[Governance] 170 orgs send an open letter to UN SG to stop plans for a new High Level Multistakeholder Body

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Fri Apr 2 03:48:14 EDT 2021

On 01/04/21 11:25 pm, Mueller, Milton L wrote:
> I begin from this point of agreement that the issues here deal "with
> the fundamentals if internal governance".
> MM: I assume you mean “fundamentals of Internet governance…” If so,
> yes, I think it’s good, that’s why we bother to do this.  Let me add
> that the sharpness of our disagreements stem from my sincere belief
> that the policies and institutional changes you advocate would be
> harmful (and you no doubt feel the same) but this should not detract
> from my appreciation of your ability to raise these fundamental issues
> and to put it in a historical context that goes back to WSIS.
Again, agree that this discussion is very important. I would invite
others closely involved with the proposal for the new MS body for
digital cooperation to please also get involved - Such important matters
need to go through the test and fire of discursive democracy.

At this stage I will try and focus on issues in a few clear buckets.

1. The OECD model of digital policy making: There are a few arguments
and clams you are making in this regard. One, that the OECD model is not
a multistakeholder model of digital policy making in your view, even if
OECD and ISOC etc call it multistakeholder, and therefore you really do
not approve of it. You could be clearer and more upfront about such
disapproval, here, and when you/IGP has interacted at numerous occasions
with OCED's digital policy making. You seem to now be disapproving it
only when pushed into an argumentative corner, but well, good enough --
we take it that you disapprove of the OCED model of digital policy making.

Here I will request others who actively work with the OECD model to let
us know their views on that model, clearly and upfront. I repeat; to
support and work with the OECD's CDEP and oppose a similar body in the
UN is both feudal (bec the OECD is a bunch of richest countries
exercising political power over the rest of the world) as it is colonial
(OECD being dominated by western nations). This is extremely relevant to
activity and advocacy with regard to models of global digital policy
making. It wont do to keep ignoring this all important question, which
most of them have avoided for over a decade now. You owe it to the
global public to put forward your views clearly on this matter --
especially now that you propose a new system of global digital public
policy development. Thanks.

Meanwhile, Milton, unfortunately, you also again slip back to saying in
your below email that 'OECD does not make supra-national policy' , which
is completely a untruth. (For instance, see this
<https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ834665>. ) I do not know what more can I do
than what I already did -- linked to the page on OECD's legal
instruments <https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/>, enclosed as I did
earlier a document on an informal WG for drafting a possible legal
instrument on access to private data, etc. It also does not impress you
that OECD's various documents not only explicitly talk about OECD's
policy function, but also lay out OECD's policy making process. OECD
also makes model laws
I cant do anything more on this .... Meanwhile, I have also said that
(1) in any case, UN organisations too do nothing more that all these
OECD activities that I list here etc, and (2) Whatever OECD and UN do or
do not do, can we agree on the same model as the OECD one for the global
level too, whereby you meekly loop back to the earlier logic above that
you do not approve of OECD model even, although you neither say it
clearly, nor put such opposition in action, say, by not working with
OCED or actively writing articles and letters opposing OECD model of
digital policy making.

2 The appropriate model for global digital policy making, as per you:
You have earlier made a clear distinction between CIR governance (ICANN
etc) and governance of other Internet/ digital issues, and rightly so. I
understand that in the latter category we can include platform
governance, data governance, AI governance etc. Right. I now understand,
though once again you state is very mutely, that you would like to see
global governance of platforms, data, AI, and other digital issues
undertaken in the same way as ICANN is governed Right? You need to be
clear and upfront about what is the model you propose for global
governance of these non-CIR digital issues -- because that is what is at
the centre of this discussion.

From your below email I take it that you want the ICANN model, or
similar, for governance of platforms, social media, data, AI etc as
well. ICANN governance model is dominated by the domain name industry,
with some peep in for civil society and governments Milton, are you
really saying we should be dealing with various non-CIR digital public
policy issues in the same manner? Where private sector sits at the same
or higher level as governments? Well, I repeat, it is scandalous... BTW
if you really believe in this model, pray why haven't you advocated it
for digital policy making in the US, and for the OECD  .... I understand
that you wish to avoid the universal ridicule that you would immediately
face among quarters that cant rub on the wrong side, and need to keep a
reputation among ..... Which is why I ask, why tell all this to us,
poor, developing countries? This is what is both colonial, and
intellectually confused ( i do not want to say, dis-honest) in this ..

