Internet Governance Forum Faces Challenges As UN Hears Proposals For New Bodies 27/09/2011 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this: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 United Nations-led Internet Governance Forum is in its usual dialogue-only mode again this week as it meets in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. But it is facing huge challenges at the beginning of its second five-year mandate. The sixth edition of the forum, which is a product of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, has attracted over 2,000 government, business, academic and civil society representatives to discuss all things cyber for four days. But despite the number of participants, the friendly opening speeches and the large number of events the forum looks a little battered with no leadership selected by the UN so far and various country initiatives for new internet policy bodies to be proposed to the UN General Assembly directly. No, there will again be no recommendations on human rights in the digital world, or on cybersecurity, child online protection or privacy coming from the IGF. This was underlined by IGF Chair Alice Munya, head of the Kenyan Internet Steering Committee, by Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at UN DESA, and other speakers. Stelzer told Intellectual Property Watch that he did not see why the IGF should be marginalized and noted that its mandate was extended to 2015, adding, “We have four more years to go.” Filling the position of the executive secretary, for which around 100 candidates have applied, is being done as quickly as realistically possible, given UN procedures, he promised. Still, there are countries that are not satisfied with the dialogue-only mode for internet governance. India, Brazil and South Africa (referred to as IBSA) recently announced that they would table a proposal at the UN General Assembly for a new UN body “to coordinate and evolve coherent and integrated global public policies pertaining to the Internet.” In some way, the IGF was set up to prevent such a UN body after the big fight over US unilateral oversight of some core internet infrastructure administration. Another proposal comes from other governments that are not content with the IGF – China and Russia supported by Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In their letter to the UN Secretary General, the four countries promote a an international code of conduct for information security and also the “establishment of a multilateral, transparent and democratic international internet management system to ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet.” Civil rights organisations and academics are highly concerned over what they see as the decline of the once-lauded multi-stakeholder model, and they had an ally in Lawrence Strickling, US assistant secretary for communications and information. Strickling warned in his opening remarks at the IGF that the “future of the internet is at risk and the multi-stakeholder model is being challenged,” referring to the IBSA and cybersecurity proposals. Strickling pointed to the African experience and Kenya’s fast growing internet and mobile sector as an example favouring what he called an open and inclusive system. “It is no coincidence,” he said, “that where African countries have embraced the open and multi-stakeholder internet, the percentage of their tax revenues attributed to ICT have soared.” The choice, he said, was between heavily regulated systems and stagnation or openness, inclusiveness and rapid growth. His request was “that all nations should step up in support of the free and open internet and the multi-stakeholder process that has led to its success.” But while civil society groups share the concern about the attacks on the multi-stakeholder model, many question the motives of their allegations. The US and the EU were only “paying lip service to the multi-stakeholder model,” said Jeremy Malcolm from Consumers International. The US, for example, was unwilling to discuss IP issues on the internet, not only in open forums like the IGF, but also at a somewhat more accessible venue like the World Intellectual Property Organization. Meanwhile, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was negotiated between EU, US and nine other countries behind closed doors. “The EU and the US both do not practice what they preach,” said Malcolm. “Their commitment to the multi-stakeholder principle is very shallow.” From Dialogue to Delivery: IGF Internet Principles Document One way to halt the decline of the multi-stakeholder model, according to Malcolm, besides better organisation at coalition-building, would be the development of an internet governance principles document by the IGF. While there already was a flurry of such principles from the Association for Progressive Communication, Brazil and recently the Council of Europe, Malcolm proposed one IGF document shared by all. Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, internet governance expert, special adviser to former IGF Chair Nitin Desai, and professor of international law, underlined that the development of such a principles document at the IGF and a possible framework of commitments might also solve the issue of the IGF having no tangible outcomes. Again there seem to be some allies to this concept, with Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe (CoE), among them. De Boer-Buquicchio said in her opening speech that “the next step for us is to move multi-stakeholder dialogue to multi-stakeholder delivery.” A part of the long-term strategy of the Council, she said, was “to develop a charter of rights for internet users.” CoE representatives, looking at the many initiatives for digital fundamental rights, spoke of something like a “constitutional moment.” Not that there are not also those who feel there are already tangible outcomes to the process. Without the IGF discussions there would be no IGF in Kenya, said Munya. Ghanaian internet pioneer Nii Quaynor also said the IGF had delivered for his community. “Without the IGF there would not have been a national IGF in Ghana,” he said. “And this is what I need to bring my community together.” Share this: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 Monika Ermert may be reached at email@example.com."Internet Governance Forum Faces Challenges As UN Hears Proposals For New Bodies" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.