A multi-stakeholder gathering adopts an Outcome Document at the CONNECTing the Dots conference

With overwhelming agreement, a multi-stakeholder gathering of some 400 participants at UNESCO headquarters adopted an Outcome Document of the UNESCO CONNECTing the Dots Conference and underscored the significance of the Internet for human progress and its role in fostering inclusive Knowledge Societies.

The non-binding Outcome Document emerged from two days of intense discussion on the draft UNESCO Internet Study which is titled “Keystones to Foster Inclusive Knowledge Societies:  Access to information and knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy and Ethics on a Global Internet”.

The Outcome Document reflects the process of finalizing the Study and the options which it proposes for UNESCO member states to consider.

Proposed in the Document is affirmation of the human rights principles that underpin UNESCO’s approach to Internet-related issues, and support for the Internet Universality principles that promote a Human Rights-based, Open Internet, which is Accessible to all and characterized by Multistakeholder participation (R.O.A.M).

The study and its options follow an almost year-long process, which involved, inter alia, several rounds of consultation with member states and other actors, as well as almost 200 major responses to an online questionnaire. 

Ahead of the conference, the draft study and Outcome Statement were put online in open consultation with stakeholders. Responses came from Brazil, France, Germany, India, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States, the Council of Europe, the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Freedom Online Coalition, the World Association of Newspapers, Association of Progressive Communication, and several other NGOs and individuals.

During the conference itself, 16 breakout sessions saw comments made on both the draft study and outcomes document, and two specialised open drafting sessions were also attended by many of the participants.

The deliberations dealt with the Internet-related issues within, and the relationships between, Access, Ethics, Freedom of Expression and Privacy issues related to the Internet. They shed new light on a people-centred perspective of Internet, including issues of empowerment and rights online.  

A multistakeholder group worked continuously during the conference to synthesise several rounds of feedback into an outcome document that could reflect the points of consensus.  The group suggested that a number of proposals to add more detail and additional debates into the final Outcome Document, would be better reflected with the study.

Leading the multistakeholder group was Mr. William Dutton, Quello Professor, Michigan State University, who had earlier helped UNESCO to synthesise the many responses and inputs into the draft study. Dutton will now assist with refining the study during March to incorporate insights from the Conference.

Other group members, reflecting a range of constituencies, included Ms Albana Shala, Chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC ); Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of UNESCO’s  Information For All Program (IFAP); Mr Jānis Kārkliņš, Chair of Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) for Internet Governance Forum; Ms Constance Bommelaer, Internet Society (ISOC); Ms Ellen Blackler, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communication (APC);  Ms Rana Sabbagh, Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) and Mr Erick Iriarte, IALaw.

Thanking the participants after the adoption of the Outcome Document, the Deputy Director General of UNESCO Mr. Getachew Engida said: “The Internet and all new information and communication must be at the heart of the post-2015 agenda - as a transformational force and a foundation for building the knowledge societies we need.”

He continued:  “This is the importance of R.O.A.M principles for inspiring a human rights-based, open Internet that is accessible to all and characterized by multi-stakeholder participation.”

The Outcome Document will be forwarded to the UNESCO Executive Board, where Member States may decide to recommend it to the 38th General Conference of UNESCO in November 2015.