UN Internet Governance Forum in Ethiopia: Austria's Constitutional Affairs Minister Karoline Edtstadler Appointed to Governing Body

PeopleOther ♦ Published: December 4, 2022; 21:06 ♦ (Vindobona)

To increase the content and importance of the Internet Governance Forum, a ten-member Leadership Panel chaired by U.S. information scientist Vinton Gray Cerf was established. Austria's Constitution Minister Karoline Edtstadler was appointed to this leadership panel by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Austria's Minister Karoline Edtstadler was admitted to the Board of the UN High-Level Leaders' Meeting on Digital Rights. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Christoper Dunker

As equals, participants in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) discuss public policy issues related to the Internet. Both public and private policymakers are informed and inspired by the IGF, although there is no negotiated outcome. The delegates discuss, exchange information, and share good practices at their annual meeting. By facilitating discussions on Internet opportunities, risks, and challenges, the IGF fosters a common understanding.

The ten-member "Leadership Panel" chaired by U.S. computer scientist Vinton Gray Cerf, who together with others is known as the "Father of the Internet," is intended to make the Internet Governance Forum more visible. It is also about making recommendations to countries. People who do not have access to the Internet should be connected ("connect the unconnected"), and the Internet should be made safer.

The "Declaration on the Future of the Internet," which the U.S. government presented to the Internet Governance Forum last year, is also facing criticism, but also praise, at the current IGF conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Currently, 60 countries have signed the Declaration on the Future of the Internet. They have pledged to secure fundamental rights on the Internet, to maintain a global network, to ensure affordable access for all and to create the basis for trust in the digital ecosystem. The network should promote communication, innovation and trade. The statement opposes the use of algorithms to monitor citizens, such as through social credit systems and the manipulation of elections. Visions of a democratic Internet have been challenged by "some authoritarian governments" in recent years, it said, and digital tools are being used for surveillance and repression.

In addition, the role of non-state stakeholders should be clarified and enhanced. They had been forgotten during the development of the document, as had countries outside the Western bloc. In doing so, the Europeans addressed an inconsistency, since a principle in the Future Declaration states that network policy should not be a pure state affair, but should be supported by multi-stakeholders.

Minister Edtstadler appointed to the management body

"The Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives. Especially during the pandemic, we were glad to be able to communicate this way. That gave digitalization a real boost. But we have also seen the downsides: We talk about hate on the Internet, we talk about people creating a second identity for themselves on the Internet. But life on the Internet must not be a legal vacuum. Our rights offline must also apply online. It is the responsibility of the states and their parliaments to introduce the appropriate regulations. I think this is important on a global scale," said Constitutional Minister Karoline Edtstadler at the Internet Governance Forum of the United Nations (UN), which took place in Addis Ababa from November 28 to December 2. The forum focused on topics such as better access to the Internet, cybersecurity, human rights in the online sector and hate on the Net.

"I would like to see that in a few years we have equal rights for everyone on the Internet and that it is not the big corporations and the social media platforms that dictate how users should proceed. The human rights that apply offline must also apply online. So we need to quickly come to a common understanding of how to anchor them in the digital space. My concern as a former judge is to make a contribution in the area of hate on the net," said the constitutional minister.

Edtstadler also used the forum for numerous bilateral meetings. There were talks with representatives of the technology industry, such as the Internet address administration ICANN, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is responsible for country codes, and the telecommunications association ETNO. Edtstadler also had exchanges with UN Technology Envoy Amandeep Singh Gill, with Peggy Hicks from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with the Ethiopian Minister of Technology.

Internet Governance Forum

Federal Chancellery of Austria