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Why NETmundial mattered and what was achieved

Published on 25 April 2014
Updated on 05 April 2024

“After two days of intensive negotiations with more than 1300 comments and proposals, the NETmundial summit in São Paulo concluded Thursday evening with the expected Multistakeholder Statement. But the document involves numerous compromises and tradeoffs, feeding frustrations and sparking questions about the future.”

On a day when Presidet Putin called the Internet a CIA project and the row grew over whether the recent FCC ruling on ISP traffic controls threatened net neutraility, all IG eyes were on NETmundial, and on the final declaration. However, the first report from Day Two of NET Mundial from the Diplo team in Brazil continued soberly: “the lively debate about mass surveillance over the Internet during the NETmundial summit did not materialise in the final multistakeholder declaration. Proof of the diverging views and the difficulties in reconciling them in São Paulo, on many aspects the document follows the compromise language of the United National General Assembly resolution of online privacy. The request that surveillance should be proportional was removed from the final version of the text. This is considered a success for the United States delegation.” The remainder of this report can be read on the website of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP).

Key points about the outcome

A later report from Jovan Kurbalija and Vladimir Radunovic, both of whom have been at NETMundial, summarised the outcomes:

  • NETmundial’s final declaration had to be somewhat watered down, and exclude some of the conflicting aspects, in order for a compromise to be hopefully achieved.
  • This NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement is a non-binding set of generally agreed principles and a roadmap that all stakeholders are encouraged to follow.
  • Though surveillance was mentioned in a much lighter way than expected, at the insistence of the USA primarily, it was emphasised that such practices need to be in accordance with international human rights law.
  • As a result of business sector lobbying, the delicate question of net neutrality did not find its place on the final list of principles. It is nevertheless mentioned at the end of the document as an issue to be discussed in the future; another matter of dissatisfaction and frustration for representatives of civil society.
  • Copyright protection, which is one of the aspects that was not present in the document earlier, was added under the provision that distribution of information should be consistent with the rights of authors and creators: another goal scored by the private sector.
  • The Council of Europe delegation managed to get a reference to the responsibility of governments, clearly marked as being accountable for the protection of human rights online.
  • The multistakeholder process has now been somewhat amended to become ‘democratic and multistakeholder’ in a number of instances, as a compromise mainly to India’s position. The notion of respective roles and responsibilities of those stakeholders was left in – to the disappointment of many proponents of the multistakeholder model – but it was also added that these roles and responsibilities should be flexibly interpreted in accordance with the specific issues at hand.
  • Consensus-driven governance, strongly opposed by the Indian delegates, was an issue till the very end, when the proposed compromise wording was to add ‘to the extent possible’ at the end of the phrase.
  • A reference to small and developing countries, besides developing and least developed countries, was added under the paragraph about the need for participation in the IG process that reflects geographic diversity.
  • Enhanced cooperation remains in the document, with reference to the definition in the World Summit of the Information Society/Tunis Agenda, and the ongoing CSTD working group process, where it was confirmed that this process should be implemented on a priority and consensual bases.
  • Remote participation was clearly mentioned as a measure of stakeholder empowerment in the process.
  • The need for comprehensive capacity building, and the need for more financing, is emphasised several times throughout the document.

Read their full report on the GIP platform

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