On December 16, 2015, the UN General Assembly extended the Internet Governance Forum until 2025. Internet Policy Observatory Affiliate Christian Möller gives a brief synopsis of the decision.
Ten more years for the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF): At a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly (GA) on December 16, 2015, the GA adopted an outcome document on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society.
In a specific decision articulated in the document, the GA extended the IGF mandate until 2025. The General Assembly also specified that during this period, the IGF should continue to show progress on working modalities and continue to encourage relevant stakeholders in developing countries to participate in internet governance discussions at the UN level.
UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft presided over the meeting, which was attended by high-level representatives from all member and observer states, and representatives from all relevant stakeholders at the World Summit on the Information Society.
The outcome document highlights the need to promote greater participation and engagement in internet governance discussions. According to the document, these discussions should involve governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, the technical and academic communities, and all other relevant stakeholders. To that end, the IGF will continue to act as a multistakeholder platform for discussion of internet governance issues.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Today, more than 80% of households in developed countries have internet access. Meanwhile, two out of three households in developing countries do not. Women are half the global population, yet 200 million fewer women than men have access to the Internet. We must bridge these divides.”
The document highlights this significant digital divide, which needs to be addressed through strengthened enabling policy environments and international cooperation that seeks to improve internet affordability, access, education, capacity-building, multilingualism, and cultural preservation.
The outcome document also addresses new and emerging challenges, including cybercrime, cyberattacks, and the use of ICTs for terrorist purposes, and identifies the leading role of governments in cybersecurity matters relating to national security. It further recognizes the capacity of international law, especially the UN Charter, in building confidence regarding the use of ICTs by states.
Many participants at the 10th IGF in João Pessao in November 2015 expected the extension of the IGF mandate. While many stakeholders welcome the continuation of the multistakeholder forum, it has yet to be seen how the IGF will develop in comparison to other global initiatives on internet policy and whether all stakeholders will live up to their respective roles.
UN member states agreed to hold another high-level General Assembly meeting on the overall review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2025. The 11th Annual Meeting of the IGF will take place in the Fall of 2016 in Mexico.
Christian Moller, M.A., (@infsocblog) is a lecturer at the Media Faculty of the University of Applied Sciences in Kiel/Germany and consultant on media policy. Previous posts include the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), the U.S. Consulate General in Hamburg/Germany, and the German media regulatory authority ULR as well as consultancies for, inter alia, the Council of Europe, the European Commission and the OSCE. Christian is a 2012 Academic Fellow of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the Graduate School for Journalism at Columbia University, a Fall 2014 Visiting Scholar at the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and an Affiliate of the Internet Policy Observatory. His work focuses on Internet governance, regulation of digital media and social media.