To assist diplomats in grasping the complexity of this multidisciplinary and multistakeholder political environment, and to bring them up to speed on what to follow, when to follow it, and how to follow it, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), hosted by DiploFoundation, offers a monthly Geneva Briefing on Internet Governance, besides other activities. The briefing webinars will take place online on the first Tuesday of every month at 13:00 hrs (CET). Each briefing aims to discuss the main developments of the previous months and to look into the developments envisaged and global events scheduled for the coming month.
At the February webinar, we mapped the main IG spaces and the expected developments in 2014 – a ‘spaghetti tangle’ of abbreviations: WSIS+10, IGF, ICANN HLPGICGM, /1net, CSTD WGEC, #NETmundial, GICI, GIPO, FOC… Details of the main events are now available on Diplo’s IG community platform calendar.
February’s developments assured a long and interesting list to discuss during our March webinar – a list that we titled ‘Positioning’ (for the NETmundial meeting in São Paulo in April). The buzz in Geneva around IG and human rights was audible. The European Commission came up with a position on Internet policy and governance, focusing on the future of US supervision of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), while emphasising a need for a ‘genuine multistakeholder’ model that would avoid monopolisation of the discussion space by dominant actors. Brazil reminded the EU of a recent joint plan to establish a submarine cable connection between the two, offering to cover majority of costs. The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) issued a press release with regardto its participation at the NETmundial meeting, confirming that the Secretary General Dr Toure is now a member of the conference’s High Level Multistakeholder Committee, and quoting him as he re-emphasised that ‘today’s Internet is a global public good’.
The IGF (Internet Governance Forum) Open Consultation and the MAG (Multistakeholder Action Group) meeting took place in Geneva in a renewed setting: the new MAG members, who comprise about a third of the group, have taken their seats (several of whom are representatives of Geneva Missions of developing countries), together with a new Interim Chair Mr Janis Karklins, former Assistant Director General of Communication and Information at UNESCO (UN Economic and Social Council). The pre-selected main themes for the 2014 IGF meeting in Istanbul – based on previously collected input by the community – included access, content diversity, the Internet as an engine for growth, digital trust, the IGF, IG ecosystem and multistakeholder dialogue, and emerging issues, with both critical Internet resources and human rights being added to the list after a long discussion (and in midst of the developments with a new bill to limit the Internet’s openness in Turkey). MAG re-visited the status of the improvements to the IGF suggested by the CSTD (Commission on Science and Technology for Development). It discussed the possibility of introducing the ‘messages’ from the IGF, based on ISOC (Internet Society) proposal to follow the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) model of RFC (Requests for Comments) as ‘non-binding recommendations’. The importance of e-participation was re-emphasised, while noting that its success is curtailed by the IGF’s limited finances. It was confirmed that the IGF needs to establish a direct link with other ongoing forums (especially NETmundial, ICANN panels, and the ITU process) with the hope that a formal representative of the IGF will soon be appointed who could take on such a task. An open donor meeting was organised by the IGF Secretariat a day after the Open consultations.
The CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation spent a whole week in Geneva for its (supposedly) final meeting, only managing to agree to disagree. The gap between the two polarised positions seems to be too wide: enhanced cooperation in IG as either an inter-governmental process (through a new intergovernmental agency, or an increased role for the ITU, or a framework intergovernmental convention), or a multistakeholder process (with all the stakeholders being on equal footing). The only agreement the group made was to meet again in May, and to try to negotiate a middle ground.
The third physical meeting of the WSIS+10 MPP (Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform) took place in Geneva, focusing on a review of the WSIS Action Lines and a WSIS Vision beyond 2015. A meeting of ICANN’s High Level Panel on GICGM (Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms ) took place in the USA, resulting in the contribution to the NETmundial (which we will discuss in greater detail during our April webinar briefing); at the same time the ICANN President’s Global Advisory Group on Globalisation completed its work, and Strategic Panel on ICANN’s Role in the Internet Governance Ecosystem came up with its result document.
February also witnessed The Day We Fight Back online campaign against mass surveillance, gathering a number of well-known global organisations fighting for the online freedoms, organisations such as Access, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Reddit, Global Voices, La Quadrature du Net, and others. BitCoin is gradually coming to the forefront of emerging policy debates. Russia, for instance, had decided to prohibit its official use; we may expect further developments in the next months.
As for the GIP, besides another well visited Geneva Briefings webinar, two books on IG were launched. After a briefing for Geneva missions about a just-in-time course on IG, the course has started with a group of 20 representatives of Missions to the UN in Geneva combining online learning and regular in situ gatherings at the GIP premises. A gathering of postgraduate students from the College of Europe and the local diplomatic community in Geneva to discuss IG took place, bringing the subject of IG closer to the interests of both groups, as well as enabling a fruitful exchange of opinions about the future of the Internet.
What can we expect in March? ICANN will hold its regular meeting, this time in Singapore 23-27 March, during which strategic panels and advisory groups will communicate their draft reports and findings to the community, in order to polish them for the ICANN’s 50th meeting in London in June; it is likely that the issue of globalisation of ICANN and the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) function will be high on the agenda. ITU WTDC-14, taking place in Dubai from 30 March to 10 April 2014, will discuss guidelines for defining telecommunication development priorities and provide direction and guidance for the four-year work of ITU-D. The /1net platform will work on further improving its discussion interfaces and look for ways to pick up some ‘messages’ from heated discussions and feed them into the NETmundial preparations through established links with the conference committees. NETmundial preparations will enter the final stage, providing input from 187 formal contributions received before the deadline.
The GIP will expand its activities in March. Besides the IG course that it is developing, Dr Jovan Kurbalija will speak at the session on human rights and cybersurveillance at the Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights. The Internet Governance Landscape project will take off, mapping the main IG-related institutions in Geneva and globally. Additionally, based on data-mining techniques, a discourse analysis of the 187 NETmundial contributions will be conducted in order to facilitate insights into the main trends and likely negotiation ground at the conference.
The video recording of the webinar is available below:
The next Geneva Briefing on Internet Governance online webinar will take place on Tuesday, 1st April 2014, 13:00 CET.
For more information and to apply, please follow the link.