IGF 2018 Closing Speech by UN ASG Fabrizio Hochschild


Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues and friends joining us online from around the world,


We are at the last minutes of this intensive and impressive learning and policy journey, which unfolded over the past forty-eight hours under the central theme of the “Internet of Trust”.

At the outset I have thank President Macron for setting us out on the journey with a unique, visionary, and very stimulating introduction.  I have to thank France not only for their initiative and intellectual inspiration provided not only by President Macron’s speech and also by the “Paris call” but also for their great generosity as hosts.

We were honored not only by the presence President Macron, but also by that of his Excellency the Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, by Minister Mahjoubi, State Secretary, Ministry of the Economy, by an old friend to many, H.E. Ambassador David Martinon,  whom we wish well in Kabul. And we would like to welcome the new Ambassador Henri Verdier, and I would like to thank the dedicated team from the French Government that worked with them.

Of course I would like to thank my colleagues and friends from UNESCO and particularly the Director General Madame Azoulay who also provided stimulating remarks at the beginning of this session as well as offering us her facilities and support throughout.

But above all I think those who deserve the most thanks are of course you - the participants. There were more than 2000 on‑site participants and many more online from over 140 countries representing all stakeholders. 43% of the participants here in Paris were women.

Lets hope we can do even better in Germany next year. It is 2018 and we should finally have gender parity.

Collectively, you all represent the IGF’s multi-stakeholder model. And I noted something that came up in the comments that, set in opposition multilateralism and a multi-stakeholder approach. Multilateralism, increasingly is multi-stakeholder in its approach. And there are some wonderful examples for that, including the Paris climate agreement which was very much part of a multi-stakeholder approach, or the 2030 agenda which was very much a multi-stakeholder and a multilateral endeavor.

The statistics I quoted on the number of participants are  quite impressive but what matters, even more, is dynamics, the full rooms and buzz in corridors.

From the rich discussion, I picked up three key issues. One was on trust, one on data, and one on ethics.

Trust is in the title of this IGF. A global ‘Deficit of trust’ between countries and within countries as well as towards multilateral organizations is a theme frequently elaborated on by the UN Secretary General. And I think a theme of distrust towards governments was also a theme of many who took the floor before, as well as distrust towards the UN.

Over the last three days, you managed to dive deep into the questions of digital trust. You moved from an abstract notion to identifying ways and means how to improve trust. Trust increases with more awareness of how technology functions. Trust improves with transparency. Trust depends on accountability of industry, governments and, also on us, individual users.

Trust is also about ethics as the sessions on AI very clearly identified.

Society, including a digital one, cannot function without the basis of trust. I would like to encourage both you and the UN Panel on digital cooperation to look further into concrete ways of securing an increase in trust.

The critical relevance of data is reflected in the discussions today. Societies worldwide and I think Ambassador Martinon alluded to this, are in search of the right policy balance around data. How to ensure that data fuels innovation and economic dynamism while adequately protecting the public and individual interests.

How do we ensure that data is not abused, whether for commercial interests or for the violation of human rights. As was indicated, and there were some very moving examples of where data had been abused precisely for that end. As was noted in several sessions I attended data, is a cross-cutting and inter-disciplinary issue par-excellence. Data is a technological and standardisation issue, but it also matters for security of modern society and for human rights. Data is behind privacy, data is also about trade. All of us in the multilateral and multi-stakeholder communities will have to deal with the challenges how to address data in a more comprehensive, more sophisticated way.

In addition to trust and data, many sessions focused on ethics and AI. Ethics is probably the most important aspect of the encounter of technology and humanity. Many discussions in this IGF addressed ethics by design. What should the rules and principals should be? Many issues remain open but there is a clear need for guidelines in relation too autonomous weapons. The Secretary-General has called for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons. But we also need guidelines for driverless cars or for the thousands of apps powered by AI for face recognition software and so on.  

Perhaps in future meetings we will need more philosophers in the room to help us with these questions and I would like to reiterate the call by the Secretary-General that the IGF should not only be multi-stakeholder but also multi-disciplinary forum. We cannot operate in siloes if we want to do justice to the formidable challenges that new technologies introduce.    

