First regional meeting held in the Dominican Republic to discuss Internet Governance and Info-Ethics

Eminent experts, legislators and civil society representatives from Latin American and Caribbean countries - Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay among others -, met in Santo Domingo on 26th and 27th November 2015 to share experiences and explore common regional approaches to Internet Governance and Info-Ethics in building open and inclusive Knowledge and Information Societies.

This Conference, held under the theme, “The challenges of the Internet, governance and ethical dimensions of the information society: Towards an integrated agenda of Latin America and the Caribbean”, was organized by UNESCO and the National Authorities of the Dominican Republic in the framework of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) on the occasion of national celebrations commemorating UNESCO’s 70th Anniversary.

It included a presentation at the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE ) of the UNESCO study: "Keys to the promotion of inclusive knowledge societies: access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, respect for privacy and ethics for a global Internet " by the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Getachew Engida, followed by observations from Mr. Marco Herrera, Executive Director of FUNGLODE, and Mr. Domingo Tavarez, Director of the Center for Technology Studies of FUNGLODE. This meeting was attended by the President of FUNGLODE, the former President of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Leonel Fernández and Mrs. Margarita Cedeño de Fernandez, Vice-President of the Dominican Republic.

The event attracted leading figures in the Internet Governance space including, among others, Ms. Amparo Arango, Director of International Relations at the Dominican Institute for Telecommunication (INDOTEL) and national President of the Internet Society (ISOC); Ms. Amalia Toledo, expert consultant-lawyer from Puerto Rico, working for the Karisma Foundation of Colombia; Mr. Preetam Mallor, ITU Representative; as well as Brazil's Ambassador Mr. Benedicto Fonseca Filho, Director of the Department of Scientific and Technological Affairs of the Ministry of External Relations.

The opening session of the regional Conference was attended by the President of the Senate of the Dominican Republic, Ms. Cristina Lizardo and by the Dominican Minister of Culture, in his capacity of President of the Dominican National Commission for UNESCO, Mr. Jose Antonio Rodriguez.

The Conference provided the conditions for experts, legislators and civil society actors to share national and regional approaches and best practices around current and emerging public policy questions that are playing out in the Internet Governance space. It also allowed to advance regional cooperation and integration efforts, as well as to enable a more effective and expanded role for access to information and knowledge, in supporting national sustainable development strategies and managing potential Internet related challenges.

Mr. Miguel Mejía, Minister for Regional Integration Policies (MRI) of the Dominican Republic, believes that “the Internet not only enables a more effective and expanded role for access to information and knowledge, but it also represents an opportunity to advance in regional cooperation and integration efforts to face the Internet challenges on governance and ethical issues”.

Noting that “within the Latin American and Caribbean region lies a wealth of world-class experience with a strong social orientation and participation of civil society”, Mr Getachew Engida, UNESCO’s Deputy Director-General, stated on this occasion that “upholding the sharing of regional experience in access to information and knowledge across linguistic zones could strengthen regional cooperation and potentially trigger new waves of social innovation that could further support national knowledge societies strategies”.

Ambassador Laura Faxas, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to UNESCO, marked out the importance to bring into this regional context the topics of the Internet governance and the ethical dimensions of the Information Society “in order to move forward the creation of a regional platform for debate and exchanges, oriented to a concerted regulatory framework for Latin America and the Caribbean, which will support the national processes of elaboration of legislative instruments that guarantee the free access to new technologies and defend the rights of citizens”.

Ambassador Benedicto Fonseca Filho shared his experience about the NETmundial event that was held in April 2014, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and presented an evaluation of the outputs of this meeting, which was the first global forum where the Internet governance was discussed in-depth.

The Conference in Santo Domingo was built on the agreements and discussions that have emerged from major regional and international conferences, fora and strategies such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, UNESCO’s Report CONNECTing the Dots, the WSIS Process and ELAC2018.

At the closing session, chaired by Mr. Boyan Radoykov from UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division, the text of the Final Declaration of the Conference was successfully negotiated and unanimously adopted by the participants in order to formalize the agreed areas for future regional and international cooperation and action.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.