3 Appropriate funding of public policy bodies: Like the absolute untruth
that 'OECD does not make supra-national policy' which assertion of yours
I have disproved, equally a non-truth is  that OECD is "just a
government- (and partially privately-) funded think tank'  . I have no
idea where you got this partially privately funded part. OECD is
entirely funded by members contributions
Repeat, there is no private funding. Indeed, I am sure that any
suggestion towards private (esp corporate) funding  -- try making such a
proposal if you think I am wrong -- will cause a major uproar and be
rejected out-of-hand both by civil society and governments in the west
(OECD) ... This is what I call as colonial - why different standards
when developing countries come in? I again challenge you, let you or a
corporate moot the idea of corporate funding of OECD's public policy
functions and you would know what I mean. Of course, you guys already
know what will happen which is why you would never attempt any such
thing.. Therefore, my humble request it; do not be colonial minded,
please spare us developing countries your advice and models on how
digital public policy should be done at a supra-national level!

Then there are equally funny things as:

"Ask yourself things like, “does the ITU-T’s financing of its
standardization process by selling expensive documents to private telcos
and charging 5-figure sector membership fees constitute public or
private funding? Are you aware of the fact that the Gates Foundation
donated $530 million to the World Health Organization, or 12% of its
budget? Should they give the money back? Is WIPO’s reliance on patent
registration fees public or private funding?" (Milton)

These are the kind of places where I would have expected better rigour
from a prof of public policy .  Two examples above (the ITU and WIPO
ones)  are simply of governments collecting some fees for its services
-- they do so all over the world, like collecting toll at a public
highway. How do such revenue stream make it private funding of
government!? Additionally, ITU is a technical standards body and such a
membership fees model as its is common among such standards bodies --
but_not_ for_ public_policy_bodies.    Gates Foundation and the WHO
example is indeed a serious one. And you would have read about immense
controversies that this has been surrounded with. A few things here.
Philanthropy funding is a little different from corporate funding, but
that is relatively a smaller point here. Second, and most importantly,
public policy functions of thee WHO still get conducted by the untied
members contributions. Private funds like from Gates Foundation etc go
to specific programs. You see the difference. Every government allows
private donations to specific programs which is different from funding
its public policy functions.  But still there exist major issues and
concerns about the sheer scale of Gates funding of WHO activities which,
even if indirectly, can begin influencing WHO's norms developing
activities. Read this
instance. And this quoting an
India's ex secretary for health, about problems for developing countries
that arise from this. There are many academic paper too on this
phenomenon, and the health related global civil society -- part of what
you call as 'fringe groups' -- are mostly opposed to this untenable
increasing influence of the Gates Foundation on the WHO. There are
papers on WHO's Covid response in this regard, and all these issues are
going to become worse with the launch of the WHO Foundation
.. But still all this private funding is sought to remain limited to
programmatic functions. There is at least some effort to keep WHO's core
normative and policy function relatively insulated from it. As I said,
very major concerns remain though, and people and CS groups are not
convinced ... But here, with the new proposed MS body for global digital
policy making, private funding is directly and explicitly for public
policy development function -- there is no programmatic work here...
With all its funding the Gates Foundation is still not admitted to the
WHO Executive Board, much less its General Assembly ... Again, you see
the difference?  

In fact, as the our joint letter points out, there are clear indications
for seats on the proposed top digital policy body being connected to
resource commitment, including as coming from the private sector . (This
is from the main proposal for the structure of the body developed by MAG
of IGF). Isnt it absolutely shameful!

I will stop here for now ... But do let me know of any pressingly
important issue/ question that I might have missed....

Happy to discuss this further with you, and with others actors engaged
with the proposal for the MS body for digital cooperation.

