IGF 2019 – Day 1 – Convention Hall II – Opening Ceremony

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 



>> Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.  The Opening Ceremony for the IGF 2019 will start in a few minutes.

>> Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.  The Opening Ceremony for the IGF 2019 will start now.



>> ANDREA THILO:  I don't know how you all experienced this dance invention by the Flying Steps.  For me it resonates with a self‑understanding of the IGF and its search for access and freedom, for innovation, inclusion, and co‑creation, and we have to go more than 25 years back to the origin of this break dance company.  It was in 2003 and it all started with one piece of cardboard lying on the Ku'damm, and ever since, this company has created an ongoing successor story and also through means of the Internet.  And with this spirit, Your Excellency Secretary‑General António Guterres, Dr. Angela Merkel, Ministers, Secretaries, Excellencies, distinguished representatives of all stakeholder groups, dear guests, I most warmly welcome you to the Internet Governance Forum 2019, and its Opening Ceremony, 30 years here in Berlin after the wall came down.

We are I guess approximately 2,400 participants in this room but we are many more out there because thanks to the IGF, we are connected through IGF remote hubs, with people, thousands of people, out there online, on all 5 continents.  So I very much thank you all for giving your life energy, your lifetime and your spirit, to this multi‑stakeholder gathering to make this year's gathering a great success.

This Forum will focus on three main strands:  Data governance, safety and security, and digital inclusion, and it's challenged by one core question.  How to ensure an open and free Web in the future, and how to foster and safeguard one world, one net, one vision.

[ Video ]

[ Applause ]

This credo you just saw share your vision nails down how much very appreciated your perspectives and backgrounds are so I very much thank the UN for making it possible that we all come together here and I'm very honored now and very curious to leave the stage for His Excellency Secretary‑General of the United Nations António Guterres.

>> ANTÓNIO GUTERRES:  I'm extremely pleased to be with you today, and I'm honored to be sharing the stage with Chancellor Merkel, and I'm also privileged to share with her unique background.  We were both first trained in the sciences.  She as a physicist and a chemist, and I as an electrical Engineer.  Then we both lost our way, and ended up as politicians.  As public servants we are entrusted with helping to address the most pressing issues of the day, and can have more relevance to our lives and futures than the responsible and effective governance of the Internet and digital technology.  Technological developments are unfolding at the speed with no parallel in human history.  The impact of digital technology is sometimes compared to that of the action of the printing press to Europe in 1439.

Both have democratized knowledge but at very different speeds.  It was only by 1950 that half of the world's population was literate, meaning it took 5 sent rise for Gutenberg's invention to benefit half of humanity.  It has taken the Internet just 25 years to reach half the globe.

Digital technology is shaping history, but there is also the sense that it is running away with us, where will it take us?

Will our dignity and rights be enhanced or diminished?

Will our societies become more equal or less equal?

Will we become more or less secure and safe?

The answer to these questions depends on our ability to work together across disciplines and vectors, across nations and political divides.  We have a collective responsibility to give direction to these technologies so that we maximize benefits and curtail unintended consequences and mall issues use, and so far ‑‑ malicious use, and so far we've not kept pace.  There's an absence of technical expertise among policymakers even in the most developed countries, invention is outpacing policy setting, and measured difference in culture and mind set are creating further challenges.  The private sector has an attitude of trial and error moving rapidly and correcting retroactively, meanwhile policymakers prefer consultative processes and are reluctant to define policy frameworks and regulations before there is clarity on all consequences.

So while industry has been forging ahead and at times breaking things, policymakers have been watching from the sidelines.  Now in the growing number of countries and at Regional levels, the governance gap is being addressed.  And what Europe has achieved is not worthy, but there is still a measured deficit at the international level, including even in Europe itself.

This puts at risk our common aspiration for a universally accessible, free, secure, and open Internet, one world.  One net.  One vision.

And it is clear for me that we live in one world, but it is not entirely clear that we will live only with one net.

It is a very emotional moment when 30 years ago, we have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, and so it is for me an enormous frustration to be that today, not only we are still building physical walls to separate people, but that there is also the tendency to create some virtual walls in the Internet also to separate people.  And the only way to avoid it is if you are able to have one vision, with one vision and one world, I hope we'll be able to be also with only one Internet.

Today, an accessible, free, secure, and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines.  There is a profound digital divide, a social divide, and a political divide allow me to take each in turn T today the digital divide today there are still 3.6 billion without affordable access to the interpret and most alarmingly among the world's 47 Least Developed Countries, where the Internet could have truly transformative impact, more than 80% of the population is still offline.

