What Questions Did The WSIS+10 High Level Event Answer? 16/06/2014 by Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and are not associated with Intellectual Property Watch. IP-Watch expressly disclaims and refuses any responsibility or liability for the content, style or form of any posts made to this forum, which remain solely the responsibility of their authors. By Richard Hill Consultant Richard Hill writes: The WSIS+10 High Level Event (HLE) last week unanimously adopted two documents (a Statement and a Vision), consisting of some 37 pages of text. What can be learned from this event regarding the evolution of the Internet and its governance? Some of what can be learned confirms what was learned from Netmundial. This short note covers only such items (that is, those that overlap Netmundial), and it may not cover all such items. The HLE output contains many items that were not covered by Netmundial, and Netmundial covered some items that were not covered by the HLE (in particular mass surveillance and the transition of the IANA function). Regarding the Process 1. A fully open preparatory process and final plenary (the “event” itself), with all participants having equal rights, will result in a rich exchange of views. 2. It is important to empower the leadership team (chair and secretariat) to produce draft proposals for further discussion and approval by consensus. This was left to a rather late stage during the HLE Multi-stakeholder Preparatory Process (MPP) and arguably it would have been more efficient to do this earlier (but some participants had objected to this being done earlier). 3. In order to achieve consensus, the outcome for contentious issues will often be weak compromise text. 4. It is possible to reach unanimous agreement even for contentious issues, but it requires great efforts (in this case, significant intervention by the ITU Secretary-General) and significant time (see point 6 below). 5. It is probably better to ask for statements of dissent, if any, prior to formal approval by acclamation. This will avoid post-approval statements of dissent such as those voiced at Netmundial (the chair of the HLE asked for such pre-approval statements of dissent, but none were made). 5. Traditional intergovernmental organizations can adapt their working methods to facilitate full multi-stakeholder participation. 6. The traditional technique of allowing all participants to speak from their seats, using microphones, with no time limits, encourages interventions. This enhances participation but consumes significant amounts of time (the MPP took 16 days, resulting in 37 pages of text; in comparison, Netmundial took 2 days, resulting in 8 pages of text; however, the MPP achieved unanimous agreement except for about 1 page, whereas Netmundial operated on the basis of “rough consensus”. The MPP disagreements were resolved prior to the HLE thanks to the intervention of the ITU Secretary-General, see point 4 above). 7. A clear operational definition of “consensus” should be adopted up front, so that everybody knows whether unanimity will be required or not. Regarding the Substance 8. All human rights must be respected online as well as offline. 9. Discussions regarding security and protection of privacy must continue. 10. The multi-stakeholder model must be democratic and be based on the roles and responsibilities outlined in the Tunis Agenda (see item 5 of the HLE Vision and item 3 of the Priorities of the Vision). 11. Maintain open standards development processes that encourage innovation. 12. Affordable access to ICTs, including the Internet, should be promoted. 13. Capacity building should take place. 14. Efforts should continue to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society. 15. Intellectual property rights should balance the interests of creators, implementers and users. 16. Discussions on network neutrality should continue. Conclusion The HLE and Netmundial, and their preparatory processes, confirm that multi-stakeholder discussions will result in a rich exchange of views, but that it might be difficult, or at least time-consuming, to reach full consensus on delicate issues. As a consequence, weak compromise text tends to be adopted. Clear agreement up front regarding what constitutes consensus might make it easier to agree stronger text. Some have taken the view that Netmundial somehow repudiated certain portions of the WSIS outcomes, but that view has been disputed. It is this author’s view that Netmundial actually confirmed the roles and responsibilities of the several stakeholders outlined in the Tunis Agenda and that the HLE built on that, once again confirming those respective roles and responsibilities (see also the policy statement made by Brazil at the HLE). In any case, the HLE outcome, which was unanimously agreed by all stakeholders – who participated in the MPP and in the HLE with equal rights – confirms the roles of the several stakeholders. That is the case since: Item 5 of the HLE Vision states that: “The WSIS multistakeholder approach which is essential in building the information society should be harnessed emphasising its benefits, recognising that it has worked well in some areas; and that it should be improved, strengthened and applied in some other areas.” And item 3 of the Priorities of the Vision calls for “Strengthening open, democratic, transparent and inclusive WSIS multistakeholder approach, enabling all stakeholders to participate according to their respective roles and responsibilities, in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action.” One might thus hope that there would no longer be any proposals that private companies should have equal rights with states with respect to public policy decisions (such proposals had been voiced at the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation). As Brazil put the matter it its policy statement at the HLE: “A number of issues are best dealt with by multistakeholder institutions, while multilateral decision-making (informed by multistakeholder processes) is necessary on issues that must be enforced directly through international mechanisms, or through harmonization of national level legislation and policies. Examples are matters involving trade and taxation, legal jurisdiction and cybercrime.” Other examples can be added. Richard Hill, an independent consultant in Geneva who was formerly a senior staff member at the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), recently published, “The New International Telecommunication Regulations and the Internet: A Commentary and Legislative History.” Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "What Questions Did The WSIS+10 High Level Event Answer?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.