Best regards


> P: I did not think I would need to argue, that too with a prof of
> public policy, such well-established principles of public governance
> and policy making in general, and global levels of them in particular,
> like what are the canons of funding public governance and policy
> making, and what indeed is the current role of global governance as we
> know it.
> MM: Yeah, I will pass over your attempts to lecture me about what a
> professor of PP should know and what you consider “well-established
> principles of public governance.” This kind of posturing just makes
> you look boastful and ignorant and basically begs the questions we are
> trying to debate. As you will see as we dig in to the substantive
> arguments.
> MM: In my initial message, I said that your rejection of parity among
> government and private sector stakeholders revealed a rejection of the
> multi-stakeholderism and indicated your support for a state-led,
> state-dominated system of global IG. I noted that these principles of
> parity are characteristic of the governance of Internet identifiers
> (names and addresses) and routing and connectivity, and seems to be
> working well. Your response:
> P: You have most conveniently avoided the matter of OCED's CDEP
> (committee on digital economy policy) entirely, when it was a big and
> one of the most important part of my email.
> MM: Yes, I did not respond about OECD because your message about it
> was confused. On the one hand you were saying it is a “colonial”
> entity, on the other hand you were incorrectly saying it is
> multistakeholder as ICANN or RIRs, and on the third hand (nice of you
> to have three hands, by the way) you were holding it up as a model for
> global internet governance. But I think this is clarified now.
> MM: The OECD is an intergovernmental organization that fosters policy
> research and promotes cooperation in policy among its member states.
> It does not make global public policy, in the sense that it can
> formally enact and enforce anything, only its member states can do
> that. It describes its own output as “guidelines” or what IR/political
> science people would call norms. It has incorporated input from labor
> stakeholders for some time, and around 2005 or 2006, it began to
> incorporate civil society input in a more formalized way. But
> nongovernmental stakeholders have no formal decision making power over
> what OECD does. So when you say,
> P: I not only fully accept the multistakeholder model that OECD
> employs for its digital policy making, I and the networks that I work
> with have officially sought as 'the exact same model'  for the global
> or the UN level, and developing countries have officially sought in UN
> committees and the UN GA 'the exact same model'  for the global or the
> UN level
> MM…you are proving my point: you reject the globalized,
> multistakeholder model in which civil society and the private sector
> have parity and you want a state-led system. Let me add that the fact
> that OECD calls itself “multistakeholder” (MS from now on) doesn’t
> prove anything other than that people use the MS word in different
> ways. The ITU also calls itself MS. The MS label has some cachet and
> makes the organization seem open.
> Perhaps a better word for the difference in the models is
> sovereignty-based or not. I support a global public policy emerging
> from an open, global, multistakeholder regime in which the actual
> public, not just states, are directly making policy. You want a
> state-led policy and thus are fundamentally a conservative supporting
> traditional governance mechanisms of the past two centuries.
> P: And sure enough, you consistently refuse to let us know why you
> support the OECD's CDEP's policy work, but wont support a similar
> (exact cut paste) model at the global level, and how doing that is not
> a colonial attitude? I still look forward to your response to this
> central question.
> MM: I never said OECD is a model for global IG. IGP has participated,
> to some degree, in OECD’s openness to civil society input, but we have
> never “supported” it as a model for global IG. And OECD’s research
> reports are very good, very useful, so in that sense I support it. But
> it’s not “policy development” work in the sense we are debating; it’s
> just a government- (and partially privately-) funded think tank. And
> one of the reasons OECD works smoothly is that it is indeed a smaller
> club of like-minded states. This is not to say it couldn’t be more
> inclusive, but realistically making it bigger will also make it more
> difficult to achieve consensus. This is standard collective action
> theory, look into it. There are also clubs of developing or
> non-western states, e.g. SCO, APEC, etc. Governments sort themselves
> into clubs for a reason. Look into it.
> P: As a professor of public policy you surely know that public policy
> functions cannot - repeat cannot -- be funded by private funds.
> This is a bizarre argument from authority, when in fact you are not an
> authority, not a professor of public policy, you have no formal
> education or research credentials in that area, so I don’t know where
> you get these absolutist notions. Maybe do a little more
> investigation, both contemporary and historical. Ask yourself things
> like, “does the ITU-T’s financing of its standardization process by
> selling expensive documents to private telcos and charging 5-figure
> sector membership fees constitute public or private funding? Are you
> aware of the fact that the Gates Foundation donated $530 million to
> the World Health Organization, or 12% of its budget? Should they give
> the money back? Is WIPO’s reliance on patent registration fees public
