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Thanks to Mary for editing and the whole Diplo team for their support and encouragement.
This is what I said:
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Members of Civil Society, Friends,
I come from a small island state called Saint Lucia, in the Caribbean. But then each of us comes from a small island state called – ourselves. We're all alone, all vulnerable in our loneliness. Our protection from that vulnerability comes from our ability to form communities and to build society.
In the second half of the last century we became the recipients of a very powerful tool, a tool that can build societies, and can destroy them – the Internet..
Some of you will know that I am very insistent about definitions. The first definition I would like to offer is the definition of “we”. It's a definition that was articulated last week by Mr Chehade at the Netmundial Initiative meeting in Geneva – we are ALL civil society, all three billion who use the internet and 4 billion who don't. Hence my salutation was for all of you, both grassroots and grasstops, because the roots and the tops are organically connected and dependent on one another for life. In many ways the NETmundial meeting in Brazil in April was a demonstration of this interdependence.
However, in the sense that “civil society” is branded as one among several “stakeholders” then it is important that it should be allowed self-determination, the ability to choose its own representation for the many discussions currently in progress. The newly formed Civil Society Coordination Group (CSCG) is a “coalition of coalitions” of civil society groups formed for just that purpose.
Civil Society expects that these discussions be carried out in an atmosphere of respect, humility and the will to listen; that language should not be allowed to be a barrier to comprehension; that in so far as it is possible people should stop “doing their own thing” and instead try to understand one another and collaborate for the common good. We would like to see a permanent Internet Governance dialogue forum which is well resourced, accountable and functional. We would like to see support for regional and national dialogues. We would like to see all of us having open access to information and to the tools that can help to provide the access. We would like to see all of us able to depend on the privacy of our private lives.
What all of us in this room, and joining us online as remote participants, must remember is that this is our internet and we must not be complicit in its misuse. I am not going to mention specific cases – because there are too many of them. Just yesterday I was sent an example from the very small island that I come from. But the persons committing the abuses know, as well as the persons being abused, and we know, and so we become responsible. The internet is not a bubble. Things that happen on the internet resonate into the offline world as well. There are people who, because of their online presence, offline are in prison, being tortured, deprived of basic freedoms. We at the IGF face a double challenge, how not to forget about what happens offline, and how to prevent internet policy and regulation being complicit with this kind of repression.
The English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;”, and went on to say of himself “I am involved in mankind”. Please excuse his “political incorrectness”, he lived 400 years ago.
My wish would be that each of us, for the duration of this meeting, would follow as a first principle his or her involvement in mankind.