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Secretary-General rallies calls for safer internet at Global Citizen Festival

3 December 2018

The Commonwealth Secretary-General appeared alongside world leaders and superstars from the world of music and entertainment to call for concerted action to make the internet a safer place for connectivity and engagement.

Patricia Scotland appeared in front of one hundred thousand people at the Global Citizen Festival at the First National Bank Stadium in the South African city of Soweto.

Concert-goers took in thrilling performances from Beyoncé, Jay Z, Usher, Pharrell Williams as well as the best performers from South Africa and from across the continent.

The festival honoured the centenary of the birth of former South African president and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, and builds on his legacy.

The Secretary-General spoke about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April, at which leaders of the 53 Commonwealth countries unanimously adopted the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration.

Reflecting Commonwealth values, the declaration sets out a common commitment to an open, democratic peaceful and secure internet, respecting human rights and freedom of expression.

The Secretary-General told concert-goers: "The Declaration commits Commonwealth member countries to wide-ranging action and cooperation to strengthen their individual and collective capability to tackle misuse of cyberspace and threats to cybersecurity."

Last month, fifty-five governments joined President Macron of France in endorsing a new international declaration: The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. It states that governments should act responsibly and work collectively with all stakeholders towards a common goal of protecting cyberspace.

The Secretary-General was joined on stage by the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo. Ghana is among eight Commonwealth countries that have joined the Paris Call.

"I urge other African leaders to join us in protecting the connectivity that can power our future growth by signing the Paris Call," said President Akufo-Addo.

"In January, Ghana will host the first intergenerational dialogue of the Global Peace initiative, which is intended to bridge the gap between peace and development to ensure a safer and prosperous future," he added.

The Global Citizen Festival was hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, one of South Africa's most internationally-recognised stars.

He told the audience: " Our digital societies are at risk. You see it almost every day in the news. The internet is exploited by criminals to make money, or by governments to attack one another. And we—the world’s digital citizens—are often in harm’s way.

"Digital Peace Now is a campaign that unifies people, governments, and organizations from around the world behind the cause of protecting our digital societies. 

"It’s a big challenge, but we have to take action," he added.

Global Citizen is a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030, as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Jamal Edwards, Microsoft Global Advocate for Digital Peace also joined the Secretary-General on stage.  He said: "Since we kicked off our Digital Peace Now campaign at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, more than one-hundred thousand people have signed a petition calling on governments to protect us, our internet, and our digital societies."

"And your signatures led to real action."