Still to come in Week 1 of PP14

pp14-busan-twitterWeek 1 of Plenipot is largely about elections, food and gifts. The food and gifts are direct results of Member States trying to convince other Member States to vote for them in the countless positions that are up for election here in Busan. I asked one Member State if rich food diplomacy really convinced others to cast votes in a certain way. I was told that it didn’t, but it did help raise awareness of who was running for elections, particularly for those running from less well-known States.

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We will also hear a lot more five-minute policy statements from Member States and do a lot of general preparation for the following two weeks where the real work will take place. While the policy statements can seem a little mind numbing to listen to, given the general similarity of their content, they can also be useful indicators of the general positions the States will maintain in the following two weeks. You just have to find the nuggets of gold from amongst all the national ICT facts and figures, “vote for us” and thank you and congratulatory messages that they contain.

Week 1 is also a chance to build relationships between delegates, which will help with negotiations in Weeks 2 and 3. Never underestimate the power of inter-personal connections to bridge geopolitical divides.

A lot of delegates will disappear once elections have taken place at PP14 as they came to Busan to help with the lobbying for votes and won’t have a role to play once participants begin the hard work of drafting updated resolutions. The delegates remaining behind will then have two weeks of late nights and early mornings in drafting groups without much access to food to work off the weight gained at all the receptions held this week.

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There will also be an influx of new delegates arriving toward the end of the week and early next week. These new delegates will be focussed on doing the less glamorous, but substantive, work of the conference: drafting resolutions and other key documents that will steer ITU’s path over the next four years.

ITU PP14 Day 1: An overview

pp14-busan-twitter A lot of Day 1 of PP14 was about looking good. The South Korean hosts of the event wanted to present the best of Korean ICTs and culture to the world. The outgoing Secretary-General wanted to present his stewardship over the last four years of ITU as a success (yep, even that WCIT bit). Member States wanted to present themselves as being progressive leaders of ICT adoption and innovation.

There wasn’t much of substance discussed on Day 1, so the overview of the day below is rather short:

Opening Ceremony

Opening ceremonies like this are fairly predictable affairs, whether they be at ITU, ICANN or the IGF: they’re full of very earnest statements to the already converted about the importance of the organization whose meeting it is, followed by a bunch of facts and figures showing how the local host country is a leader in the area of whatever topic the meeting is focusing on. This is followed by glitzy videos of local culture and attractions. Everyone agrees with the speakers on how important the work of the meeting is (“Yeah! We’re doing Very Important Things!”) and then wonder if they can slip away at some point to experience some of the touristy things they’re being shown glimpses of.

The highlight of the P14 Opening Ceremony was the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, speaking. She spoke about the hyper-connected digital world we are moving into. Her presence, however, resulted in wifi and mobile phone signals being jammed in the room for the duration of the Ceremony. People had to pay attention to the speakers instead of surfing the Net. Oh, the hardship of it all.

Plenary 1

Outgoing Secretary-General Dr Hamadone Toure spoke confidently about how well the next three weeks would proceed and how much cooperation and collaboration there would be between delegates to develop goals for ITU to achieve in the next four years. In other words, there will be good outcomes, y’all hear? Even if it means Dr Toure has to come into the room and beat heads together until you learn the value of cooperation, ‘kay?

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Member States embarked on the first of many sessions that will include Policy Statements from Member States. There are 193 Member States, and all have the option to speak for five minutes, so we could be in for a bit of marathon over the next few days as we try and get through them all.

Countries that delivered their speeches on Day 1 were:

  1. South Korea
  2. Japan
  3. Russia
  4. Saudi Arabia
  5. Viet Nam
  6. Qatar
  7. Azerbaijan
  8. Jordan
  9. Poland
  10. Kazakhstan
  11. Lebanon

Not all have been translated into other languages yet, but policy statements are published shortly after they have been presented on the floor.

Rather than try and explain what the contents of all these policy statements were about, here’s a summary of it in 140 characters:

Finally, three highlights from the policy statements:

  • Japan supported the multistakeholder model of ICTs without ever using the word “multistakeholder”. Is “multistakeholder” becoming as taboo as references to “NETmundial” in some circles? Is it possible that Japan is trying to encourage some of the other States to embrace the concept of multistakeholderism by repackaging it in ways that they won’t balk at?
  • Russia emphasized their deep concerns about cyber threats and the need for an international (intergovernmental) approach to tackling these problems. This should not surprise anyone as it is a position they have had for a long time now. The English interpretation of their speech talked about concerns about domain names and databases being corrupted, causing routing problems. Until we get a more leisurely translation of the written version of the speech, however, I would advise not becoming overly excited or concerned about this reference, as nuances of meaning can be lost in live interpretation.
  • Saudi Arabia requested that the ITU play a leading role in the preparatory process for the overall review of the 10th anniversary of WSIS happening in 2015. The UN General Assembly resolved earlier this year that the preparatory process begin in June 2015, culminating in a High-Level Meeting during the General Assembly in December 2015. ITU was the initiator of the original WSIS process, having first passed a resolution on WSIS back at its 1998 Plenipotentiary. In 2001, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that turned it into a UN-wide event. Given ITU’s pivotal role in creating the WSIS process, it is understandable that some Member States may want ITU to have a pre-eminent role in the upcoming WSIS+10 overall review. Particularly as two of the other key UN bodies involved in the WSIS+10 review process, UNESCO and CSTD, have demonstrated a more multistakeholder-friendly attitude toward the WSIS process. The ITU, on the other hand, is still an active battle ground between States that want ITU to be more multistakeholder and those that want ITU to remain predominantly intergovernmental in nature.

