Geneva Internet Platform Launches: Neutral Ground For Net Governance

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With yesterday’s launch of the new Geneva Internet Platform, global internet governance stakeholders have a new venue for neutral engagement.

Swiss authorities and the DiploFoundation officially launched the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) on 8 April in Geneva, with the aim of engaging digital actors, fostering the digital governance and monitoring digital policies.

The initiative is in response to the “urgent need for the international community to address growing risks and vulnerabilities faced by governments, corporation, citizens while still ensuring digital growth and innovation,” Ambassador Alexandre Fasel, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, said at the opening event held at the DiploFoundation.

Michael Møller, acting director general of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), said the GIP is “crucial, timely and is going to be very important for us.”

Fasel gave a special tribute to Ruedi Noser, member of the Swiss Parliament, and Walter Steinlin, president of the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation, the founder of the initiative.

The project has been discussed for almost three years, said Jovan Kurbalija, founding director of DiploFoundation, which will operate the platform. Diplo was established in 2002 as an independent non-profit foundation by the governments of Malta and Switzerland. It aims to help small and developing states “build the capacity to engage effectively in international policy processes, negotiations, and diplomacy,” according to its website.

The new platform will be open to all stakeholders in internet governance, and is intended to provide a place where they can promote their activities and engage in discussion. It will help to bridge the gap between existing policy silos, said Fasel.

The GIP will also be an inclusive and responsible system, “where all stakeholders can find their needs, make their needs heard in the discussion, in particular as regards to the developing world,” said Philipp Metzger, director-general of the Swiss Federal Office of Communication.

This initiative is also intended to affirm Geneva as the world centre for internet governance (IG) issues.

Geneva has a key role in this issue, as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) started here, noted Møller. Moreover, several panellists underlined that 50 percent of organisations working in fields related to internet governance are based in Geneva, including the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the umbrella body on IG issues created by the WSIS process.

This will be amplified by the likely growing presence of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Geneva.

The GIP will focus on three main elements: engaging digital actors, fostering the digital governance, and monitoring digital policies, said Kurbalija. Activities will take place in situ in Geneva, but a lot of them will take place online, he added.

Fasel stated that the platform will act as an “observatory on matters pertaining to the internet and as a capacity-building centre and facilitator on all questions related to internet.”

It will firstly serve as a neutral and impartial space of discussion, where stakeholders feel confident and crystallize their common purpose, he added.

But it will also be a capacity-building space, providing on site and online training. The “just-in-time” training and assistance for diplomats is one of the first initiatives launched by the GIP. It results from the observation that diplomats are often engaging in several parallel negotiations in different fields.

“The course curriculum is built around policy processes they follow,” Kurbalija told Intellectual Property Watch.

Although the GIP was launched officially on 8 April, it already has been in use for a few months, building on DiploFoundation activities, and the first “just-in-time” training on IG is currently taking place (6 March to 8 May 2014).

Twenty diplomats will “learn about internet policy and prepare for their work,” added Kurbalija, mainly as preparation for the upcoming NETMundial meeting. NETMundial is a global multistakeholder meeting on the future of internet governance, taking place in Sao Paolo, Brazil on 23-24 April.

The next “just-in-time” course in September will focus on online privacy in preparation for the Human rights Council. Remote hubs also provides tools, which are used to help people living outside of Geneva to relate Geneva-based discussion to their local needs.

Data Mining

A second panel at the launch presented data-mining tools developed by DiploFoundation for diplomatic negotiations and drafting. Vladimir Radunović, coordinator of e-diplomacy educational and training programmes at the DiploFoundation, presented the result of an experimental application of its tool.

The study analysed all 188 submissions sent in advance of the NETMundial meeting. By assessing the occurrence of keywords and determining if they are used in a positive or a negative way, the tool identified several trends. For example, they made predictions as to the most common or divergent issues, and the main concepts around which the final text will address. These tools “will be used for future GIP activities in its function as the observatory of internet governance processes. Through open data approach, it will support evidence-based policymakers worldwide,” Kurbalija told Intellectual Property Watch.

Maëli Astruc is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch. She has a Master’s Degree in International Law from Aix-en-Provence University and a LL.M from Ottawa University. During her studies, she developed a high interest in intellectual property issues in particular related to agriculture and traditional knowledge.

 

Maëli Astruc may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

Comments

  1. R Tayob says

    Neutral ground? Well, if there is adequate recognition that there are limits to what dialogue can achieve in combating human perversity! The First World stood against the Third World for control over Critical Internet Resources. The fight is engaged and this platform needs to sort out its values and politics to determine an orientation. The USG and its obsequious hangers on (a cosmopolitan bunch) have fought and won these battles based on the NONSENSICAL idea of a single root for the internet (to see evidence that this is complete BS see the EFF’s TOR).
    What is the EU speaking about on these issues? Multistakholderism (power to the corporates!)! And we see how far that got the IGF – where a non-binding forum discussion was was PRECLUDED by moderators and UN staffers and others from discussing these issues. People like Karl Auerbach were ridiculed in the most horrific fashion. And if you raise this in UN fora, you would get blasted!
    So Diplo has done great work and supported many good people, but come on… is it not time to take sides in favour of the human right to privacy? Is there not a privacy genocide happenig?
    Or do we continue the ‘look at the terrorist muslims meme’ so that what is left of civil liberties is wiped out? Are we all PATRIOTs now?
    Perhaps it is time Northerners were reintroduced to their leaders civilising mission and their politicians (cos the financial crisis was not enough apparently)?
    And the Swiss? Well first they have to come clean about US spying on diplomatic missions in Geneva. Then they have to reflect on the privacy violation of SWIFT after 2nd 911 which gave all transactions details to the US – and they wonder why their bankers are now unofficial employees of the US IRS?
    With this context, the expectations of such a platform will be high… but methinks the politics of the matter is under appreciated… after all, these are OLD struggles for the third world… could it even be possible that the First World could learn from them?
    And is not a clean up of civil society required? US apologist hacks have ‘infiltrated’ most meaningful processes (now better understood with the NSA playbook) and will continue to be disruptive apologists for human rights violations. Neutrality cannot be a cover for their engagement – they have done it before at the UN.
    The context of the EU being unable to invite Snowden to their countries should be kept firmly in mind (and he should stay put otherwise he can end up like a Shaker Aamer; and the ECJ has set precedent to extradite alleged muslim terrorists pointedly ignoring evidence that they would face torture in the US: UN special rap said extended solitary confinement was torture BUT WAS IGNORED by the court completely).

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