[bestbits] Next steps on principles (was Re: Coordination...)

Jeremy Malcolm jeremy at ciroap.org
Thu Dec 6 04:45:10 EST 2012

On 04/12/2012, at 12:01 AM, Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch> wrote:

> Anriette Esterhuysen <anriette at apc.org> wrote:
>> This does bring us back to our 'Best Bits' goal about developing and
>> proposing principles for internet governance. Should we not begin to
>> plan our next steps?
> Absolutely.
> How can things realistically be moved forward in a positive,
> constructive way?

I worry that the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" meme with which most are approaching WCIT will solidify into a general opposition to any global norm-setting outside of the Internet technical community's institutions, and that Internet policy development will thereby be confined to the national level.  This is not helped by the US government's predisposition to avoid taking on international obligations (the Disabilities Treaty being the latest example, besides the Law of the Sea, the International Criminal Court, the Cybercrime Convention, the Treaty for the Visually Impaired, etc) - except of course through multilateral trade agreements!  I think we need to work on addressing that perception, and point out that:

1. Multi-stakeholder Internet governance will be soft law, guidance rather than compulsion.
2. Even the US is promulgating global Internet norms through fora that suit it (OECD, APEC, and the "free flow of information" provisions in the TPP).
3. So we need to move this into multi-stakeholder global fora, at a higher level that does not bind anyone, and need not restrict national policy space.
4. There are various non-technical Internet policy issues that have no appropriate global home (nor should the ITU become their home).
5. For example, a potential core competency is connecting Internet governance with human rights, as a framework to guide the development of national and multilateral norms for IP enforcement.
6. Let's propose an IGF-based multi-stakeholder enhanced cooperation mechanism that would be an acceptable way to deal with such issues.

We all hate hierarchy, but sometimes a little bit of structure is necessary to provide firm enough guidance to policymakers (look at the failure of IPv6 adoption).  The existing loose network of Internet governance institutions, even if their "cooperation" is "enhanced", isn't structured enough to provide such guidance in a way that will satisfy the stakeholders (governmental and non-governmental) who are seeking more from the enhanced cooperation process.

At Best Bits a few options were described, though we ran out of time to debate them.  As I see it, there is a UN-linked option (which in turn divides into an IGF-based option or an IGF-independent option), or there is a UN-independent option (the Enhanced Cooperation Task Force, ECTF).  So far, almost none of us have been serious about pursuing any of these.  But the status quo is not going to hold.  One way or another, Internet governance is going to evolve, and it will do so with us or without us.  We've spoken loudly enough about what we don't want - the ITU.  So, what do we want?

Dr Jeremy Malcolm
Senior Policy Officer
Consumers International | the global campaigning voice for consumers
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