(To be checked against delivery)
Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, at the opening session of the Internet Governance Forum
Rio de Janeiro, 12 November 2007
Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Council of Europe, which I represent, is an Organisation bringing together 47 of the 48 European countries on our continent to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Our primary task is to enforce, through the European Court of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the bill of rights of the whole of the European continent which applies both on and off line.
Our main message, Europe’s main message, is clear: we want to secure peoples’ enjoyment of a maximum of rights and services, with minimum restrictions, while at the same time seeking to ensure the level of security that users are entitled to expect. This is why our Organisation adopted just 5 days ago a policy recommendation for our governments on promoting the public service value of the Internet. We in Europe, we want an affordable, unrestricted, safe and diverse access to the Internet.
My time is short, so I will limit myself to a few brief points.
First, the Internet is “our business”, it belongs to all of us, and must not become a virtual jungle, in which its inherent freedom and anonymity are abused by criminals. These people may be operating in a virtual world, but the harm they cause is very real.
Our response has been the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and its Protocol: the only existing international treaty dealing, in a comprehensive manner and in full respect of fundamental human rights, with crimes committed through the use of the Internet. It has been signed so far by 43 countries around the world. I encourage other countries to seek accession to the Convention as soon as possible. The broader the membership, the fewer the hiding places.
My second point is about children who represent one of the biggest categories of Internet users. The Internet empowers them, but it also creates new threats to their safety. Sexual exploitation of children is of course one of such threats.
This is why the Council of Europe Convention for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse outlaws “groomers” and “pedo-pornographers”, and reinforces considerably international cooperation. This treaty too, is open to non-European countries and I encourage all States to sign up to it.
Let me also take this occasion to announce the birth this week in Strasbourg of a new “city”: an “E-City” made for and with children. It will be hosted on our web site and its aim is very simple: empower children so that they can contribute to a better world, nearer to their hopes and dreams.
To conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen, we in Europe, adults and children alike, we have a dream and an ambition. The dream is to make democratic citizenship a reality for all on the world wide web; our ambition is to show the world the way to achieve this.
Thank you very much for your attention.