2009 World Telecom Policy Forum: All About The ITU Mandate28/04/2009 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.LISBON – The role of information and communications technology (ICTs) in boosting global economic recovery plus the greening and convergence of ICTs were made top issues of the 4th World Telecom Policy Forum (WTPF) in Lisbon held on 22-24 April.The WTPF is held by the ITU every four years to allow the debate on current issues in telecommunication policy and the passage of non-binding opinions on these issues. In 2009, the forum focussed on internet-related public policy matters, next-generation networks, ICTs and climate change, security, new internet addresses, and the reform of the international telecommunications regulations.The most controversial topic for the 144-year-old United Nations organisation remains how much it should cover internet governance topics, including internet resource management currently in the hands of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and other issues currently debated at the UN-led Internet Governance Forum (IGF).“It is about the mandate,” Richard Beaird, acting United States coordinator for international communications and information policy, confirmed to Intellectual Property Watch. The discussion has been going on for years, he added.The ITU has undertaken several projects over the years that target internet-related issues. The protection of children online, part of the 2007 cybersecurity agenda, is one of the newest and – according to statements by a number of member states – most non-controversial additions.Yet there is significant potential for new tasks to be taken up by the ITU following the wide range of issues addressed in the six opinions (the format for decisions made at the forum) and additional background papers by the ITU secretary general last week. These also focussed on emerging regulatory issues like internet neutrality, identity management, privacy and various aspects of security.With regard to the next-generation networks that the ITU has said before will become the “successor” to the internet, the non-profit Internet Society (ISOC) insisted on the contrary that the end-to-end based “internet model” must be preserved as a guarantee of innovation.On internet protocol version 6 (IPv6), the next wave of internet addresses that will become necessary when the current shorter IPv4 numbers run out, the ITU is still working on a model to become a registry for some member states.The United States took exception in its written statement for the forum to the addition of data protection and privacy in the report of the ITU secretary general. And Germany said cybercrime is an issue to be tackled primarily by national governments and not the ITU.ITU’s Internet Mandate“There is no internet without a telephone line,” Touré said at the press conference, in answer to the frequently repeated journalist question about “his ambitions” with regard to internet governance. He added at the same time the standard answer that he does not want to take over ICANN, the internet technical coordinating body.In his report which included the six opinions, however, Touré said that “substantive discussions, some of which suggest very significant changes in the present governance mechanisms for the internet, on these issues continue.” It is “necessary to create an environment that enables governments, on an equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities in international public policy issues pertaining to the internet,” he said.“The management of internet resources, international internet interconnection [that is, tariffs and accessibility], the importance of the creation of internet exchanges and registries, the multilingual internet and diversity of participation in the internet and of the IP network identifiers” should be further discussed by a dedicated ITU working group, according to Touré`s report.The forum opinion on “internet-related public policy issues,” one of six opinions passed by member states during this year’s forum, led to the most controversial debates between member states. Syria and France had a face-off in the final plenary about who was in charge of the process of “enhanced cooperation,” a process adopted by the 2003-2005 World Summit of the Information Society without a commonly accepted definition of the concept.The discussion was initiated by a UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) statement delivered by IGF Secretary Markus Kummer. UNDESA is the institutional home of the IGF, which is not an organisation but a UN forum. The statement reported on the answers of various internet governance organisations to questions by UNDESA about their efforts with regard to enhanced cooperation.Most organisations thought of the process as “facilitating and contributing to multi-stakeholder dialogue” and that the purpose of such cooperation would range from “information and experience-sharing, consensus-building and fundraising to technical knowledge transfer and capacity building,” reported Kummer.The “thematic focuses of the cooperation arrangements covered by these organisations are very much in line with those being discussed at the IGF and here at the WTPF,” Kummer said, quoting the answers to the UNDESA questionnaire. “Some of these cooperative arrangements have already taken place among these core organisations, and more are being developed with other partners and these organisations.”Nabil Kisrawi, Syria`s permanent representative to the ITU, said that enhanced cooperation must be handled by a dedicated working group of the ITU Council, and ITU administrative body consisting of elected member state representatives, and not by the IGF. Enhanced cooperation was not taken up in two-and-a-half years after the WSIS and it was in the opinion of many Arab states an issue for member states to tackle, he said.Bertrand de la Chapelle, special envoy for the information society at French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, said that enhanced cooperation was not the exclusive responsibility of the ITU Council working group, but that all international organisations should equally contribute.Governments Divided over ITU Role in Critical Internet ResourcesHow deeply member states are divided about ITU’s role in internet governance became clear from their plenary statements at the forum. Algeria recommended “to set up a supreme authority for the management of internet resources under the auspices of the United Nations, with technical support from the ITU and to establish “a regional (African) institute for internet governance, in liaison with ITU and the relevant services of the United Nations“ and an “telecommunication standardisation institute.