How You Can Help Save the Internet for Democracy Without Going to a Meeting

By Moira Whelan | May 25, 2021

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Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace

Every partner with which NDI works is facing a challenge that is critical to democracy: advocating for persons with disabilities, ensuring LGBTQI+ and other minority rights, elevating and including the voices of youth, protecting political participation and free expression, and strengthening the relationship between citizens and government to tackle huge challenges like corruption and climate change. These are just a few of the issues keeping us up at night. To address each one of them, a free and open internet is essential. And while we all know saving the internet for democracy is important, having the bandwidth to stand up for it - in addition to tackling the specific challenges we face in our day-to-day work - can be a challenge.


Still, we need your voice, and we need it now. Countries with anti-democratic objectives are intent on shifting the rules and technologies that govern the internet to enable them to control the information space, cyberspace, and the very systems we use to decide our leaders. And they are making progress. A safe, secure, and democratic cyberspace requires a diverse, multi stakeholder effort in response. That’s why the Paris Call is so important...and also a great use of just a few minutes of your time. 


Originally developed in 2018, the Paris Call brought “the international community together to ensure peace and security in the digital space.” Centered around 9 principles, it was the first global call in the wake of the 2016 elections in the United States and the 2017 elections in France that put the integrity of democratic elections at the center of what it means to protect the digital space. The Paris Call states plainly that to create peace and security in our world, governments, civil society and the private sector must work together not just in the giant halls of the Paris Peace Forum and other international venues, but in deciding the rules of cyberspace as well. 


Since then, COVID-19 has only increased the urgency of the need for better norms and protections in cyberspace. Governments have used the virus as an excuse to infringe on digital rights, increase surveillance and even delay elections. In 2020, our colleagues at Access Now have tracked at least 29 countries who have shut down the internet more than 150 times. Getting cybersecurity right couldn’t be more urgent. 


As the world prepares for another Paris Peace Forum, NDI is proud to join the effort to renew the support for the Paris Call with an emphasis on voices that represent all aspects of democratic engagement. All of us use the internet, and the Paris Call is a simple way to lend our voice to creating an internet that works for us. 


Between now and October 29, often celebrated as the Internet’s birthday, NDI will work to increase the number of Paris Call signatories by 100. We hope your organization will join us in this effort - either by signing on to the Call itself and/or sharing this call to action with others.


Seventy-nine countries, more than 300 civil society organizations, 35 public authorities and more than 700 companies have already lent their support, but more remains to be done. In particular, NDI will focus on those we haven’t heard from, who may not have the time to work the issue of internet security, but who need a safe cyberspace to do their work: 


Voices from the Global South. NDI works with parties, civil society, governments, and community leaders in more than 70 countries. Often, the conversations around the internet happen in Europe and the United States. But this is a global system, and a healthy conversation requires that global organizations are included and lend their voice.


Traditionally marginalized communities. Almost half of the world still has no or limited access to the internet, and yet global dynamics still shape their lives. Women and marginalized communities with access to the internet face systemic challenges and unrelenting attacks. A democratic internet puts these concerns at the center of the information space we want to build. 


New partners from emerging sectors. Hospitals, schools, critical infrastructure, local law enforcement: these are just a few of the sectors that have been attacked by ransomware in recent weeks. As COVID-19 drove more efforts on line, such attacks only increased. Silicon Valley companies face trust and safety issues they never anticipated and traditional sectors from commodities to space face challenges to supply chains and intellectual property. We need new partners to lend their voices to the importance of a safe internet. We can communicate to the world that this is not an issue simply for big business or governments, but for the functioning of a healthy community. 


Broad membership of the Paris Call represents the best of democratic systems: an open and inclusive process that puts civil society, governments, and the private sector on equal footing to develop the cyberspace that will best enable democratic ideals. The internet is central to our lives but it shouldn’t govern us and decisions shouldn’t be left to the elite. The simple act of signing on is a message that you have the expectation of being listened to and participating in the process. 


Join us. Together with the Paris Peace Forum, NDI chairs a working group designed to increase the number of signatories to the Paris Call. How do you join? 


You lend the name of your organization here. That’s it. Done. 


We’d also like to know that you lent your name, so send an email or tell us via social media. 

We’ll keep track of the new signatories and let the world know that you care about the internet, but you’re a bit busy solving other problems right now. 


The internet has powered new forms of organizing, advocacy, government transparency and citizen watchdogs. A safe and secure cyberspace will require a multistakeholder effort. This is a chance to let governments, organizations, and the private sector who are in the room know that you have their back. Constructive solutions emerge when global best practices intersect with local knowledge and simply by adding your organization to the mix, you force attention to issues you uniquely face. 


Join us in lending your voice to this effort. And we promise, you won’t have to go to any meetings.