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Secretary-General, in Message to Internet Governance Forum, Calls for Safe, Equitable, Open Digital Future That Does Not Infringe on Privacy, Dignity

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the seventeenth Internet Governance Forum, “Resilient Internet for a shared, sustainable, and common future”, in Addis Ababa today:

I am pleased to greet the Internet Governance Forum.  Technologies are transforming lives and livelihoods.  They are also outpacing regulations and exacerbating inequalities.

We often hear that the future will be digital.  But the future of digital must be human-centred.  That ambition is reflected in your theme — building a “Resilient Internet for a shared, sustainable, and common future”.

It is also the motivation behind my proposed Global Digital Compact on an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all.  We are aiming for this Compact to be agreed by Governments at the 2024 Summit of the Future — with input from technology companies, civil society, academia and others.

The Compact — firmly anchored in human rights — aims to deliver in three areas.  First, universal connectivity – closing the digital divide and reaching the 3 billion people who are offline, the majority of whom live in the Global South.

Second, a safe, secure, human-centred digital space begins with the protection of free speech, freedom of expression and the right to online autonomy and privacy.  But it does not end there.  Governments, tech companies and social media platforms have a responsibility to prevent online bullying and deadly disinformation that undermines democracy, human rights and science.

Third, the Digital Compact should focus on ways in which Governments — working with technology companies and others — can foster the safe and responsible use of data.  We are seeing the growing use and abuse of data.  Our data is being used to shape and manipulate our perceptions, without our ever realizing it.  Governments can exploit that data to control the behaviour of their own citizens, violating human rights of individuals or groups.

We need to keep working for a safe, equitable and open digital future that does not infringe on privacy or dignity.  I urge the Internet Governance Forum and its Leadership Panel to help carry all of these issues forward — bringing together Governments, the private sector, civil society and more, through concrete actions for a safe, sustainable and inclusive digital future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.