[bestbits] UN Working Group considering mechanisms for global governance of Internet fails

parminder parminder.js at gmail.com
Thu Feb 1 09:48:36 EST 2018

The UN General Assembly mandated Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation
(on international Internet related public policies) which was tasked to
develop institutional means for appropriate governance of the global
Internet folded up yesterday after 4 years of work ( 2 years each of two
versions) without making any recommendation. I wrote the following email
to the group that lays out how I see the group's work, especially its
failure to come up with any recommendation...


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	thanks, goodbye, and a few reflections on WGEC
Date: 	Thu, 1 Feb 2018 19:22:35 +0530
From: 	parminder <parminder.js at gmail.com>
To: 	CSTD-WGEC at unctad.org <CSTD-WGEC at unctad.org>, stdev <stdev at unctad.org>

Dear All

As the two years of WGEC end (4 for me, continuing from the last WGEC),
one departs with a lot of learning, growth and good memoires. Thank you
all for being a part of it. I wish to say farewell to all, till we meet

On the work side: after a night’s sleep over it, this is what I feel
about the WGEC’s work.

There were promising exciting moments in the last hours. If these could
have come earlier it might just have been possible for us to have made
some progress. But then, unfortunately, they did not. In the end, my
summative assessment is as follows. It would have been nice to have had
a report, but it is more truthful that there isnt one. That is the true
reflection of the state of affairs. And while we have responsibilities
to ourselves and to the group of nice-ness and collegiality, there is a
much higher responsibility of telling the undiluted truth to the global

And the truth is that on the matter of how public governance of the
global Internet and the digital phenomenon should be undertaken in the
UN, we today are even more apart then we were even at the WSIS. A good
proof of it comes from examining what was the central piece of the
excitement of the last hours yesterday (an excitement, I admit, I shared
in the room at that time.). At Tunis, the global community could agree
that (1) the current mechanisms of global public governance of the
Internet were inadequate ( Tunis Agenda, para 60), and (2) urgent
further work is needed that “could envisage creation of a suitable
framework or mechanisms…” ( para 61). Seventeen years after WSIS, when
theInternet/ digital has transformed the world beyond what anyone could
haveimaginedin Tunis, and there are unthinkably monumental governance
needs and challenges, a weak formulation that we can continue to
consider “the possibility of new [institutional approaches]” was offered
as the “big” (and the only) carrot. That too only in the last few hours.

And then is was quickly withdrawn, seeminglyin exchange of putting, in a
portion of the report that mentioned“the keyissues discussed” (and of
course non agreed ), a para or two each of the two key divergent
positions on the need fornew institutional development. This would just
have been a factual statement of what actually got presented and
discussed, but not agreed.While I myself shared in the excited
possibility of us getting some agreement somehow, it is evident that
this was much less that what the Tunis Agenda already mentions. Although
it is admittedlybetter that what has evergot into the texts since then,
which was why some of us wereready to take it, until the offer got
withdrawn. This is where the negotiations collapsed, as the time was in
any case not on our side.

A “no report” therefore conveys the fact of the matter more truthfully
to our constituents that a report that, apologies the for dismissive
tone, but, honestly, largely said things to the effect that “people in
the world should be more honest and friendly”. Would such a reporthave
representedprogress? Not in my view. It would more likely have been a
smoke screen of seemingprogress on the subject, for some unnecessary
months or years, which would have onlyretardedurgent consideration of
this most important global public policy imperative, whichis required
right now. We are already late in fact.

So rather than rue that we could not agree to some weak and largely
meaningless report regardinghow global public governance of the Internet
(and the digital phenomenon) should be done, let us be satisfied that we
put inour best efforts to converge, and then honestly we let the world
know that there does notyet exist the political will to develop
appropriate global mechanismsof public governance of the Internet. Even
in tragedy, honestly serves better that superfluous make-believes
thatcould elevate one’sspirits temporarily. Thepublic interest is served
best by stating the actual fact, and we did that by the act of “no report”.

I much thank Amb Benedicto for his exceptionally patient, inclusive and
capable handling of a very difficult discussion. Special kudos for the
secretariat for providing high quality professional helpthat never
slipped, which letour work go on sosmoothly.

And a warm thanks and goodbye to all members.

Best regards


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