The Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development is organised jointly by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Internet Infrastructure Foundation.
For the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Stockholm Internet Forum links Internet and ICT issues in all areas of work of the Ministry.
Internet freedom and security has been one of the main priorities of Swedish foreign policy for several years. In 2010, the linkage between online freedom and security and its importance for economic development were featured for the first time in the Statement of Government Policy in the Parliamentary Debate on Foreign Affairs, and it has been a recurring theme every year since.
Swedish foreign policy on Internet issues is based on three pillars.
First, access to an open, secure and free Internet (free as in freedom of speech, not free as in beer) is an important driver of innovation and growth and a key supporting factor in creating vibrant and resilient democracies. For a truly inclusive and sustainable global development, all people must get access to the technologies that define today’s society. The Internet can give poor people power through information and a louder voice. As a tool for innovation, it can bring new solutions to old problems and help reduce corruption and increase political accountability.
As Internet use expands into lower income groups it offers real opportunity for greater participation, democratic communication and a true revitalisation of the public sphere at local, national and international level. Moreover, in the hands of democracy activists, the Internet can be a powerful tool to fight oppression and shed light on human rights abuses that otherwise never would have been known.
Second, human rights – a pinnacle of Swedish foreign policy – are as important and applicable in the online environment as offline. In 2012, Sweden introduced, together with several other states, a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council affirming that human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, also apply on the Internet, as well as the Internet’s important role in global development. The resolution was adopted by consensus and actively supported by over 80 states.
As more states choose to censor and filter the Internet, the work to bridge the new digital divide between those with access to freedom of expression online, and those without it, must be intensified.
Third, Internet freedom and security must be viewed and discussed together, as two inseparable facets. Sweden has, in its wider security policy, adopted a modern and broad concept of security, emphasising the security and rights of the individual. From this vantage point, security is necessary to safeguard the freedom and rights of people and to protect an open and democratic society.
Securing the global flow of information is crucial in ensuring successful globalisation. International cooperation and the establishment of international norms of behaviour – based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law – for states, companies and individuals are key to achieving this.
As governments around the world are becoming more aware of how the Internet can break down hierarchies, disrupt information monopolies and empower citizens, the importance of emphasising the incredible opportunities of the Internet in international discussion and diplomacy is greater than ever. The Stockholm Internet Forum on Internet Freedom for Global Development is an important opportunity to discuss what is needed now to ensure that even more countries and people join the information age.
/Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation