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U.N.‘s Global Digital Compact Faces Criticism for Overlooking Technical Experts in Internet Governance

Ambassador Amandeep Gill, United Nations Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology

ICANN, APNIC and ARIN recently voiced concerns about comments made by the United Nations (UN) Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology (OSET), Ambassador Amandeep Gill. These remarks seem to conflate the roles of the technical community and civil society in the Internet ecosystem.

Sally Costerton of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Paul Wilson from the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), and John Curran of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) co-authored a statement clarifying the distinction between the technical community and civil society in the digital realm.

Gill’s Model: Ambassador Gill’s comments were made during the European Dialogue on Internet Governance on June 19, 2023. He introduced a “tripartite” model for digital cooperation, which only recognizes three stakeholder groups: the private sector, governments, and civil society. The technical community, which has traditionally held a unique and crucial position, seems to be subsumed under civil society in this model.

The concern raised by the trio is that this new interpretation overlooks the foundational role the technical community has played in the development and operation of the Internet. Their role was distinctly identified in past agreements such as the Working Group on Internet Governance report in 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Tunis Agenda, and the WSIS+10 Outcome Document.

These foundational documents have long recognized the technical community’s separate and essential contributions to internet development and governance. They have also acknowledged the value of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, which establishes a cooperative balance between all its stakeholders.

The experts expressed worry about this seemingly top-down approach by the U.N. to redefine the role of the technical community. “The technical community is not part of civil society and has never been,” they pointed out. They emphasized that any attempt to change this dynamic might jeopardize the multistakeholder model that has been crucial for the Internet’s evolution and adaptability.

With over five billion internet users worldwide, the co-authors underscored the Internet’s success as a testament to the prevailing governance model. They urged the U.N. to recognize the technical community’s integral role as discussions about the future of Internet governance continue.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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