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Welcome to our fellow Freedom Online Coalition members and other esteemed government, private sector, and civil society guests.  Thank you for joining us today, at a critical inflection point, with technology transforming nearly every aspect of daily life.  Our challenge is how we can shape this transformation in a way that maximizes its promise, minimizes its dangers, and reinforces universal human rights.

The 2030 Agenda is no exception.  As we strive to realize the Sustainable Development Goals — from building resilient and sustainable infrastructure, reducing inequality, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies — we need to connect the dots between technological advances and increased digital connectivity with progress on universal rights and protecting fundamental freedoms.  In the end, remaining resolute in our commitment to achieve the 2030 Agenda and anchoring technology policy in rights-respecting and inclusive approaches are mutually reinforcing objectives.

The United States is already working with many of you here today to this end.  For instance, the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative Code of Conduct represents a promising model to prevent the misuse of technologies that enable human rights abuses.  Just last week, the United States hosted 18 of the subscribing states, as well as civil society and industry representatives to discuss how to increase participation and follow up actions to integrate human rights criteria into export control regimes.

Today’s discussion is also timely, given the many technology policy discussions underway within the UN where we have an opportunity to apply a human rights lens. Notably, this week, we join our UN colleagues in charting a pathway to improving lives across the globe at the Summit for the Future.  And this fall, negotiations start on the Global Digital Compact, which if we get it right, will set a standard to uphold our rights online and protect users from those who would exploit the space to limit our freedoms.  There are also new UN efforts on issues around emerging technologies, such as the UN High-level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence and the UN’s Code of Conduct for Information Integrity.  Every representative present today has an important voice in shaping this growing, global agenda.

The imperative for collective action inspired the United States to serve as the chair of the Freedom Online Coalition – or FOC – this pivotal year.  As FOC chair, we are partnering with governments, civil society, and the private sector to protect and promote the promise of an Internet that is open, interoperable, reliable, and secure.  Additionally, we seek to bolster the Coalition’s commitment to connecting the unconnected and enabling access to the Internet and digital technologies for everyone, no matter who or where they are.

But the FOC cannot and should not do this alone, so we appreciate the presence today of governments and non-governmental actors beyond this grouping.  Together, we can shape a future in which all people are able to exercise their universal rights and reap the benefits that technology brings.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future