“According to Algeria, this is necessary to ensure “that the developing countries, in particular from Africa, have a say in important decisions concerning development of the internet, its resources and its use.”Not only countries from the South agree on a bigger role for ITU. Marder Naum, deputy minister of the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, said the ITU should do more than discuss internet-related public policy matters in dedicated working groups, it also should look for implementation.More than a mere “advisory role“ for governments on internet resources would be welcome, according to Peter Voss, head of division, international ICT policy, at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. But the German government like its colleagues from other western industrialised countries does not favour bigger institutional changes with regard to internet governance.“In our opinion, the existing procedures to shape the global internet have resulted in quite adequate decisions and results,” said Voss. And while a bigger role for governments in ICANN was requested, Voss also expressed his hope “that in the future the various organisations that are active in the field of internet governance will cooperate more closely rather than work side by side or even against each other.”“This objective is in line with what we believe was the objective of the initiatives that were taken by Secretary General Touré last year at the ICANN conference in Cairo and at the IGF in Hyderabad,” said Voss. Touré had made highly critical comments on both occasions and described the IGF as possibly becoming a waste of time because of its non-decision-making role.ITU, the Multi-stakeholder OrganisationTouré applauded the WTPF format that allowed discussion without the need to formal negotiating of resolutions (as WTPF only passes “opinions“) and also embraced the multi-stakeholder concept for the ITU in general and the WTPF format especially.“This is the only forum in the world where you have member states, the private sector, international organisations, NGOs all sitting in the same manner, just in alphabetical order, on equal footing, working hand in hand. That is the culture of ITU in general for the last 145 years.”Germany’s representative had in fact argued during the plenary session that his government “believed that the restructuring of various decision-making processes regarding internet governance will not get the global political support that is necessary unless companies, the civil society and user groups are adequately involved in the decision-making process.”Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, an expert on internet governance issues who was representing International Association for Media and Communication research (IAMCR), said: “Civil society was not allowed to make an oral statement here at the WTPF in Lisbon. I was told that we could only make written statements by the person in charge of procedural questions.” This contradicts the multi-stakeholder model, Kleinwaechter argued.Author Tapscott Appeals to Member States to Change IP SystemA fervent appeal to change the IP system came from well-known book author Don Tapscott. Tapscott said during the Strategic Dialogue on the financial crisis that preceded the WTPF that the world was not just in an economic crisis.“We are in the very early days of a profound change,” said Tapscott, “where many of our institutions, like the global financial system, have taken us to a certain point, but are no longer able to take us forward.”The global financial system, for example, needs more than a fresh infusion of capital and some new regulation. Rather, “it needs a whole new operating model, based on integrity, transparency, sharing of intellectual property. We should open source risk management. There should be a ‘Linux of risk management’,” he said, referring to the open source software.With regard to the defence of the recording industry by regulation like France’s emerging three-strikes policy, he warned: “This is totally futile and it goes against the interest of Europe. We have to rethink IP. Sadly the system that brought you Elvis and the Beatles is collapsing, not because of pirates, but because of its own failure to adapt,” he said. Global governance in general has to be rethought too, he said.The Portuguese host’s Magellan project delivering 500,000 government and telecommunications company-subsidised mini-laptops to schoolchildren around the country was declared a model of how to react to the economic and crisis and a first idea for a greater “digital Marshall” plan favoured by the ITU Secretary General who announced it would present details for such a plan at the World Telecommunications conference in Geneva later this year.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 Google+ (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)RelatedMonika Ermert may be reached at email@example.com."2009 World Telecom Policy Forum: All About The ITU Mandate" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.