The following statement was given by Paulina Gutierrez, Deputy Legal Officer for ARTICLE 19 Mexico, on behalf of civil society at the closing session of the Internet Governance Forum 2016. It is available to watch here.
Me alegra poder estar aquí de pie como mexicana representando a -Artículo 19, a grupos de la sociedad civil mexicana y, por supuesto, aquellos que votaron a favor de que fuera yo la que diera el discurso de clausura. Pretendo aprovechar el momento para acotar algunas reflexiones y discusiones que se dieron durante esta semana.
I will switch to English, not because I don’t support speaking in Spanish here and in all Internet Governance forums, but because I believe that delivering this message in English will allow everyone here to more easily grasp the spirit of my words.
I was told that every speech – especially if it is in a closing session when everyone is already thinking of going home – should include a joke. So I promise to tell you one. But before I do that, let me give you a few reflections on this year’s IGF.
If we want to enable inclusive and sustainable growth, and promote social justice, there are issues that need to be resolved: specifically, connecting the unconnected and ensuring that the Internet is a real, rights enabled public sphere. The Internet is not finished; current solutions are not perfect.
It is however very apparent where the Internet and democracy are broken, where they fail, when people do not have a voice, do not have access to information to make decisions, and where the rule of law is not upheld. People are dying in efforts to access or disseminate information. The murders of ten journalists this year in my country have to mean something.
We need to find answers for the current and dysfunctional dichotomies that are undermining the human rights of individuals and communities. How can we build trust for the next billion when millions of dollars are spent on a surveillance apparatus that has proven to be ineffective? Access, availability and privacy can never be trumped by false assurances of security and public order. It does not make people feel safe, or empowered. But it does censor and threaten those who dare to dissent.
How are we going to guarantee access to the Internet and bridge the digital and gender divides if we are exclusively thinking of access as a technical or economic problem, and not as an inclusive and instrumenta right. Discussions of Internet Governance must answer some simple but deeply rooted questions: Access to what? Access by whom? Access through which infrastructure and technology? Users, particularly women and marginalized communities, are no passive subjects. They should be co-creators of our future Internet.
Unfortunately, we won´t be able to reach that level of progress if particular stakeholders prefer to restrict the Internet´s transformative capabilities rather than contribute to its expansive and enabling nature. We need a public sphere where gender exclusion, discrimination and misogyny are no longer chronic human rights violations that are fostered by impunity. Self-censorship will collapse democracies. Trust in the Internet is necessary to ensuring their survival.
So here comes the joke. When Einstein was a university professor at Princeton, he gave an exam to his students. His assistant came to him and said: “Professor Einstein, this exam, it is the same as the one given last week. You are asking them the same questions…” To which Einstein said: “No worries. The questions are the same. But I changed the answers.”
We need different answers. We need more radical ideas, new visions and horizons and more people on board to build news realities. So we need these forums for dialogue more than ever.
I sincerely hope that events like these plant the seeds for collaboration, communication and imaginaries where Latin American countries and the so called Global South is included on Internet Gov discussions in order to build a future that will lead us to an era where every human being can develop, flourish and exercise their human rights, both online and offline.
Finally, we would like to lend our voice of support to the Guadalajara Manifesto issued by Brazilian civil society about their concerns regarding their democratic and Internet rights.
The Internet is not finished and hopefully it never will be. In every decision we make about any element of the Internet we are writing history. We need to remember, we cannot go forward without looking back to ensure that we do not regress into mistakes of the past. So that together we can build an inclusive net and a future without oppression, and full of creativity, hope and aspiration.