The Council of Europe (CoE) has a visible presence at the IGF. Its representatives are not missing at a number of panels. We asked Ms. Hanne Sophie Greve, who represented CoE at the panel that APC organized on Content Regulation and Access to Knowledge, for an interview.
Hanne Sophie Greve is from Norway where she currently works at the Gulating High Court as a Vice-President for Justice. Apart from her very rich international experience and numerous missions including one in the war zone of ex-Yugoslavia, she is a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights.
"Internet cannot be an unattended area," she says. "It would become a hole within which any so far vulnerable group will be even more vulnerable."
Ms. Greve explained that the approach of the Council of Europe (CoE) towards ICTs issues at the IGF is rooted in the overall purpose of the CoE as such. It was set up to protect human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. These principles need to be proactively and constructively built in all areas including the net. "We don't know where it will be in 10 years, there will be new challenges. But we know enough to be able to define and act upon the critical issues such as human trafficking", she says.
Ms. Greve makes a parallel between the situation of women refugees whom she experienced when working with the War Crime Commission in ex-Yugoslavia and vulnerable groups on the internet, such as sexually abused women. Her experience is that empowerment is a crucial thing for both groups. It is easy to turn women into prostitution and abuse them under circumstances of poverty. She describes how she saw women refugees "voluntarily" ending in prostitution and unable to get out of it. Vulnerable groups need to be informed about their rights and empowered to exercise them. It is not in the interest of women to follow the path of prostitution today. When saying that, she stressed that it is not out morale but simply because these days prostitution is mainly linked to lack of choice women have, abuse, lack of rights, and trafficking.
In terms of women's empowerment, Hanne Sophie Greve emphasizes access to knowledge and sees the role of internet in providing women with information. "Also solidarity among women is important and can be built with the net", she says, "many women think they are alone in miserable situations."
She explains that the European Court of Human Rights does not look at the internet as a separate entity. There were only 2 cases concerning internet so far. One concerned a French man living in the UK who introduced porn content online which was considered breaking the law in the UK. The other case was from Poland where a governmental institution required financial assets declared from a public servant. The declaration was to be published online by the government which the employee disagreed with and refused to fill it in.
As a message to women in the area of ICTs, Ms. Greve says: "Its a new area in which we need activity, dedication, and women's solidarity movement. It is not monopolized by already defined interests and groups; it is not yet fully settled. Therefore its time for women to be present and heard. Women should go ahead and prove that they have a say." Ms. Greve regretted that the representation of women at the IGF is so low and recommended to urge all the represented agencies and other entities to include more women next time.