World Telecom Policy Forum Agrees On Six Opinions

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By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch

While controversies over the role of governments in internet governance could not be avoided at the World Telecom Policy Forum this week, six prepared opinions were all passed with only minor changes. But a Brazilian proposal to “operationalize the role of governments in the multistakeholder framework of internet governance,” discussed at some length during the concluding day of the forum, did not find consensus.

More about the six opinions on the 13-16 May WTPF can be found here: (IPW, ITU/ICANN, 14 May 2013). The opinions support and promote internet infrastructure, among other things.

The Brazilian proposal included small steps with regard to underlining the need to involve all parties in the internet governance processes and, second, to assign the International Telecommunication Union a facilitating role “to ensure meaningful government participation” in these processes.

A majority of countries, including the United States and many European states, pointed to lack of time for discussion, but also to a procedural issue: the six prepared opinions had been discussed by the Informal Expert Group over quite some time. Brazil’s addition, as well as opinions from Russia and India, were filed late in the process. With no compromise possible, countries in the end fought about where the controversial issues should be discussed further with much the same lines of difference.

The Russian delegation declared it a matter of the ITU Council Working Group (CWG) on Internet Related Public Policy Issues, while the US and EU delegations recommended to tackle it also (or especially) at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) or other multi-stakeholder internet governance fora. Civil society who agreed with Brazil that participating in the WTPF preparatory process had been difficult welcomed a statement by ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré urging an opening up of the CWG. Openness still has to be put into practice in the processes at the ITU as members of the civil society groups reported.

The followup process to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS 10+) was prepared in closed meetings among governments only, warned Wolfgang Kleinwächter, professor at the University of Aarhus. The next stop for the discussions of the role of governments and the ITU will be the plenipotentiary in 2014, where the temporary post-WCIT truce might be over.

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