And the gender gap in connectivity continues to widen.  Only 2% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean and east Asia and the Pacific own a mobile phone with Internet access.  Worldwide, some 327 million fewer women than men have a Smartphone, and can access the mobile Internet.  And women are also drastically underrepresented in information and Communication Technology jobs, top management, and academic careers in the technological sector.

And 90% of startups seeking venture capital have been founded by men.  Connecting all the world's people by 2030 must be our shared priority, not only for Sustainable Development, but for gender equality.  And we must do better especially for young girls in developing countries.  There are many initiatives that need to be better supported and accelerated.  One potentially game changing connectivity project called GIGA is being led by UNICEF and International Telecommunications Union to connected every school to the Internet by 2030.  The digital divide is exacerbated by unequal distribution of know how and expertise.  We'll pursue the implementation of the recommendation of my high Elmo panel on digital cooperation, on ‑‑ High Level panel on digital cooperation and capacity‑building.

Excellencies, the digital divide can aggravate the social divide.  Giving the polarizing nature of much Internet content, we cannot avoid the question of whether it is a tool to bring us together, or whether it is dividing us.  My belief is that the Internet can be a powerful force for good, but we are seeing also that it is a tool that can easily be put to nefarious use.  The algorithm that social media can trap us in the echo chambers of our own opinions and prejudices.  There are pressing questions to be answered regarding how we allow our lives, our political discourse, and our societies to be influenced by yet largely unregulated industry of social media providers.

Artificial intelligence applications can be used to monitor and manipulate behavior, to besiege us with ever more targeted intrusive advertising, to manipulate voters, to track human rights defenders and to stifle expressions of dissent.

How do we safeguard privacy in an age of artificial intelligence, facial recognition, location monitoring, biometric sensors and the Internet of Things?  How can we ensure that human rights obligations apply online as they do offline?  The office of the high Commission on human rights and others are working on the urgent task of understanding better how exactly international human rights can be applied in cyberspace and we also need to understand the relationship between digital advances and inequality.

New technology has contributed to a steep rise in the number of billionaires over the past 20 years.  And the use of Digital Technologies by those who have yet to fully share in such benefits have also made them increasingly aware of the Gulf between rich and poor, between their misfortune and wealth and security others enjoy.  We know that inequality and exclusion drive social unrest and conflict and we also know that Digital Technologies depending on their use can be a force that widens social gaps or reduces them.

The High Level panel's recommendation to maximize digital public goods are important and deserve further support.  Ladies and gentlemen, let me now turn to the third and potentially most dangerous divide, the political divide.  Today there is a real risk of geopolitical rupture, a great fracture of trade, security, and Internet systems.  We are all familiar with the politics surrounding 5G technologies.  You are also aware of the growing efforts of some states to construct ever harder borders in cyberspace on one hand and the ever increasing number of cross‑border cyberattacks on the other.  Low intensity cyberconflict between major states is not a future prediction but the future of our present time.  In such a climate mechanisms that build trust and cooperation are indispensable.

The growing frequency and severity of cyberattacks are undermining trust, and encouraging states to adopt offensive postures for the hostile use of cyberspace.  The potential dangers of these demand a much more vigorous collective response.

If we do not work together to address these divides, we will be remembered as the generation that ruined the early promise of the Internet.  With its unparalleled convening power and universal legitimacy, I see the United Nations as the appropriate platform where all relevant actors can meet to address such global challenges.  And allow me to propose three ways in which the Internet Governance Forum can lead the way.

First, let us build this fora into a platform where Government representatives from all parts of the world along with companies, technical experts and Civil Society can come together to share policy expertise, debate emerging technology issues, agree on some basic common principles, and take these ideas back to appropriate norm setting fora.

Second, I encourage us all to take up the recommendation of the High Level panel on digital cooperation, and explore the possibility of a global commitment on digital trust and security.  This political commitment would be open to Governments, industry and institutions worldwide and will help us prevent further political division.  It will be build on normal norms for cyberspace and the phi nearing work done for the Paris call and the Christchurch call as well as processes under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.  We will consult widely and bring this forward next September as Member States mark the 75th anniversary of United Nations.

Lastly, I will soon appoint a technological Envoy to work with governments, industry, and Civil Society to help advance international frameworks and nurture a shared digital future that puts people first, and helps bridge the social divide.  Excellencies, these ideas can be building blocks towards a shared digital future that we can be proud to pass down to future generations.  A future with one world.  One net.  And one vision.  And I encourage you in your efforts for this week.  Thank you very much.

[ Applause ]

>> ANDREA THILO:  Thank you very much, Excellency.  I'm now handing over the stage for the welcoming words of Her Excellency the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel.

