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Moving Forward Towards NetMundial 5+: Focus on Principles and Roadmap

The 3rd meeting of the Inaugural Coordination Council of the Net Mundial Initiative (NMI.CC), hosted by Telefonica in Madrid on February 27, 2016, paved the way for the second phase of the innovative NMI platform. The council discussed how to adjust the strategic orientation and the structural design of the initiative, so that future activities are more focused on implementation of the Sao Paulo principles and roadmap. Developing a closer relationship with the UN sponsored Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was also recognized as a near term priority. And the potential target of a NetMundial 5+ Conference in 2019 to review progress made since 2014 was identified as a concrete goal for the initiative.

The 2014 Net Mundial Conference

The NetMundial conference in April 2014 was an innovation in Internet Governance. It pioneered an enhanced version of the multistakeholder Internet Governance model by introducing an outcome oriented collaboration on equal footing among all stakeholders in their respective roles. NM went beyond existing multistakeholder mechanisms such as WSIS (governmental leadership with non-governmental stakeholders in a consultation role) and ICANN (private sector leadership with governments in an advisory capacity). It also summarized the essence of nearly two dozens of declarations on Internet Governance principles, adopted between 2010 and 2013 by individual stakeholder groups or regional organizations as OECD and Council of Europe. The NetMundial outcome solidified the foundational concept that universal human rights principles should underpin Internet governance processes and must function as bedrock global norms in the Internet governance ecosystem. The Sao Paulo principles should be recognized as universally applicable principles for Internet Governance, supported by ALL stakeholders from ALL regions of the world.

The NetMundial conference outcome luckily influenced other global Internet Governance discussions in 2014 and 2015 to a high degree, which—after Snowden´s revelations—were at a crossroads. The conference and its follow up built bridges, removed tensions and demonstrated that multistakeholder collaboration is better than multilateral confrontation. In that regard, NetMundial helped to avoid the emergence of a cold cyberwar.

The “Peace of Busan” (November 2014) has limited the risk that the ITU will continue with the Dubai-Disaster of the WCIT and enter into a senseless conflict with ICANN. The extension of the mandate of the IGF by the WSIS 10+ Review Conference (December 2015), finally removed the fear that a strong multistakeholder discussion platform would disappear or be substituted by an intergovernmental Internet council. And ICANNs progress with the IANA transition has demonstrated that the time consuming and very often painful multistakeholder bottom up open and transparent process for Internet Governance is working.

Even in such a sensitive area like cybersecurity the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) in the UN could agree on Confidence Building Measures in Cyberspace (CBMCs) and the presidents of the United States of America and the Peoples Republic of China agreed to stop cyber-espionage in the economic field in September 2015. Both cyber superpowers sit on the governmental bench of the Inaugural NMI Coordination Council, with their respective ministers—Penny Pritzker and Lu Wei.

The role of the council in its first phase was to stabilize the outcome of the Sao Paulo conference by introducing a high level follow up process, based on the Sao Paulo principles. The establishment of the NMI.CC and the adoption of the Terms of Reference (TOR) enhanced public awareness and allowed the emergence of new procedures and projects aimed at the implementation of the Sao Paulo roadmap. The composition of the council—four stakeholders from each of the five regions on equal footing—created a new model for the formation of leadership teams in global Internet Governance. The Solution Map and some other pilot projects helped to identify new emerging issues and introduced innovative forms of multistakeholder collaboration.

Yet, the Net Mundial Initiative needs to evolve to find a sustainable model. The mandate of the members of the Inaugural Coordination Council expires June 30, 2016, as does the support of the founding organizations (the Brazilian ccTLD Registry cgi.br, the World Economic Forum and ICANN). The Madrid meeting was directed to the challenge of how to move NMI to a second more sustainable phase in light of the evolved Internet Governance landscape of 2016.

The new reality is that there is no urgent need anymore to have a fall-back position for a worst case scenario where the multistakeholder model is rejected. In the WSIS 10+ Outcome Document the governments of the 193 UN Member States supported the multistakeholder model and took note of the NetMundial Conference. This new environment allows NMI to shift its priorities. The initiative can concentrate now more on its most innovative elements - the Sao Paulo principles and procedures—and make them more visible and sustainable.

Adjusting strategic orientation and structural design

In its TORs the NMI describes itself as an “enabling platform” which is aimed to bring solutions to problems. This is a very broad mandate. With the renewal of the mandate of the IGF and progress made in other areas there is no need that the NMI embraces all problems of the Internet Governance Ecosystem.

