[A2k] URGENT: Seeking support for civil society statement on democratising Internet governance made to UN Working Group

anita anita at itforchange.net
Sat Aug 24 03:27:24 PDT 2013

/_U_/_/rgent !/__//__/IT for Change needs your endorsement to push 
progressive civil society views into the UN Working Group that will make 
recommendations for democratising global governance of the Internet./_
/__/Please circulate widely!/__//__/Note that the last date to send your 
endorsement is 29th August/__/
Greetings from IT for Change!

In May 2012, more than 60 civil society organisations and several 
individuals participated in a campaign for 'democratising the global 
governance of the Internet 
A joint letter signed by the participants of this campaign /inter alia/ 
asked for setting up a UN Working Group towards this objective. Such a 
Working Group was set up and has now asked for public inputs to 
formulate its recommendations.

In our joint letter, we had proposed some outlines for reforming the 
current global governance architecture of the Internet. Time has come 
now to make more clear and specific recommendations of the actual 
institutional mechanism that we need. With most governments more worried 
about their narrow geopolitical interests and relationships with 
individual countries, it falls upon the civil society to be bold and 
forward looking and put precise proposals on the table that can then be 
taken forward by state actors.

In a post-Snowden world, there is deep discomfort among almost all 
countries, other than the US, with the manner in which the global 
Internet is run and is evolving. The need for some global norms, 
principles, rules, and necessary governance mechanisms for the global 
Internet is being felt now as never before. The Internet can no longer 
remain anchored to the political and business interests of one country, 
or to serving global capital, as it is at present. As a global commons, 
it is our collective democratic right and responsibility to participate 
in the governance of the Internet, so that it can become a vehicle for 
greater prosperity, equity and social justice for all.

We seek your support to join us in proposing the enclosed document as an 
input to the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation. The Working Group 
has sought public inputs through a questionnaire which can be seen at 
http://unctad.org/en/Pages/CSTD.aspx . The most important question is at 
number 8, which seeks input with regard to precise mechanism(s) that are 
required. Our response will mostly address this all-important question. 
(You are also encouraged to, separately, give a fuller response to the 
questionnaire on your behalf or on behalf of your organization.) We will 
also like to give wide media publicity to this civil society statement .

We will be glad if you can send your response to us /*before the 29th of 
August*/. We are of course happy to respond to any clarification or 
additional information that you may want to seek in the above regard. 
Please also circulate this to others who you think may want to 
participate in this initiative. The global Internet governance space 
seems to be dominated by those who push for neoliberal models of 
governance. We must therefore have as many voices heard as possible.

(The statement is cut pasted below this email and may also be seen here 

/_*A civil society input to the UN Working Group looking at *_/

/_*institutional mechanisms for global governance of the Internet *_/

/(Please write to itfc <mailto:manasa at itforchange.net>@itforchange.net 
<mailto:manasa at itforchange.net> before 29th Aug if you will like to 
endorse this statement)**/

/*Why global governance of the Internet?*/

Internet governance is seen largely in terms of national sovereignty and 
security or as pertaining to free speech and privacy. We are of the view 
that there exist many other equally important issues for global Internet 
governance that arise from the whole gamut of rights and aspirations of 
people – social, economic, cultural, political and developmental. The 
relationship of the global Internet to cultural diversity is one 
example. The Internet increasingly determines not only the global flows 
of information but also of cultures, and their commodification. No 
social process is exempt from the influence of the Internet – from 
education to health and governance. Social systems at national and local 
levels are being transformed under the influence of the global Internet.

Instead of decentralizing power, the current structure of the global 
Internet tends to centralize control in the hands of a small number of 
companies. Some of these companies have near-monopoly power over key 
areas of economic and social significance. Therefore, regulation of 
global Internet business through pertinent competition law, consumer 
law, open interoperability standards, etc, is becoming a pressing need. 
Increasing statist controls need to be similarly resisted. With the 
emergent paradigm of cloud computing presenting the looming prospect of 
remote management of our digital lives from different 'power centres' 
across the world, it is inconceivable that we can do without appropriate 
democratic governance of the global Internet. Post-Snowden, as many 
countries have begun to contemplate and even embark upon measures for 
'digital sovereignty', the only way to preserve a /global//**/Internet 
is through formulating appropriate /global/ norms, principles and rules 
that will underpin its governance.