[ Applause ]

>> ANGELA MERKEL:  I will speak in German so you should actually use the technical devices that are provided for your service, Secretary‑General, Dr. António, Ministers, Excellencies, members of Parliament from Parliaments all over the world, ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to all of you here to Berlin.  I and I speak on behalf of the whole federal government am delighted to be able to welcome you here, and we are equally delighted to have you come here and bring your ideas for the future of the Internet along with you.  We are truly grateful for this and as the Secretary‑General of the United Nations has just told you he was an electrical Engineer.  I was a physicist, and indeed we lost our way somewhere along the road, well but for the technical developments of our tomorrow it may well be a boon to have a few politicians in leadership who know a little bit at least in my case it's rudimentary knowledge of these technical things.  I know António will probably be much more knowledgeable still so we understand the world as it is.

The Internet Governance Forum of the United Nations takes place for the 14th time already, but for the first time in Germany, and particularly as a host to this Forum but also beyond this week and the meetings of this week we would like to give a contribution towards exchanging globally how we wish to revitalize the values and the rules of the Internet because it's becoming ever more important to discuss together how we want to use and shape this Internet of the future and together means representatives of the world of politics, of Civil Society, of the business communities, of science, and it also means all of the countries together.  That is the basic principle underlying multilateralism, underlying the United Nations and this is what should be the basis for any further development of these new technologies.

And this is what the ‑‑ why the IGF is so valuable because that is a Forum where all of the stakeholders of Internet Governance from all over the world come together to exchange experiences, ideas, and basically this is where the analog and the digital world merge.  One world.  One net.  One vision.

This year's motto tells us in a nutshell what this is all about, namely to promote a common understanding about the future of the Internet, what sort of values, what sort of principles, what sort of rules do we wish to transfer from our analog world into the digital world.  And what should be the principles that govern us and guide us.  The most important value behind the Internet is freedom, and we all know that freedom is nothing that can be taken for granted.  Never.  It needs to be fought for.  It needs to be defended time and time again and every time we have to clarify something together namely how and where should freedom be protected, and what does freedom mean in very concrete terms?  And also where are the limits of freedom?  What is allowed?  What is not allowed?

And this always comes into play when basic rights of others are infringed upon or have to be preserved, for example the rights of children.  Or when the rights of others are in any way infringed upon or violated.  We Germans this month in particular and we've seen that in the film we've seen have talked a lot about what freedom means for our country.  30 years ago in November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.  Yearnings for peace and freedom, in Hungary and the Baltic states were something that could no longer be suppressed by coercive state measures and what the Division of Germany and Europe meant for the people is that you can clearly see for yourself here in Berlin in particular, a former border crossing point between what was then east and West Berlin is only a few hundred meters away from here.  Actually you can see some parts of what was formerly the wall at the entrance of this venue, weighing tons, but freedom weighed and still weighs more and I can tell you only a few hundred meters away in the eastern part of Berlin at the time was working as a scientist.  I've never seen this part of town from over there, but over there was my place of work.

The wall and the Iron Curtain were finally torn down 30 years ago.  This longing of the people for peace and self‑determination had finally prevailed in our country and our Continent could grow together again so freedom of travel, of press, of opinion, profession, and also the right to ‑‑ freedom to determine your own personality, all these basic rights could finally be brought to bear all over Europe.

And freedom, the hope for progress for all, that was after all the vision of the inventors of the Internet 50 years ago and of the World Wide Web 30 years ago and some of them are actually among us hear today.  The Internet right from the start technically speaking was developed in such a way that it was able to transcend territorial borders, and it was possible to use it all over the world and that it would link up people all over the world.

Today there are about 4 billion Internet users and Antonio Guterres pointed to the way that in fact that actually this has developed much, much faster than for example at the time the popularity of the printing press and printed books.  By 2030, we think that it will probably be 7 billion people who have access to the Internet, and we all benefit from this global bonding, from this Global Connectivity.

Because in this way, people are brought together from totally different countries, totally different civilizations beyond perceived barriers, barriers that are established through politics, through religion or through social status.