> or private funding?
> At the global level, public funds are the proportionate contributions
> that countries make to the UN fund. I remain fully and consistency of
> the view that any UN based global public policy functions can and
> should only be funded from this pool of funds. In the same way as it
> will be scandalous to involve private funding for any public policy
> function in the US.  Or do you disagree?
> Again, your lack of knowledge of actual public policy processes is
> showing. You are advancing a very simplistic sovereigntist argument
> about international institutions. You have an idealized, ahistorical
> notion of the public/private distinction and view public funds (which
> are inevitably gained through taxation or expropriation of private
> actors, and thus are highly dependent on the private economy) as some
> sacrosanct, disinterested source of funds. This underestimates the
> self-interest of state bureaucracies, among other flaws, but I really
> don’t have time to engage in further education of you. Let’s focus
> instead on what, exactly, is the point you are trying to make? As I
> understand it, you are saying that any contribution of private funds
> to support the IGF is “scandalous.”
> This ignores several salient points, some of which were raised on my
> last message and never answered:
> -          What if governments are unwilling or unable to provide the
> needed funds but the community of actors involved can raise their own
> (private) funds?
> -          Don’t national governments also have key geopolitical
> interests in internet governance and wouldn’t they be able to use
> their funding as leverage? Why isn’t this “scandalous”?
> -          If private sectors funds are sufficiently diversified, can
> bad influence be mitigated?
> P: Even for supra-national level policy making, lets take the OECD
> example again .. Let some of guys who freely advocate that  global
> level public policy making (because it invokes those poor,
> undependable, developing countries)
> MM: I have not seen anyone here make an argument that corporate
> funding is needed because of poor, undependable developing countries.
> I do see concerns that funding for IGF from _/all/_ governments can be
> undependable or inadequate, or geopolitically biased.
> MM: I am certainly aware of the problem of corruption or bias of
> public governance functions by private funds or private influence. But
> with your devotion to nation-state funding and the sovereign system,
> you seem incredibly unaware of how the same problem exists with state
> funding. Indeed, state funding and influence can actually be more
> “colonial” than the alternative, because who except for the richest
> and most powerful countries are most likely to fund and participate in
> international institutions? And that includes rich non-white countries
> with their own empires and forms of colonialism, such as China. Are
> you really unaware of the extent to which international institutions
> reinforce or maintain the hegemony of colonial powers? Read some history.
> MM: You would like to present this as a polar choice, due to your
> anti-private sector, anti-business ideology. Either we are entirely
> state-dominated and funded, or entirely private. But that is not the
> choice we have. Public governance institutions ALWAYS involve buy-in
> and support from private stakeholders if they are to function at all,
> just as private sector market interactions require publicly formulated
> and impartially enforced rules. The problem in the IG space is that
> internet connectivity is transnational and non-territorial, and there
> is a mismatch between the territorial nation-state system of
> governance and the globally connected users and suppliers in the
> internet economy. Traditional intergovernmental institutions are
> therefore poor and even fundamentally unjust representatives of the
> policy making needs of cyberspace. So we have to develop new
> institutions. It is a never-ending source of amusement to me that the
> folks who think they are radical, progressive lefty types have for the
> past 20 years been conservative defenders of traditional territorial
> nation-state governance
> P: As I said, I mean by democratic the system employed by the OECD for
> supra-national digital policy making.
> MM: This is not democratic, this is delegation by nation-states, with
> very thin, long-stretched lines back to democratically elected
> governments in some cases, and involving _/entirely undemocratic/_
> states in many others.  Further: OECD does not make supra-national
> policy. It is simply a club for a subset of nation-states to (at best)
> coordinate their own national policies and (most of the time) do
> research on policy. In a global polity, a system of representation
> that relies on territorial nation states is not democratic, both
> because the public is not confined to geographic spaces, and because
> at least half of the governments are not democratic.
> P: As someone who claims expertise in global governance matters, I
> would have expected you to know the history of how much agreement on
> rights, law, political economy and economic policy has actually been
> managed by UN based bodies over the last any decades.
> MM: Ah yes, this is why Internet censorship has ceased to exist. All
> governments are adhering religiously to Article 19 of the UN
> Declaration of Human Rights, and if they don’t, these UN bodies send
> in international police forces to enforce the international law, and
> haul them before international courts to….oh wait, I am not describing
> reality, am I?
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