Human Rights 5 July 2013

A sustainable Internet for sustainable development

By Nicolas SeidlerFormer Senior Policy Advisor

I recently had the opportunity to make an oral intervention on behalf of the Internet Society at the Economic and Social Council, the U.N.’s main policy forum on economic and social issues.

The main event, held in Geneva, discussed the contribution of science, technology and innovation for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and what will happen to the development agenda post-2015, the deadline for achieving these goals.

As part of my intervention, I emphasized the necessity for all stakeholders, including those of us who use and are impacted by the Internet, to continue to make it open and sustainable. That is the essential pre-condition that will ensure the global network’s contribution to sustainable development for years to come.

Here is the full statement:

“In the late 1960s, engineers and researchers laid down the foundations of a decentralized network with the goal of reducing communication and information barriers among individuals.

About 40 years since then, the Internet has evolved to become one of the main drivers of economic and social development, reaching now more than 2 billion individuals worldwide and growing.

The Internet, by its very design, empowers the edges rather than the center of the network; beyond a technical feature, this also means that it enables people to share, receive and impart information and ideas across frontiers in unprecedented ways. The network holds the potential to empower people to virtually access an unlimited source of knowledge and educational material. It also empowers them to innovate without having to ask for permission to a central authority; the global and open network provides a space to reward creativity and new ideas.

But if the Internet is to further contribute to innovation and sustainable development, it also means that we need a sustainable Internet, based on an open and collaborative approach to policy, standards and technology development.

For example, open Internet standards development processes, such as carried out by the Internet Engineering Task Force, provide the foundation to ensure that the Internet remains interoperable and functional across frontiers. This model provides a backbone for the Internet’s ability to connect individuals to exchange information, share cultural content and undertake economic transactions on a global scale. Indeed, the Internet would loose much of its value if it was limited to a set of fragmented, isolated networks.

This multistakeholder model, which recognizes the equally essential respective roles of governments, civil society, the private sector and the technical community in shaping the evolution of the Internet, was validated at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005 in Tunis. This process will celebrate its 10 year anniversary in 2015,  at the same time as discussions will take place to shape the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. President, as demand for connectivity and content is growing at an exponential rate in developing countries, the Internet Society is committed to work with all stakeholders at the global and regional levels to ensure that the network holds true to its potential for development, human rights and innovation.”


Statement in pdf format:


The Internet Society was granted Consultative Status by ECOSOC at the organization’s Substantive Session in July 2010, entitling ISOC to accreditation and allowing it to participate in relevant UN conferences and preparatory meetings.
ECOSOC is the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues and for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the UN system. It is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems; facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation; and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Past Internet Society contributions to ECOSOC:

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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