In the Madrid discussion council member Jean Francois Abramic from the World Wide Web Consortium remembered the early days of the W3C when Tim Barners Lee and his friends discussed what to do with their invention of the WWW. The wise decision was not to embrace the whole emerging web but to focus on a limited number of key issues.

Key issues for NetMundial are the Internet Governance principles and the multistakeholder procedures.

One of the original NMI ideas, to offer a clearinghouse function in the form of the NMI Solution Map is probably too ambitious and can be realized more efficiently in close collaboration with similar projects as the EU sponsored Global Internet Policy Observatory (GIPO), the Global Forum for Cyber Expertise (GFCE) in The Hague or the Geneva Internet Platform.

Where the initiative is needed is to stabilize and enhance the political innovation which came with the NetMundial process where all stakeholders are involved on equal footing and base their activities on universal principles with a strong commitment to the respect of human rights and security in cyberspace. The discussion in Madrid circled around ideas how to monitor the implementation of the Sao Paulo outcome document and how to review progress.

A NetMundial 5+ conference—in close collaboration with the IGF in 2019—could be an option to streamline the process and to inspire new practical projects, in particular in the field of awareness raising, capacity building and development. It could also stimulate reality checks, deeper critical analysis and new explorations into practices of the multistakeholder collaboration, a model which is still in its infant stage.

The discussion around the structural design of the second phase of the NMI was inspired by the modernist architectural principles that “form follows function”. NetMundial was from the very beginning a bottom up, open and transparent multistakeholder process. However, it its first phase some actions of the NMI gave the unhelpful impression that it is more top down than bottom up. There was and is full consensus among all council members that there is no space for a top down approach. Everything NMI does has to follow Principle 8 of the Sao Paulo Declaration (Internet Governance Process Principles) which includes openness, transparency, bottom up, inclusiveness, accountability etc. The Madrid discussion how to best redesign the initiative rooted in those principles. Changes in the current structure should be discussed in a broad community consultation.

Part of the proposal for a new design is that the initiative will no longer include “founding members” with a “permanent seat” on a “coordination council”. Instead the NMI will have a “host” on the bottom which serves as an anchor for the initiative in close collaboration with many partners from all stakeholder groups around the world who are ready to contribute in kind and in cash. CGI.br, as host of the Sao Paulo conference, has generously offered to play this role and to give NMI a home, subject to approval by CGI.br´s board.

Another idea is that CGI.br will be assisted by a Global Multistakeholder Advisory Team (GMAT) as the working unit which organizes the processes needed to make NetMundial sustainable. The structure of the Advisory Team should follow the model of the Inaugural Coordination Council with representatives from all five world regions and four stakeholder groups who interact on equal footing.

A third layer in this new design could be open ended multistakeholder working groups which can be initiated by anybody, who commits her/himself to the Sao Paulo document and respect the rules of the TOR. The formation of such working groups could follow the example of the IETF where anybody can start a process for a RFC but has to go through established procedures. NMI Co-Chair Marilia Maciel argued in Madrid that the procedures for chartering such working groups could get inspiration from ICANNs GNSO. In ICANN it is the GNSO council who drafts the charter for a working group but the working groups are open to everybody, transparent and organized bottom up.

Close Collaboration with the IGF

All this should be done in close collaboration with the IGF. The Madrid Communique underlines “the desire to work closely with the Internet Governance Forum”. There are a lot of potential synergies between the planned inter-sessional work of the IGF and the new priorities of the NMI, in particular with regard to work in Internet Governance principles and enhanced procedures for multistakeholder collaboration at the national level.

NMI meetings and workshops could be done back to back with regional and national IGFs. In Madrid the Inaugural Coordination Council agreed already to have its next meeting at the eve of the European IGF, EURODIG on June 8, 2016 in Brussels. It will be hosted by the European Commission.

By Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus

He is a member of the Global Commission on Stability in Cyberspace, was a member of the ICANN Board (2013 – 2015) and served as Special Ambassador for the Net Mundial Initiative (2014 – 2016).

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Received wisdom Kieren McCarthy  –  Mar 1, 2016 9:24 PM

It is received wisdom in the pragmatic parts of the UN, and the general policy of the US government to take any opportunity to shut down any bodies or organizations the moment they stop serving an immediate need.

Why? Because organizations have a tendency to self-sustain themselves at any cost, regardless of whether they are serving a useful purpose or developing anything new or original.

The NetMundial Initiative fits firmly in this mould. If it continues to survive, those keeping it alive should do so in the full knowledge they are creating one more pointless bureaucracy for the world.

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