/*Background of this civil society input*/

A group of over 60 civil society organizations and several individuals, 
made a statement on /'Democratizing the global governance of the 
to the open consultations on 'enhanced cooperation'^1 
called by the Chair of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for 
Development (CSTD) on May 18th, 2012, in Geneva. The statement /inter 
alia/ sought the setting up of a CSTD Working Group to address this 
issue. We are happy to note that such a Working Group has been set up 
and has now called for public inputs to make its recommendations. This 
document is an input to the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) 
on the behalf of the undersigned .

In the aforementioned statement 
of May 2012, the civil society signatories had called for the following 
institutional developments to take place in the global Internet 
governance architecture:

/Our demands with respect to 'global' Internet Governance espouse a 
simple and obvious democratic logic. On the technical governance side, 
the oversight of the Internet's critical technical and logical 
infrastructure, at present with the US government, should be transferred 
to an appropriate, democratic and participative, multi-lateral body, 
without disturbing the existing distributed architecture of technical 
governance of the Internet in any significant way. (However, 
improvements in the technical governance systems are certainly needed.) 
On the side of larger Internet related public policy-making on global 
social, economic, cultural and political issues, the OECD-based model of 
global policy making, as well as the default application of US laws, 
should be replaced by a new UN-based democratic mechanism. Any such new 
arrangement should be based on the principle of subsidiarity, and be 
innovative in terms of its mandate, structure, and functions, to be 
adequate to the unique requirements of global Internet governance. It 
must be fully participative of all stakeholders, promoting the 
democratic and innovative potential of the//Internet. /

As the WGEC deliberates on concrete ways to move forward, the time is 
ripe to propose clear and specific institutional mechanisms for 
democratizing the global governance of the Internet. We have, therefore, 
expanded the above demands into specific mechanisms that should be set 
in place for this purpose.

/*New global governance mechanisms are needed*/

We are of the view that it would be useful to have two distinct 
mechanisms – one that looks at the global Internet-related public policy 
issues in various social, economic, cultural and political domains, and 
another that should undertake oversight of the technical and operational 
functions related to the Internet (thus replacing the current unilateral 
oversight of the ICANN^2 
by the US government). This will require setting up appropriate new 
global governance bodies as well as a framework of international law to 
facilitate their work, as follows.

/*A new UN body for Internet-related public policy issues:*//**/ An 
anchor global institution for taking up and addressing various public 
policy issues pertaining to the Internet in an ongoing manner is 
urgently required. It can be a committee attached to the UN General 
Assemblyor a more elaborate and relatively autonomous set up linked 
loosely to the UN (as a specialized UN body). It should have a very 
strong and institutionalized public consultative mechanism, in the form 
of stakeholder advisory groups that are selected through formal 
processes by different stakeholder constituencies, ensuring adequate 
representativeness. (OECD's /Committee on Computer, Information and 
Communication Policy/ <http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/18/39/37328586.pdf> 
and India's recent proposal for a /UN/ 
on Internet-related Policies/ 
two useful, and somewhat similar, models that can be looked at.)

This 'new body' will stay abreast of global Internet-related issues; 
where necessary, develop international level public policies in the 
concerned areas; seek appropriate harmonization of national level 
policies, and; facilitate the required treaties, conventions and 
agreements. It will also have necessary means to undertake studies and 
present analyses in different policy areas.

/*A new 'Internet Technical Oversight Board':*/ This board will replace 
the oversight role over the organizations undertaking technical and 
operational functions that is currently performed bythe US government in 
a unilateral manner. The membership of this oversight board can be of a 
techno-political nature, /i.e./consisting of people with specialized 
expertise but who also have appropriate political backing, ascertained 
through a democratic process. For instance, the board can be made of 
10/15 members, with 2/3 members each from five geographic regions (as 
understood in the UN system). These members can perhaps be selected 
through an appropriate process by the relevant technical standards 
bodies and/or country domain name bodies of all the countries of the 
respective region. (Other mechanisms for constituting the 
techno-political membership of this board can also be considered.)

