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Regime Change on the Internet: Conference Notes

“Regime Change on the Internet? Internet Governance after WGIG” was the first public event held in the United States on July 28, 2005 to review the UN Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) report. Here are my notes from the event:

“What the UN Working Group Proposed”

Markus Kummer, Executive Coordinator, UN Working Group on Internet Governance, reminded the audience that the mandate of the WGIG was specifically articulated by the first part of the WSIS - “To investigate and make proposals for action as appropriate”. It was not for sweeping regime change as the conference title would suggest.

Kummer presented a high level overview of the WGIG report. Specific references were made to the following sections:

  • What is it all about - it is not all about ICANN
  • Working definition of internet governance
  • Guiding principles and factors
  • The development dimension
    • Meaningful participation by developing countries
    • Building of capacity by developing countries so that they can address IG issues.
  • Identification of Public Policy issues
    • List of high priority issues as identified by the working group
    • Important that the WG recognized Freedom of Expression as a priority public policy issue
  • Roles & Responsibilities of all stakeholders
    • Report is not conclusive in this regard. Position is evolving
    • Role depends on issue
  • One category of stakeholder not normally included is that of the “Academic and Scientific community”.
    • They are not included in the G8/UN group of “civil society/government & business” list of stakeholders.
    • No recommendations/proposals to include them (as a new type of stakeholder)


Again reminded those attending the event that the mandate of the WGIG was not to suggest change, however the members of the WG felt it “important” to make recommendations:

  • Concept of a “Forum”
    • Proposal that academic and technical organizations and institutions in “developed world” partner with “developing” countries
    • Based on cooperation between developed and developing countries
    • Notes that many issues are now discussed at OECD, however it is not a space for dialogue for all stakeholders (not accessible to all)
  • Oversight Arrangement options
    • Further Internationalization
    • Recommendation that coordination among existing organizations involved in IG be improved.
    • Governments SHOULD NOT be involved in day to day operations.
  • Policy discussion
    • International dialogue only works if dialogue is also occurring at national & regional level
    • There are many possibilities for governance arrangements at national and regional level. (ie. Brazilian model, OECD, etc)
  • Recommendations to address Internet related Public Policy Issues
    • Listed/ reviewed public policy issues highlighted in WGIG report
    • High level recommendations where made
    • Specific issues where urgent action needed also mentioned in report. Among others, the following where specifically mentioned:
      • Root Server
      • Interconnection
      • Freedom of expression, Privacy, Data protection
      • Multi-lingual content
  • Importance of the (WGIG) Process
    • Emphasis was made that the WGIG process in itself was important.
    • Process noted to be : open &  inclusive, where ALL stakeholders where actively encouraged to participate.

Way Forward

  • Borrowing the “EU” term - “acquis communautaire” , there was mention of a “WSIS acquis”
  • The way forward should be “an open & inclusive process”
  • Continuation of multi-stakeholder debate
  • Need to set the agenda going forward
    • Identification of priority issues

“The US Perspective on Internet Governance and WSIS”

Richard Beaird, Senior Deputy U.S. Coordinator, US State Department, Communication and Information Policy section:

Introductory Comments:

  • “WGIG report of great interest to United States Government (USG)”
  • Report is an “interesting document that fulfills the assignment”
  • In the remaining time allotted (at this conference) will try to highlight 2-3 key themes

Key Themes:

1. USG has a central role to play.

  • USG has had a long and central role in the development of the internet USG has been part of each process that has resulted in decisions, and has continued in this role.
  • US position (now) is a vision on governance based on 4 principles. These principles have been part of an evolution, one that where preceded by 6 key principles presented at WSIS Phase I.

2. Internet Governance - What are we talking about ?

  • The 4 principles are consistent with USG policy.
  • Principles have come from ongoing bilateral discussions with governments & consultations with business sector
  • “Security of the Network” - is an issue “preoccupation” (concern) . Sense of instability related to concern that “anything is possible”
  • Emphasis made:
    • USG takes its historical role “very seriously”
    • “We are who we are”
    • Message to the world - “We will do anything to maintain the stability of the network.”
    • “Not taking away from the technical role of ICANN”
  • USG sees that there are (already) well established norms and procedures.
  • The network has well-established itself as a generator of economic value. Countries around the world are adding value and economic activity - allows for tremendous growth.
  • USG has responsibility as it has been the originator of the network, and need to make sure that nothing goes wring.

3. Public Policy Issues

  • Reference made to the fact that “Freedom of Expression” as a core value was mentioned by the report. USG shares this view.
  • Ultimately governments are arbiters of public interest, especially in the areas of - Security and Freedom of expression.
  • USG always ready to engage in dialogue
    • Emphasis made that dialogue should be continuous
    • Ongoing bilateral dialogue with other governments as well as private sector (no mention made of CS)
    • Recognizes that dialogue is “complex” and occurring at multiple fora.

4. Summary:

  • Historical role gives USG a responsibility

Full event notes and further comments on the WGIS Report available on Privaterra blog.

By Robert Guerra, Managing Director, Privaterra

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terastra  –  Aug 18, 2005 1:26 AM

“Roles & Responsibilities of all stakeholders”

Note the wording.

Not “Rights and Responsibilities”.

Responsibilities are laid down, but nobody is about to formulate a Bill of Rights for individual Domian Name holders or content publishers on the internet.

Until then, Individual stakeholders have little to expect from the WSIS process.

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