The IGF is in transition like many of our institutions that adjust to digital developments. Both the Secretary-General and President Macron placed high expectations on the IGF. As was indicated in the opening statements change is needed precisely to safeguard the public core of the internet, to ensure its free and open but also safe and trustworthy.

We have to safeguard that the internet, as one of the speakers on the first day said, produces magic, but white magic, not some of the black magic we see now. And that it serves to  connect humanity, rather than to divide humanity; to further good, rather than foment evil. The multiple efforts to strengthen the IGF have to enable it to rise to contribute to the challenge of finding the way to do this.

And I would say that in some of the statements there was the postulation of a dichotomy between freedom and liberty on the one hand and regulation on the other. I think that is a false dichotomy. The absence of the rule of law is not freedom. Its absence, is the rule of the mightiest, the rule of tyranny, whether by private companies, and no disrespect, or by autocratic leaders, or others who hold disproportionate power.  

And there I would like to quote, since we are in Paris, a very distinguished, one of very many distinguished French thinkers, Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, who was a political activist in a great time of upheaval in Europe in 1848, which was a critical moment of the industrial revolution and where society experienced deep disquiet. He said the following: “between the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the master and the servant, it is liberty which restricts and rule of law that sets us free”.

The rule of law understood as intelligent rule of law and in conformity with international standards is essentially a liberating effort. The absence of it is what allows for abuses.

If we want to safeguard what we appreciate so much about the internet, regulation is probably better done in some form, its not for me to say in which, to protect it from abuse.        

The IGF will play an important role in strengthening digital cooperation mechanisms which are currently being considered by the UN SG’s High Level Panel. The interaction which started here between the Secretary-General´s high level Panel and IGF is important. I invite all of you to contribute to the Panel’s discussions. There is a lot of need and space for innovative and effective solutions.



Ladies and gentlemen,


There were more than 170 sessions held this past week, ranging from main sessions, open forums, workshops to lightning sessions and also other informal gatherings and side events.

We have to really recognize and applaud the outstanding preparatory work done by every member of the 2018 Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group, the so called MAG, under the guidance of Ms. Lynn St. Amour. We also must thank all the UN staff for the conference services, security, news coverage, communication outreach, remote participation and technical infrastructure.

The national, regional and youth IGF initiatives should also be recognized as they are further expanding the importance and inclusive multi‑stakeholder Internet dialogue to new countries and regions.

We now have more than 110 national and regional initiatives around the world, and around 50 of them were present with us this week to highlight their achievements. A big thanks also goes to all national and regional initiatives including to those who could not join us in person.  

Leading up to the fourteenth IGF next year, innovations in programming and intersessional activities will continue to be implemented in a bottom-up manner, based on feedback from the multi-stakeholder community and in-line with our new mandate which calls for greater participation from stakeholders from developing countries and improved working modalities.

Finally, this is a key point, we also wish to take this opportunity to thank the many donors for their financial contributions to the United Nations IGF trust fund. I have to say I was very impressed by the list of donors and the fact that so many private sector donors are on that list. It is truly exemplary.

But lets be frank. We need to do more. The IGF is a volunteer body. The MAG are not paid, the UN staff involved do it after hours, there is no UN staff dedicated to do this. If we realistically want the IGF to meet the challenges it faces, we need further resources.

Given the current constraints, as a newcomer to this, it is my second IGF, it is absolutely incredible what you have already achieved, particularly in terms of the network created across the globe.

We need to get the IGF to the next level but we will not succeed, without a major injection, not just of ideas but also of resources to put these ideas into action. I thank Germany for taking on the challenge next year and making sure we do better in terms of diverse representation. It is exciting we will be in Germany but I also think we should do better to rotate around the continents.

I wish you, after this rather lengthy concluding address, a very safe trip back to your homes and that you carry with you much inspiration and after being in this incredible city with such great hosts and I wish you safety online and offline.


Thank you