Controversy Over New IGF Mandate, UN Role In Internet Governance 04/11/2010 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 4 Comments IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. A first proposal on the future mandate of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is on the agenda this week at the ongoing 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. A proposal prepared by the Group of 77 and China opts for another five-year mandate for the IGF to discuss internet public policy related issues and embraces the so-called multi-stakeholder principle. A proposal by China to “create through a global democratic procedure an authoritative and equitable international body for the governance of the internet within the framework of the United Nations,” appears to have been taken out of an earlier version of the document. An internet governance body in the UN would have once more fuelled fears about a UN takeover of internet governance. The G77 and China proposal, by the title “Information and communication technologies for development,” had been discussed by the second committee of the UN plenary at a closed meeting during their first informal consultations, a UN spokesperson told Intellectual Property Watch. At the same time, he said there was still no official resolution on the IGF mandate, and no indication on when there would be one and when the General Assembly would take up the issue. Yet according to observers, a debate on the tabled G77 proposal was on the agenda in New York. Reading through an earlier version of the document, Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, professor at the University of Aarhuus, internet governance expert, and special advisor to the IGF Chair Nitin Desai, said: “It’s notable that multi-stakeholderism obviously is a pretty much accepted concept by now. The term stakeholder is mentioned over ten times in the resolution.” In the proposal, the inclusion of governments, as well as “other stakeholders” – meaning the private sector and NGOs – is mentioned for two other processes in the UN related to internet governance. These are: a consultation of a special working group of the Committee for Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) on IGF improvements and a consultation to be organised by the UN Secretary General on the so-called “enhanced cooperation.” “Enhanced cooperation” had been introduced into the 2005 Tunis Agenda of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to mollify criticism many countries had with regard to the privileged US oversight role over critical internet infrastructures like the domain name system. But enhanced cooperation had never been understood in the same way by the many players in internet governance. Kleinwächter welcomed the mention of public-private partnerships as part of a multi-stakeholder cooperation between governments, civil society and IT industry. Yet, the final decision about how the CSTD working group on IGF improvements will be organised – and how open it will be – will only be made during its next meeting on 24 November. The tough issues with regard to the IGF’s future as reflected in the G77 proposal are funding and oversight. A closer integration into the UN system, while bringing official UN funding, is seen by some observers as a possible threat to the independent status. The original G77 proposal contained two ideas for funding, one asking for official UN funding, the other calling on member states and, again, other stakeholders to put up for it. According to a special graph, Brazil also wanted to underline the need for structural reform of the IGF to allow for a complete fulfilment of the mandate. Brazil always favoured the IGF being bolder in making recommendations on internet governance issues. The question about how much IGF reform should be driven by the General Assembly, by the CSTD or the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) now has to be carved out. A proposal by China contained in the now tabled G77 document asks the CSTD to especially check in their studies about IGF improvement on the increase of representation of the developing countries, the incorporation of the IGF budget in the UN budget and assistance to developing countries for their participation in IGF meetings. Also, “the preparation process, modalities of its work and the functioning of the Secretariat should be improved, the provision of paragraph 78 of the Tunis Agenda on establishing a cost-effective bureau to support the IGF should be implemented, and the balanced representation of all stakeholders and geographical regions should be ensured.” In this form the proposal delves much further into the details of IGF reform than some western member states want. A reference to UNDESA has also been taken out, observers say. The final decision on the issue will only be taken in the plenary votes in December. Reading the G77 proposal, Kleinwächter said he expected three topics had to be watched next year: the CSTD report and resolution proposal for May 2011, the Secretary General’s report on enhanced cooperation after the end of the respective consultations in December and follow-up discussions at the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) and the final funding for the next five years of the IGF. “We do not support the integration of the IGF into the UN budget, said Ayesha Hassan of the International Chamber of Commerce, pointing to a statement by her organisation on the debate in New York. “The multi-stakeholder nature of the IGF is best supported by a multi-stakeholder funding mechanism,” she said. The ICC also supported an independent IGF secretariat based in Geneva. And Hassan said the ICC hoped for an open and inclusive CSTD working group on the IGF improvements. Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Controversy Over New IGF Mandate, UN Role In Internet Governance" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.