A light-hearted look at PP14 Day 1: delegates are just like you and me

pp14-busan-twitterBy “you and me”, I don’t mean the average person on the street, by the way. I’m thinking about the crazy crew of Internet governance folk who attend meetings such as IGF, ICANN and the like.

1. They embrace and kiss each other warmly after not seeing each other for sometimes… whole weeks.

Do not laugh, Internet governance people. You are extremely guity of this – moving from this week’s Internet governance-related meeting to next week’s Internet governance meeting and greeting each other like you haven’t seen each other in years. Two kisses, one on either cheek, or the air space next to each cheek, seems to be the norm here.

2. Part of the unofficial greeting protocol is to ask each other when they arrived and where they’re staying.

Those who’ve hit the ground running the same day as arriving after a long flight get respect. They also perform ad hoc Tripadvisor-like reviews on their hotels. One hotel here is charging $17 for a coffee: “It’s even more if you request it via room service”. A cheaper hotel doesn’t provide irons: “I want my business shirts to look crisp.” Another provides a mini-kitchenette: “But I won’t have any time here to use it. I’ll just buy some fruit and maybe some juice and keep it in the fridge.” A different hotel has a large dining room table in a delegate’s room: “Perfect for having a a small dinner party!”

3. They take group selfies.

I haven’t seen anyone take an individual selfie yet. Maybe there’s an unwritten ITU delegate rule that individual selfies are uncool. Group selfies, however, are to be embraced with enthusiasm.

4. They don’t pay attention to the boring bits.

Member States all want to have their five minutes in the spotlight with a Policy Statement, but that doesn’t mean they want to pay attention to anyone else’s statement. Instead, have a chat on the side, or come back late from that lovely afternoon tea sponsored by Rwanda.

5. They get cheesed off when the wifi and mobile phone signals are taken away

If you take away ITU delegates’ ability to check their Facebook pages, they get  cranky. In this case, it was during the Opening Ceremony where South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, addressed the participants. She may be president, and therefore need the security of jammed frequencies, but we need to upload grainy smart phone shots of the ceremony to Instagram, dammit!

6. They have trouble with basic tech functions, just like a lot of Internet governance policy folk.

“Have you pushed the plug in far enough?”

plug-forceA more seriously summary of Day 1 to follow shortly…

Reporting from ITU Plenipotentiary: I’ll pay full attention so you don’t have to

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Have you heard various weird and wonderful things about the big meeting happening in Busan beginning next week?

Have you heard some people say that ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (PP14) will be looking at proposals that support governments taking over the Internet?

Did you consider attending, but couldn’t get onto your government’s delegation and aren’t a Sector Member of the ITU?

Do you have a day job that means you really don’t have time to follow a three-week meeting, but still care how the outcomes might affect  Internet governance and the Internet world more generally?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any or all of the above, you may be happy to know I’ll be in Busan from Day 1 of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 (Monday 20 October) right through to the very end (Friday 7 November).

An experiment in crowdfunding neutral reporting of a key event in the Internet governance calendar

If you have appreciated my live tweeting and analysis of Internet governance meetings in the past, please consider being part of this initiative. I’m hoping to have funding from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible to ensure that there are no perceptions that my reporting from Busan has been influenced or captured by any single stakeholder group.

So far, organizations have committed USD 13,000 to this project, but I still need a further USD 11,500 to turn the three weeks from a charitable donation by me for the rest of the community into something that allows me to do this professionally. Amounts big or small are gratefully received. And funds do not have to be provided before the Plenipotentiary begins, as I’ll be absorbing the cost differences up-front.

Diplo is kindly helping support the crowdfunding of my attendance. More information at Crowdfund neutral reporting of ITU Plenipotentiary 2014.

What I’ll be doing at PP14

Tweeting!

For all those people out there who were disappointed that I didn’t tweet IGF 2014 (I was flat out working for the IGF Secretariat working on the Chair’s Summary and taking photos), here is your opportunity to enable me to concentrate on producing a constant stream of informational, and sometimes (hopefully) funny, tweets live from a key meeting of interest to folks working in the world of Internet governance and Internet operations.

Blogging

I’ll be blogging to provide summaries of what’s happening at PP14 as well as to provide background to explain or speculate why negotiations are happening the way they are. As I did with WCIT, I’ll strive to post documents that show the differences between old versions of ITU’s Internet-related resolutions and the status of changes happening at PP14. I’ll also post some post-PP14 blogs analyzing what PP14’s outcomes may mean for future Internet governance discussions and the WSIS+10 UNGA event coming up in 2015. The blog posts will be published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence 4.0, enabling people or entities to publish parts or all of the articles, or tailor the articles for specific communities.

Podcasts

This is dependent on me figuring out how to use my brand new digital microphone and audio editing app during ICANN 51. My plan is to talk to PP14 participants to find out more about what people are thinking about Internet-related discussions at PP14. In particular, I am hoping to talk to those who aren’t the standard set of cheerleaders for multistakeholder Internet governance. The reason for this is the fact that I believe that if we’re ever to bridge the ideological and political divides that exist in the Internet governance sphere, we need to start listening to each other, and not just talk at each other.