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ALAC on WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Actions

The At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) has released this statement about the results of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). It is circulated for public comment, in view of subsequent statements to be released in the next months.

At the World Summit on the Information Society held on December 10 to 12 in Geneva, the member states of the United Nations adopted the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action that include specific language on the issue of “Internet Governance” (see reference).

ICANN’s At Large Advisory Committee welcomes the fact that these statements clearly recognize the role of civil society as a full participant in the international management of the Internet, and bring attention to the need for a deep involvement of individual users into its governance.

Specifically, we believe that the technical management of the Internet should remain as much as possible in the private sector and civil society, or providers and users of the specific services, and include governmental participation only as overseer and ultimate guarantor of the public interest. We are concerned that excessive intervention by governments into technical Internet operations, in local, regional and international arenas, might interfere with its smooth and healthy operation, limit innovation and cause over-regulation, countering the existing workings of the Internet and the principles that caused its success as a tool to foster economic development and to increase freedom of communication.

This is why we strongly endorse the idea of a community-driven consensus that is behind the very existence of ICANN. We would also like to mention, however, that user participation in ICANN activities has not yet been given the full attention or support it deserves, and call for further improvements of the users’ role inside the ICANN framework. This should be an issue of primary importance in the Internet governance discussions between now and the second WSIS phase in Tunis, together with other fundamental items such as increasing ICANN’s international footprint, internal diversity, and multilingualism.

However, the scope of ICANN activities should remain limited to technical matters that require world-wide coordination, understanding that in some areas they cannot be parted from their social and political consequences, and that these consequences must be considered in the technical policy-making process. ICANN can be successful only if it focuses on those issues that it can address. Issues such as the Digital Divide, in-country competitive and pricing policies, and, more generally, those that pertain to Internet usage control rather than to Internet technical coordination, should be left to those fora best-suited to handle them.

The At Large Advisory Committee, as mandated by the ICANN Bylaws, is currently setting up a practical organizational structure to foster the representation and participation of Internet users and their civil society organizations from around the globe. This structure will be based on Regional At Large Organizations (RALO) that will be constituted in each of the five ICANN Regions by a set of accredited At Large Structures (ALS), or civil society groups and organizations who represent different types of Internet users and different countries of the world. This ambitious program will create an effective and diverse instrument for participation to global and regional Internet policy-making processes by all netizens of the world.

For this reason, we declare our willingness to participate in the forthcoming multi-stakeholder working group activities organized by the Secretary General of the United Nations, to channel into these activities the voices of the global user community on Internet name and address resource management issues, as mandated by our mission.

Moreover, while pointing out that ICANN-specific issues only constitute a part of the broader set of issues labeled as “Internet Governance”, we also think that the experience gathered in these years of ICANN could be positively used to draft a workable model for the multi-stakeholder governance of other issues. We want to remain focused on finalizing and operating an effective user participation mechanism within ICANN, but at the same time we think we can bring an important contribution to the next phase of Internet Governance discussions at WSIS.

Finally, we support the Civil Society Declaration, “Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs”, which clearly endorses inclusive participation, transparency, and democratic accountability and recognizes the need for “full and effective participation of marginalized stakeholders like developing and transitional countries, global civil society organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and individual users.” This, in the interest of the global network, should be considered one of the main objectives of any revised structure for Internet governance.

Reference 1:
Declaration of Principles of WSIS
Final version as adopted on Dec 12, 2003 in Geneva
Section 48 and 50

Plan of Actions of WSIS
Final version as adopted on Dec 12, 2003 in Geneva
Section C6, 13, a, b, c, d

Reference 2:
Shaping Information Societies for Human Needs
Civil Society Declaration to the World Summit on the Information Society
Unanimously Adopted by the WSIS Civil Society Plenary on 8 December 2003
Global Governance of ICT and Communications - Section 2.4.7

By Vittorio Bertola, ICANN At Large Advisory Committee, Chairman

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