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

Dave Burstein daveb at dslprime.com
Thu Feb 1 16:15:50 EST 2018


Thanks for this. As usual, there was minimal press reporting.

I don't have the details of the "civil society" position on this. My point
of view I believe well-informed but please speak up if you think I have it

Parminder and others, I'd welcome hearing about anything from Civil Society
that differs from the U.S. position of preventing the ITU or any group with
a strong government component from doing anything of substance.

(The euphemism is "only high order principles.) I'm sure folks like Vint
Cerf support "multistakeholder" and "consensus" for honorable fear of
governments. Knowing Parminder's work, I expect he's in that camp, also for
honorable reasons.

The key governments with that point of view are playing realpolitik,
wanting to make sure that nothing hinders what the U.S. is doing around the

For those new to this discussion, "enhanced cooperation" was put into the
WSIS as a concession to governments who thought they should have an active
role. It deferred the discussion so a consensus document could be put out.

Since then, the U.S. and allies have fought hard to block anything of the
sort. It's part of the U.S. effort to keep China and Russia far away from
any Internet issues, especially security. (I'm on a State Department
Committee and have senior sources.) Please note: I'm saying this about the
*government* position. I am not implying that the Parminder of NGOs have
similar motivation.

The U.S. "walked out" of the WCIT over this and in 2017 continued to block
anything substantive at the ITU.

Demanding "multistakeholder consensus" sounds noble but means that any
major government has a de facto veto over any action. The U.S. has used
this to block efforts to ensure reasonable royalties, reduce cartel-like
pricing for backhaul/transit, and expect the multinationals to pay taxes.

Which I'm told are the most important *international* issues keeping the
cost of access high.


On Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 9:48 AM, parminder <parminder.js at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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...
> parminder
> -------- 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> <parminder.js at gmail.com>
> To: CSTD-WGEC at unctad.org <CSTD-WGEC at unctad.org> <CSTD-WGEC at unctad.org>,
> stdev <stdev at unctad.org> <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 again!
> 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 public.
> 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 the Internet/ digital has transformed
> the world beyond what anyone could have imagined in 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, seemingly in exchange of putting, in a
> portion of the report that mentioned “the key issues discussed” (and of
> course non agreed ), a para or two each of the two key divergent
> positions on the need for new 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 admittedly better
> that what has ever got into the texts since then, which was why some of
> us were ready 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 report have represented
> progress? Not in my view. It would more likely have been a smoke screen
> of seeming progress on the subject, for some unnecessary months or years, which
> would have only retarded urgent consideration of this most important
> global public policy imperative, which is 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 regarding how global public governance of the Internet
> (and the digital phenomenon) should be done, let us be satisfied that we put
> in our best efforts to converge, and then honestly we let the world know
> that there does not yet exist the political will to develop appropriate
> global mechanisms of public governance of the Internet. Even in tragedy, honestly
> serves better that superfluous make-believes that could elevate one’s
> spirits temporarily. The public 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 help that never
> slipped, which let our work go on so smoothly.
> And a warm thanks and goodbye to all members.
> Best regards
> parminder
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