The Internet technical oversight board will ensure that the various 
technical and operational functions related to the global Internet are 
undertaken by the relevant organizations as per international law and 
public policy principles developed by the concerned international 
bodies. For this oversight board to be able to fulfill its mandate, 
ICANN must become an international organization with a host country 
agreement with the US government (if ICANN has to continue to be 
headquartered in the US). It should have full immunity from US law and 
executive authority, and be guided solely by international law. 
Supervision of the authoritative root zone server must also be 
transferred to this oversight broad. The board can exercise this role 
with the help of an internationalized ICANN.

/*Framework Convention on the Internet:*//**/An appropriate 
international legal framework will be required sooner than later for the 
above bodies to function properly. Accordingly, one of the early tasks 
of the proposed 'new body' dealing with Internet-related public policy 
issues, discussed above, will be to help negotiate a 'Framework 
Convention on the Internet' (somewhat like the /Framework Convention on 
Climate Change 
Governance of the Internet concerns different kinds of issues that are 
ever-evolving. It is, therefore, preferable to formulate an enabling 
legal structure as a 'framework convention' rather than as a specific 
treaty or convention that addresses only a bounded set of issues. It may 
also be easier to initially agree to a series of principles, protocols 
and processes that can then frame further agreements, treaties etc on 
more specific issues.

Such a Framework Convention will thus enable appropriate and ongoing 
global policy responses to various opportunities and challenges that the 
fast-evolving phenomenon of the Internet throws up. It will also 
formalize the basic architecture of the global governance of the 
Internet; /inter alia/ recognizing and legitimizing the role and 
functions of the various bodies currently involved with managing the 
technical and logical infrastructure of the Internet, including the 
ICANN, Regional Internet Registries, Internet technical standards bodies 
and so on.

Appropriate mechanisms for crisis response and dispute resolution in 
relation to the global Internet, and the social activity dependent on 
it, will also be required to be set up.

/*Relationship with the IGF*/

The UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was established as a 
multistakeholder 'policy dialogue forum' by the World Summit on the 
Information Society. The proposed global Internet policy mechanism, 
especially the new UN based body, will maintain a close relationship 
with the IGF. IGF affords a very new kind of participative mechanism for 
policy making, whereby the participation realm is institutionalized, and 
relatively independent of the policy making structures. The IGF should 
preferably pre-discuss issues that are taken up by this new policy body 
and present diverse perspectives for its consideration. A good part of 
the agenda for this new body can emerge from the IGF. Whenever possible, 
draft proposals to be adopted by this new body should be shared with the 

To perform such a participation enhancing role, the IGF must be 
adequately strengthened and reformed, especially to address the 
dominance of Northern corporatist interests in its current working. It 
must be supported with public funds, and insulated from any funding 
system that can bring in perverse influences on its agenda and outcomes. 
Other required processes must also be put in place to ensure that the 
IGF indeed brings in constituencies that are typically 
under-represented, rather than provide further political clout to the 
already dominant.


An innovative way to fund the proposed new global Internet policy 
mechanisms, and also the IGF, is to tap into the collections made by the 
relevant bodies from allocation of names and numbers resources 
pertaining to the global Internet (like the fee that ICANN collects 
annually from each domain name owner). These accruals now run into 
millions of dollars every year and could be adequate to fund a large 
part of the needed mechanisms for democratic governance of the global 

In the end, we may add that there is nothing really very novel in the 
above proposal for setting up new mechanisms for global governance of 
the Internet. Similar models, for instance, were proposed in the report 
of the Working Group on Internet Governance that was set up during the 
World Summit on the Information Society, back in 2004.

We hope that the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation will fulfill its 
high mandate to lead the world towards the path of democratic governance 
of the global commons of the Internet.

outcome documents of the World Summit on the Information Society, held 
in 2005, employed this as a placeholder term giving the mandate for 
further exploration of the necessary mechanisms for global governance of 
the Internet.

Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the US based non-profit that 
manages much of technical and logical infrastructural functions related 
to the Internet.


Anita Gurumurthy
Executive Director
IT for Change
In special consultative status with the United Nations ECOSOC
www.ITforChange.net <http://www.itforchange.net/>
T: 00-91-80-26654134| T: 00-91-80-26536890| Fax: 00-91-80-41461055

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