And in truth, the Internet has had an impact on our day‑to‑day life, and less and less people can actually envisage communication or work or shopping through simply and exclusively analog means, but in the same way that we quite naturally use around the clock the Internet, it is just as natural for us to see the Internet as a global, truly Global Network, where geographical distances are largely irrelevant.  Flows of data and information link up cities, link up countries and continents, and technically speaking, geographic distances however that need to be crossed through a worldwide net of underwater cables for example still play a role because a large part of date flows for example and data links between North and South America actually take place through the handle station in Brazil.  Data communication between Europe and Asia is flowing through underwater cables in the Suez canal and Singapore is a landing station for a whole cluster of cables that link up the Asian and Pacific area and another case in point of Internet exchange points where Internet providers link up to the Global Network and therefore open up access to the Internet free of the largest exchange points are in Amsterdam and London.  They will link us when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.  This infrastructure has become the very core of our global economy.  It is of central importance for Sustainable Development all over the world.  Billions of people in this way can exchange news.  They can present their views on the Internet.  They can exchange information, experiences.  It is a place for Democratic discourse and for the shaping of political opinions to the better and for the worse.  That is also something that the Secretary‑General has said.

There are some who remain in their little bubble, do not actually exchange views with people who are of a different opinion and that is one of the challenges that we face in this overall development of the Internet.  But there are other reasons, too, why some in this world find that such an open Internet, a free Internet, and the decentralized structure of the Internet is an irritant in the eyes of some Democratic stated and they interfere in the freedoms the Internet create.  They're trying to push through their own or National interests and to this end they're trying to shut off National networks from the global Internet and some private companies too invest in their own isolated infrastructure, which then entails the danger that global companies build a parallel universe with their own standards, their own rules, that then they impose through international bodies on others.  That's a very, very tricky issue and I understand this Forum and the purpose of this Forum and that you wish to stand up against such a development, because what we have to clarify is, what do we mean when we talk about digital sovereignty and retaining that on the one hand, and on the other hand, not shutting ourselves off against others but act multilaterally?

Of course, digital sovereignty is of prime importance but it may well be that on this planet, we understand different things when we use the same term.  As I see it, digital sovereignty does not mean protectionism.  It does not mean that a State body says this or that information may pass through.  That would be censorship.  What it means is that we as an individual are capable and also as a society we are capable of determining ourselves digital development and digital sovereignty.

So also in a digital society, technical innovations have to serve the person, the individual, and not the other way around.  We as those who here in Germany have become successful through a system we called social market economy, are very well aware of the technological advances and companies that developed them, cannot always just be given a free rein.  You have to have guardrails in place.  That was true during the industrial revolution and it will have to take place in the age of the Internet so we need sovereignty over what actually happens on the ground.

And this is why it is indeed an expression of sovereignty if we stand up for a free, open, and safe global Internet when we are convinced that isolation is not an expression of sovereignty.  But that we all of us together share a treasure of values.

For what will be the consequences if we were to pursue a policy of shutting ourselves off or isolationism?  We would have an increasingly fractured Internet but the consequence of that would be and we see in the course of history, it would not lead to a good development.  Because this global infrastructure might well become an unstable, prone to breakdowns, due to attacks, to surveillance, filters and censorship of information by State authorities, and there might well be an arbitrary shut‑down of Internet or mobile phones in order to prevent the people from communicating with each other so an attack against Internet connectivity which after all is the basic pillar of a free and open Internet has become a dangerous instrument of politics, and many of you here know this from your own experience.

Such attacks might well deprive people of their basic right to information and communication, and in this way, the idea of the founding Fathers of the Internet, their vision will be turned up site‑down.  This is ‑‑ upside down.  This is why we all need to preserve the core of the Internet as a global public good, and this will only be possible if we rethink the structures of this governance of the Internet, of this Global Network, this Global Network that after all links us all.  But how can we work against these efforts by some states to cut themselves off from the free Internet, or to be the only ones who actually shape the future of the Internet?

Well, I think we have to look at the fact that a network is only as strong as the number of the people who use it, so what this needs is the effort of many that need to step in, in order to preserve this cross‑board decentralized Internet.  That is to say, we have to understand that we need to act multilaterally and this will be the only way how we can actually come to a common understanding what we mean when we talk of an open Internet.

So I very much welcome the Secretary‑General's idea to nominate and Envoy for upholding this free global Internet who enjoys his personal trust and this is why also during the German G20 presidency in 2017 we established a so‑called digital strand within the G0.  Obviously we know the G20 doesn't stand for the whole world but I think much would already have been achieved if in this very important group we could already come to an understanding.

And this is why I'm so pleased to see that we have been able to garner important commitments by the G20 Member State.  For example on global linkup to the Internet and on Global Standards.  Why were we able to do this?  Well, first and foremost because the Civil Society and also the business community was taken along.  We the states on our own will not be able to do this and this is why it's so important for us that in the G20 process, we always try to bind in Civil Society, and also the representatives of our business community and as Antonio Guterres quite rightly pointed out, the women, too, women who also in danger of being cut off by these new technological advances that the Internet means.

