anderen aufzwingen wollen. Das ist ein ganz schwieriges Thema. Ich verstehe dieses Forum so, dass es sich genau damit auseinandersetzen will. Denn wir müssen sozusagen klären, was wir damit meinen, auf der einen Seite unsere digitale Souveränität behalten zu wollen und uns auf der anderen Seite nicht abschotten, sondern multilateral agieren zu wollen. Natürlich ist digitale Souveränität von großer Bedeutung. Aber es kann sein, dass wir auf der Welt inzwischen Unterschiedliches verstehen, auch wenn wir den gleichen Begriff benutzen. Nach meinem Verständnis bedeutet digitale Souveränität nicht Protektionismus oder Vorgabe von staatlichen Stellen, was an Informationen verbreitet werden kann – also Zensur –, sondern beschreibt vielmehr die Fähigkeit, sowohl als Individuum, als einzelne Person, als auch als Gesellschaft die digitale Transformation selbstbestimmt gestalten zu können. Das heißt, auch in der digitalen Welt gilt: Technische Innovationen haben dem Menschen zu dienen – und nicht umgekehrt. Wir als diejenigen, die in Deutschland durch das System der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft erfolgreich geworden sind, wissen, dass technische Innovationen, dass Unternehmen sich nicht einfach frei entwickeln können, sondern dass sie immer auch Leitplanken brauchen. Das war bei der industriellen Revolution so und das wird auch im Zeitalter des Internets so sein müssen. Das heißt, wir brauchen Souveränität über das, was geschieht. Deshalb ist es gerade auch Ausdruck der Souveränität, für ein gemeinsames, freies, offenes und sicheres globales Internet einzutreten, wenn wir davon überzeugt sind, dass Abschottung kein Ausdruck von Souveränität ist, sondern dass wir ein gemeinsames Werteverständnis zugrunde legen müssen. Denn was wären sonst die Folgen, wenn wir auf Abschottung setzen würden? Die Folgen eines zunehmend zersplitterten Internets sind aus meiner Sicht nie gut. Sie können vielfältig sein, aber sie sind nie gut. Die globale Infrastruktur könnte instabil und anfällig für Attacken werden. Es gäbe mehr Überwachung. Staatliches Filtern und Zensur von Informationen würden zunehmen. Vielleicht würde sogar das Internet- und Mobilfunknetz abgeschaltet, um die Kommunikation der Bevölkerung zu verhindern. Das heißt also: der Angriff auf die Internetkonnektivität, die der Grundpfeiler des freien, offenen Internets ist, ist zu einem gefährlichen Instrument der Politik geworden. Viele wissen aus eigenem Erleben, wie das ist. Solche Angriffe können den Menschen die Grundrechte auf Information und Kommunikation vorenthalten. Das führt die grundlegende Idee des Internets, die Idee seiner Erfinder, ad absurdum. Deshalb muss es uns allen ein Anliegen sein, den Kern des Internets als globales öffentliches Gut zu schützen. Und das geht nur, wenn wir über die Governance-Strukturen dieses globalen Netzes neu nachdenken, das uns alle verbindet “. in: https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/bkin-de/aktuelles/rede-von-bundeskanzlerin-angela-merkel-zur-eroeffnung-des-14-internet-governance-forums-26-november-2019-in-berlin-1698264
  3. [5] Message from the Meeting of Parliamentarians participating in the 14th UN Internet Governance Forum, “Jimmy Schulz Call”, Berlin, 29. November 2019; Empfehlungen: „Recommend to national parliaments:1. to enhance international cooperation and the exchange of best practices among national parliaments how to deal with Internet related public policy issues; 2. to guarantee, that in case new legislation is needed to enhance national security in cyberspace and promote the national digital economy, that individual human rights and fundamental freedoms, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), are fully respected and remain protected; 3. to reconsider existing national legislation in a spirit how it can be adjusted to the challenges of the digital age; 4. to involve non-state actors from the private sector, civil society, the technical and academic community adequately in the development of new legislation, inter alia via public hearings and open consultation processes, to promote the multistakeholder approach to the governance of the Internet, as agreed upon in the Tunis Agenda (2005); 5. to work towards an informal parliamentary IGF Group and therefore to strengthen and expand the parliamentary dialogue at the IGF by bringing together parliamentarians in future discussions of the development of regulatory frameworks for Internet related public policy issues. We therefore encourage parliamentarians to meet again at the next IGF in Poland and beyond“, in: https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/content/igf-2019-outputs