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Inledningsanförande vid Stockholm Internet Forum 2013

Anförande i Stockholm, Sverige

Dear friends,

Welcome to Sweden and to the Stockholm Forum for Internet Freedom and Development.

Many of you have joined us here at Münchenbryggeriet. Others are following us on the web. And some were here already a year ago - welcome back!

The interest in SIF 2013 has been impressive.

Our aim is clear: to create an international, inclusive platform for constructive discussions on the importance of internet freedom for development.

A year has passed since the first Forum, a year of continued expansion of connectivity and access. Our world now has 2.7 billion internet users.

There are almost as many cell phone subscriptions as the whole of the global population - 6.8 billion.

And smartphone take-up - mobile broadband - is developing extremely fast throughout the world.

It is estimated that within five years, 85 per cent of the global population will be covered by mobile broadband. And the speed of the networks is increasing even faster.

The more advanced 4G networks might be able to deliver speeds of up to 1 Gbps.

This is a true revolution. The economic, social and political impact of this rapidly developing world of hyperconnectivity is bound to be massive.

The word revolution does not seem out of place.

And the economic impact of this development is profound.

Lately, much and well-deserved attention has been given to the impressive development of the economies of individual countries in Africa, and of the continent as such.

With growth rates consistently above 5 per cent, the billion people of sub-Saharan Africa are the fastest rising billion in the global economy today.

There is oil and gas and minerals in some countries. But something else is more important.

The African Development Bank estimates that roughly half the increase in the growth performance of the African continent can be attributed to the revolution in connectivity.

It's the Internet. It's the mobile phone. That's the reason for the rise of Africa. That's the good news.

On the more political side we see a somewhat more mixed picture.

In July of last year, inspired partly by the discussions at the first Stockholm Internet Forum, we achieved a remarkable victory in the UN Human Rights Council with resolution 20/8.

There were tough discussions, and there is no doubt that there were those who tried to resist. But we forged coalitions, we worked together with those sharing the same values and principles.

And at the end of the day they all melted away, and the landmark resolution -confirming that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies online in exactly the same way as it does offline - was adopted by consensus.

It was a most important victory.

Resolutions in Geneva are one thing. Reality sometimes tends to be another.

But resolution 20/8 has already acquired a symbolic significance beyond most such resolutions.

It has inspired debates. It has encouraged activists. It has transformed the political conversation about these issues in the way we intended.

And it is our platform for the continued fight for freedom on the net - today the most important frontline in our fight for freedom across the world.

Later last year, the ITU arranged a world conference, the WCIT.

The aim was to revise an old telecommunications regulation - but much of the discussions came to focus on what role governments should have in running the internet.

Many - Sweden certainly among them - took the firm position that the ITU and its member states should not gain more influence on managing the internet.

Efforts should instead be made to develop the existing, basically well-functioning multi-stakeholder model to make it even more inclusive and representative. The model has worked exceedingly well, it has been an excellent platform, and it has stopped those countries which, for whatever reasons, try to limit freedom on the internet.

Out there in the real world, numerous regimes are trying to find new ways of controlling the internet.

A case in point is Russia, where new legislation makes it possible for government authorities to block websites without judicial oversight or transparency.

The stated purpose is protection of children, but the limits to the implementation are vague, with serious concerns that the legislation will be used to control the flow of information on the internet in the same way as in traditional media.

And in these days, as Iran is heading towards its so-so elections, we see that they are slowing down the internet in addition to other restrictions in place in this very connected nation.

And there are others.

Bahrain, China, Syria and Vietnam continue to oppress the free flow of information and internet users in ways which are unacceptable and in violation of international human rights law.

But many brave people also continue to use the internet to voice their concerns about lack of freedom in their countries, despite being harassed and persecuted.

They deserve our support.

Freedom of information and freedom of expression are imperative to free societies.

Human rights violations should be exposed, and paid attention to, wherever and whenever they occur.

Sweden is trying to do its part. Next week, the annual human rights reports of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs will be available on the website

This year, they focus on the countries in the Americas.

It is encouraging to note how well-established democracy now is in the region at large - with the most obvious exception of Cuba.

Courageous journalists contribute to the freedom of expression.

But the reports also remind us of the challenges: violence, including against persons involved in media and bloggers, corruption and discrimination of indigenous populations, to name but a few.

Security and freedom are two sides of the same coin.

In open societies, security and freedom are mutually reinforcing, not conflicting.

Security must never be used as a pretext to limit freedoms and rights beyond what is stated in international law.

In fact, trying to do so would only be counterproductive.

We need to spell out what we are actually protecting when we meet the new challenges of our hyperconnected world.

The way to meet these challenges is through the constitutional approach.

Open societies, with democracy, rule of law, transparency and accountability, are unparalleled success stories in combining freedom and security.

The lessons of history are crystal clear: free societies are strong societies, open economies are growing economies.

It is a matter of ideas and principles, but also of practicalities, capacities and resources.

Sweden has initiated a process to develop guidelines for capacity-building for a free and secure internet. We expect you, the SIF community, to assist us.

It is our ambition to consult widely, and to have the guidelines ready by the time we meet next year.

As a leading nation in the ICT field, we will contribute knowledge and resources to closing the global digital divide, between and within countries.

We will work to connect the unconnected to an open, secure internet that drives innovation and growth, and that contributes to better democracy and the enjoyment of free speech.

And we will develop our own ability to provide assistance to others, combining hardware with the softer capacity represented by institutions and models for regulation and deregulation.

We can provide knowledge and experience on how to frame open, transparent and rule of law-based systems that can provide security and privacy in the online world, and that can create conditions for online entrepreneurship and business models to promote prosperity and growth.

We are determined to continue our efforts in the UN Human Rights Council, putting the internet and human rights on the agenda of its upcoming session and hosting a side event to bring the discussions from this Forum to Geneva.

Several of the experts present here in Stockholm will actually be part of this event.

And in all of this, we must deepen the collaboration with others - working with the organisers of the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace to make the conclusions from SIF visible there, and continuing as partners in the Freedom Online Coalition, which is meeting in Tunis in June.

I am pleased that the organisers of the Seoul Conference and of the Freedom Online Coalition Conference are with us today.

But for the coming two days, it is all about us, it's about here, it's about SIF.

It is about connectivity, about pursuing freedom, and about increasing the space for development.

Thank you.

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