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Internet Governance 6 May 2016

WSIS Forum 2016: A Spirit of Cooperation

By Constance Bommelaer de LeusseFormer Vice President, Institutional Relations and Empowerment

At the WSIS Forum 2016 this week, participants had a clear mission: Supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the WSIS Action Lines.

With 1,800 participants from 140 countries, including 85 ministers and 250 high-level representatives this year, the meeting is growing in importance. Last December at the WSIS+10 Review, the outcome explicitly called for the close alignment between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As the first meeting after that review, the Forum was an opportunity to gather the wider community to discuss the way forward. With a week of discussions on everything from gender, education, and “smart” governments, to the importance of measuring the progress, there was a strong consensus among all participants that action cannot wait. I encourage you to read the summary of all discussions available on the Digital Watch website.

It was encouraging to hear our message about the potential of the Internet to enable progress towards all of the SDGs echoed throughout the meeting.  We championed this message throughout the WSIS+10 Review process and it formed the core of our contribution to the Sustainable Development Summit. However, we have also been clear that this potential depends on a sustainable Internet and empowered users.

As our Vice President Raul Echeberria expressed in the Opening Ceremony: “To fully realize the Internet’s potential we also need to build human capacity to enable people to shift from being users to creators, and for creators to become innovators.”.

A highlight of the week was the participation of the Internet Society’s three WSIS Youth Fellows – part of our effort to draw attention to some of the good work by young people in our community. We were extra proud to have the Chair of our Youth Special Interest Group, Adela Goberna, be invited to participate in the Opening Ceremony’s high-level dialogue on the WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs. This clearly showed that youth voices are needed as we move forward.

Our three fellows also participated in a workshop organized by the Internet Society about “A trusted Internet through the eyes of youth” which generated interesting discussions of what a trusted Internet is and how external factors in your local environment will impact that trust. The session was organized as part of our prioritized focus on “trust” this year: providing useful perspectives on how the issue can be addressed; and confirming our belief that inclusiveness of different perspectives is a key component of efficient policy development.

Although the collaborative spirit permeated many of the discussions, it is also clear that there are still different perspectives on how to implement this cooperation in practice. This appeared clearly in one the sessions I participated in on “Enhanced Cooperation”, a code word referring to a debate on the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders of the Internet ecosystem.

Moving forward I see the future with cautious optimism. The community has the will, ambition and knowledge to promote an Internet to benefit all, and to utilize its inherent potential in realizing the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for a Sustainable Development. But to reach that goal we must implement and strengthen the principles that underpin the multi-stakeholder approach:

  • inclusiveness and transparency;
  • collective responsibility;
  • effective decision-making and implementation;
  • collaboration through distributed and interoperable governance.

We hope that the spirit of cooperation that prevailed this week can be brought to our future discussions. It is the best chance we have to create an Internet for Everyone!

Image credit: a photo of Adela Goberna shared on Twitter by Raúl Echeberría

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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