Opening Address to the Internet Governance Forum

06 Nov 2012

Mr. wu hONGBO

under-SECRETARY-GENERAL for economic and social affairs

 

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN, 6 NOVEMBER 2012

 

H.E. President Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues and friends,

On behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, allow me to welcome you to the seventh annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, and to thank H.E. President Ilham Aliyev, H.E. Vice Prime Minister Abid Sharifov, the Government and people of Azerbaijan, for hosting this event in the beautiful city of Baku.  

This is the first time I am attending the IGF as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. I look forward to meeting, listening to, and learning from you throughout the Forum.

As you know, the Internet Governance Forum was convened by the United Nations Secretary-General in 2006, as a multi-stakeholder forum for policy dialogue related to Internet governance issues.

The congregation here of all these stakeholders represents the most valuable asset of the IGF, which is a dynamic discussion space where every voice has a say, and every idea, the potential of influencing Internet policy making. The IGF is an open, inclusive and transparent forum. It welcomes governments, intergovernmental organizations, business representatives, the technical community, civil society organizations, as well as any individual Internet user interested in Internet governance issues.

Thank you for joining us here this week. A special thanks also to everyone participating remotely today and throughout the week.  The United Nations is committed to preserving and improving the core ideals of the IGF and its inclusive, multi-stakeholder makeup.

Year by year, the IGF has gained prominence among Internet governance stakeholder groups, providing all with an opportunity to contribute to debates and exchange views on various Internet related issues.

Although this is my first IGF meeting, I have long been impressed with the success of this initiative. Despite extremely scarce resources, the forum has continued to grow, both in prominence at the global policy-making level, and in its extent of participation and public interest around the world. The popularity of the IGF is reflected also in the growing number of regional and national IGF initiatives around the world. In fact, the African and Arab IGFs just had their first meetings last month in October.

The capacity building opportunities the forum provides are truly remarkable. Such a vast variety of stakeholders are able to learn from one another, and to build long-standing partnerships that are so crucial for development. My department, working with other UN entities, is committed to continuing and strengthening the IGF capacity building activities, and to help provide training on the use of ICTs for development for those in need.

Let me take this time to thank, whole-heartedly, the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, or the MAG, which provides extensive leadership and guidance to this Forum. For several MAG members here physically or participating abroad, this is their first IGF as members of the MAG. I welcome you all and look forward to working with you.

I also thank our generous donor community, whose contributions to the IGF trust fund have helped enable us to engage in capacity building programmes such as the IGF fellowship programme. The fund also provides travel support to under-represented groups and participants from developing countries. We look forward to your continued support.

            This year, the IGF theme, as determined by the MAG, is “Internet Governance for Sustainable Human, Economic and Social Development”. This theme reflects the increasing role of the Internet in the evolution of the various aspects of development, across all countries.

            Clearly, the Internet is an important tool for development. It is utilized in multiple sectors, including health, education, agriculture and industry, disaster relief, and environmental protection, among so many others. Worldwide communication is now faster and easier than ever. Telemedicine and e-learning are available to people in remote areas, and mobile technologies are empowering millions of women in developing countries, creating entrepreneurial opportunities. The use of ICTs in providing vital government services is on the rise.

Internet penetration rate has accelerated. According to ITU, there were 2.3 billion Internet users at the end of 2011. Mobile broadband reached more than 1 billion subscriptions, while the use of fixed broadband was estimated at 590 million subscriptions.

            While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide. Only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011. This low number of Internet users in developing countries calls for increased efforts in shaping and implementing appropriate policies to assist everyone to harness the benefits of the Internet, and advance sustainable development.

This is a task for all of us. The Internet Governance Forum is an important venue for raising awareness, initiating discussions, identifying ways to address the digital divide, and informing the policy-making processes.

I invite all of you to actively take part in the discussions. Let us also use this opportunity to discuss the critical issues before this forum in the broad context of the implementation of the Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Rio+20 Conference, and preparations for the post-2015 development agenda.

Excellencies, colleagues, friends. 

In closing, I wish to thank once again H.E. President Aliyev, H.E. Vice Prime Minister Sharifov, and the excellent team for making this Forum possible. Thank you all for being part of the Internet Governance Forum. I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable week in Baku.