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A beautiful rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’ opened this year’s IGF in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was acknowledged as ‘one of the biggest events that has ever been launched in Vilnius’ and ‘the greatest event in the field of information technologies by Mr. Eligijus Massiulis, Minister of Transport and Communications in Lithuania. It was indeed an appropriate way to open this year’s forum, which once again convened people from countries the world over, as well as government, civil society, academia, business, inter-governmental organisations and other important internet related stakeholders. Ms. Ginger Paque, Co-Coordinator, Internet Governance Caucus most eloquently put forward that those in attendance ‘wear several hats indicating … profession or affiliation… but in the end, we all take off our hats and we are members of society, individuals, Internet users’.
As the UN General Assembly decides the fate of the IGF next autumn, speakers at this year’s opening ceremony reemphasised the need to continue a multistakeholder
approach to internet governance. Ms Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Rod Beckstrom, CEO and President of the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Mr. Jānis Kārkliņs, Assistant Director General, UNESCO and Ms. Maud de Boer-Buqicchio, Deputy Secretary General, Council of Europe (See list of all speakers and transcripts of their presentations on the IGF website) all wanted to retain the inclusive nature of the IGF. As Mr. Beckstrom stated the Internet’s ‘openness, its inclusiveness (and) its relative lack of regulation make it a fertile field for innovation and competition (and) an engine for much needed economic growth (and that) everyone using the Internet should and must have a voice in its governance’. Words like inclusiveness, openness, transparency and decentralisation were repeated by the diverse range of speakers, who also emphasised the need for partnerships.
The right to access, freedom of expression, privacy, security, diversity and multilingualism were common themes among the 5 minute presentations, as the necessity to ensure the continued multistakeholder approach to internet governance yielded consensus. Ms. Lynn St. Amour, CEO and President of The Internet Society (ISOC) argued that ‘one could legitimately say the Internet model was a forerunner for what is now referred to as multistakeholderism’. Moreover, according to Mr. Beckstrom ‘no single party should hold undue influence over internet governance’. ICANN’s president also lauded the fact that the IGF ‘is the only place in the world where all the internet actors can gather to exchange best practice’.
No one person, institution or country holds the answer to the problems we will face with the internet's development. However, as the internet grows and diversifies, one thing remains clear. The theme of this year’s IGF sums up the need for us to all commit to ‘facing the future together’ whatever that may be.