UNESCO presented its vision on the Internet as an enabler for people to reach sustainable development during the twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017.
During the Forum’s opening remarks, Mr Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, stressed the role of the Internet as a peacebuilder amid current challenges such as censorship, the harassment of women online, or issues of violent extremism.
In his speech, Mr La Rue underlined that the Internet facilitates the free flow of ideas and knowledge between peoples of the world. He pointed to the universality of the Internet as a guiding principle for inclusive and sustainable development. “We cannot privilege the access to and use of the Internet for one society over another, for one sector of society over another, for one region of the world or one gender over another. We have to build Internet policies that respond to all of these needs.”
Mr La Rue recalled that UNESCO’s approach to Internet governance is based on the ROAM principles, according to which the Internet should be human rights-based, open, and accessible and nurtured by multi-stakeholder participation.
The Assistant Director-General also participated in two panels which examined the impact of digitization on politics, and the crucial role that education and literacy have in equipping individuals with a critical mind to counter misinformation.
Mr La Rue stressed the importance of prevention and fostering media and information literacy in children from a young age: “In the policies of prevention the alternative is to have our youngest people, our youngest girls and boys to learn how to use the Internet in a positive way, as a tool of understanding, of sharing knowledge… Not to take children away from the Internet, but on the contrary, to equip them with 21st century skills so to use the Internet for their and their societies’ development.”
During the high-level session dedicated to exploring the impact of digital tools on democratic participation, Frank La Rue tackled the issue of “fake news” and exposed the contradiction of using the term: “ [fake news] uses two different concepts. It uses fake information linked to the concept of news. I think that is the trap. They're trying to dissuade us from reading the news, thinking about the news and defending the freedom of the press, in which we believe.”
You can find more information about UNESCO’s contribution to this IGF here: Internet Governance Forum 2017 (link to: https://en.unesco.org/events/internet-governance-forum-2017)