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Speeches: Internet Governance Forum: Hyderabad 2008

The Importance of the Internet Governance Forum
Opening Ceremony Remarks of NTIA Acting Assistant Secretary Meredith Attwell Baker

(As Prepared)

The Media Institute’s Communications Forum
December 3, 2008 - Hydrebad, India

Introduction

Thank you and good afternoon. Before getting to the substance of my remarks let me first take a moment to offer my own personal sympathies as well as that of the United States for the great tragedy that occurred last week in Mumbai. As was expressed last week by President Bush, we join with the world in mourning those who lost their lives, praying that the injured will recover, and pledging our full support to India. As the people of the world's largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the world's oldest democracy to stand by their side. 

I would like to thank the Indian government for their support and organization of this third meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Congratulations also go to the tireless efforts of the IGF Secretariat and the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) to ensure what I am confident will be an unquestionable successes. It is a great personal pleasure for me to be here at this meeting of the IGF and offer some thoughts on the important role it plays in facilitating a shared understanding of Internet related issues.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) - a Critical Member of the Family

There are of course a multitude of venues to discuss Internet governance related issues. So what makes the IGF so special and such an important venue not to be missed?

First, the IGF is the key output of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The WSIS was the first time heads of State came together and recognized the importance of information and communications technologies (ICTs) as not only a traditional communications medium, but also as an enabler for broader economic, social and political development.

Second, the IGF while being affiliated with the broader United Nations system fills a niche that traditional intergovernmental organizations cannot fill. Its lightweight and decentralized structure allows it to be flexible in terms of procedures and avoid traditional burdensome preparatory processes.

The IGF is unique in that all stakeholders, governments, industry, civil society and the Internet technical community, participate in all aspects of its planning and execution on a truly equal footing. The effective multi-stakeholder advisory group that acts as a program committee and offers input on discussion topics, speakers and format has been extremely important in this regard.

Lastly, the fact that the there is no pressure at the IGF to negotiate a treaty, a set of contracts, rules of procedure or an output document allows for a free, open and frank exchange of opinions and ideas that is not replicated in any other international venue. This makes the IGF truly one of a kind.

I know that some have questioned the usefulness of the IGF as there are not negotiated outputs or an elevated role for governments. I would argue this fails to recognize the agreed purpose of the forum. At the ITU, when the international community is establishing rules and norms for the allocation of the radio frequency spectrum it makes sense for governments to have the leadership role. At ICANN, when the international community is coordinating the Internet's unique technical identifier system it makes sense for the private sector to take the preeminent role. But when the international community is meeting to exchange information and build capacity to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet, this must happen in a truly multi-stakeholder manner - a task that only the IGF can perform. While the United States is fully committed to the other institutions referenced above, we welcome whole-heartedly the IGF into our global family of priority international venues.

Conclusion

Once again, let me take this opportunity to stress the important role that the Unites States strongly believes that the IGF meets. The reality of the IGF - an open and inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders of the international Internet community discussing critical issues concerning the future of the Internet - is something we should all be proud of and committed to support.


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