And that means that the Internet must not and cannot be shaped only by states and Governments alone because the basic issues revolving around the Internet do have an impact on each and everyone's life and this is why we need a comprehensive dialogue.  We need a multi‑stakeholder approach, and that the IGF pursues, and this is why I'm so truly grateful to you for coming together here in order to present your common view of the matter at hand, and obviously that is a new approach, because the traditional multilateral structures on this world only know cooperation among Governments but I think this will no longer serve the purpose these days.

So we have to time and time again try and persuade people that we need to have a broad‑based approach and if we want to use the Internet globally then we also have to think globally, because the Internet has an effect on each and every one, also on those who do not as yet have access, and this is why we have to strengthen Internet access, and also the participation and equal participation in digitalization.  You will talk about inclusion, I understand, over the next few days to come and I was quite gratified to see that during a closed meeting of our Cabinet we were able to land from Africa.  They want to actually establish an African market.  They want to have not only free trade, and a free market and a single market in the proper sense of the word, but they also want to build up the Internet, and also want to build up common and equal access to the Internet in Africa.

Antonio Guterres together with experts from the Civil Society, from politics, from the business community, and science, you drafted a report on digital cooperation, and these proposals for embarking on new pathways to globally shape the Internet is now gaining momentum and when we talk about Internet Governance we have to first and foremost develop an understanding on values.  We have to try and come to an understanding of how we can preserve human rights, Democracy and rule of law in the digital age, how we can strengthen equal participation and safety and also trust in the net.

And we have to chart new courses, because we are actually used to everything that we've agreed on internationally and nationally to put into law, but what we need now is more.  We need the participation of our business community, of our citizens, and by drafting bills alone, this will not simply not be sufficient.

It's a great challenge because digital transformation is placing very basic questions in front of our society, certainly not so that everything that is feasible and technically possible online is actually ethically desirable.  That incidentally is not a new phenomenon.  We've known that in the non‑digital world.

But particularly with a view to artificial intelligence, we will need to debate these issues even more in‑depth.  We do not therefore have to talk only about what we want, but also about what we do not want, and what we do not want, if you allow me, this question will in many ‑‑ in certain areas of the community not find such keen participants in a discussion than in others.  But that again comes back to the question that technology has to serve the people has to serve.  We have to work together, Civil Society have to be included in the same way in all of these discussions and discourses and if one is honest, if I only look at my own country we do not as yet have a National consensus of this.  We have seen this in the European Union for example when we talked about copyright issues, when we talked about the General Data Protection Regulation.  There are still a lot of controversial issues that need to be debated and this is why we must be willing to organize new possibilities of participation where every voice is heard, and is of equal value and that means we need to be capable of having discourse, a true cooperation.  This is why isolating ourselves in little bubbles of people who think the same way is certainly not something that will bring us forward or enable us to solve these problems.

So it is in this spirit that the Internet Governance Forum here in Berlin breaks new ground and I think it's a very important message that upon the initiative of Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier, also members of Parliament from all over the world have come Leer to Berlin because this indeed is something that serves our Democracy, over and above this is German federal government, digital transformation also has to be thought of in European terms for Europe, with all of its ideas, with all of its values, all of its interests give an important contribution to a common global vision for the future of the Internet.  Generally one can say this reordering of Internet Governance is truly global effort and it means that countries and groups of interest need to close ranks and Germany is willing to shape this reorientation of global Internet policy under the auspices of the United Nations.

We are convinced that the United Nations and IGF are key to creating a global consensus on a free, open, and decentralized Internet, and, ladies and gentlemen, I wish you every success for this Internet Governance Forum here in Berlin.  May you be inspired by this location, where 30 years ago, when the Wall fell, that marked the dawn of a new age.

We too in what was then the German Democratic Republic would never have dreamt of seeing this wall fall within our lifetime, but it happened, because people were courageous.  Many individual people showed courage, and obviously all of that took place in a favorable environment, but, well, the courage of each and every individual, when it is shared with other individuals, may well open up roads that seem to be closed at this point in time.

So I wish you interesting meetings with real people for a change.  That may be sometimes you only meet through the Internet, and when you go out to a pub, or to a Berlin restaurant and have a beer together, there too doesn't need to be only digital but also real.  Enjoy Berlin.  Thank you all.

[ Applause ]

>> ANDREA THILO:  Sorry, sorry.

We enjoyed having you on stage.  We live in Instagram times so can we have one photo with you, dear Secretary‑General?  Yes, yes, on stage that would be nice.  With the beautiful blue back drop of the UN sky or whatever you imagine.  So thank you very much for joining.

Now, the photographers would have to follow.

[ Applause ]

Thank you very much.

[ End of session ]