The third meeting of the ITU Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy (CWG-Internet, also known as CWG IIRPP) is currently underway in Geneva. Below is a brief report of Day 1. I will provide more detail about the meeting, with proper analysis, after the meeting concludes.
Note: I am attending the third CWG-Internet meeting as a member of the Australian delegation; however, any of the views I express in this blog post are entirely my own. This post does not reflect the official Australian position, nor is its content endorsed in any way by the Australian government.
The role of governments in Internet-related public policy issues
The role of governments in Internet-related public policy issues has been a major topic of discussion at the intergovernmental level ever since the Tunis Agenda was written in 2005 as part of WSIS Phase 2. It was an important part of the discussions taking place at the CSTD WGEC (Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation) meeting last week and was the main focus of Day 1 of the CWG-Internet meeting this week. It will surprise no one who follows Internet governance that governments remain divided into two main positions:
- Governments who believe there is a fundamental need for governments to begin exercising their sovereign rights to make international Internet-related public policy decisions on an equal footing with other governments
- Governments who believe that governments should play a lighter role in Internet governance decisions, preferring to encourage various forms of multistakeholder decision-making that leverage the expertise of a wide array of stakeholders.
Day 1 ended with Member States in the CWG-Internet agreeing to draft two questions that will be made available to all ITU Member States on the appropriate role of governments in the international Internet-related public policy issues listed in Annex A of ITU Council Resolution 1305 (document available to ITU TIES account holders). It is not clear whether additional public policy issues raised in some of the contributions to the CWG meeting will be added to the list on for consideration by Member States when answering the two questions. Nor is it clear whether the consultation will also be available for non-Member States to answer as part of the open consultation process associated with the CWG. No doubt, these issues will be clarified today, in Day 2 of the meeting.
Responses to the open consultation process conducted between February and October 2013
There was no discussion on Day 1 of the contents of the 32 responses made by both Member States and non-Member States to the CWG-Internet’s online consultation process. The topics that the CWG agreed in January to open for online consultation were:
- Consultation on effectively countering and combatting spam
- Consultation on international public policy issues concerning IPv4 addresses
- Consultation on developmental aspects of the Internet
It is notable that none of the formal contributions to the current CWG-Internet meeting are on any of the above three topics. However, a number of the Member States have made contributions on the topics as part of the public consultation process.
A number of Member States made interventions encouraging the CWG-Internet to discuss the 32 public contributions as part of its current meeting. It was not totally clear at the end of Day 1 whether there was a plan to conduct this discussion on Day 2, the final day of the CWG-Internet, but there is a strong desire by a number of the Member States present at the meeting to have these contributions discussed.
“35. We reaffirm that the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations. In this respect it is recognized that:
- Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.
- The private sector has had, and should continue to have, an important role in the development of the Internet, both in the technical and economic fields.
- Civil society has also played an important role on Internet matters, especially at community level, and should continue to play such a role.
- Intergovernmental organizations have had, and should continue to have, a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues.
- International organizations have also had and should continue to have an important role in the development of Internet-related technical standards and relevant policies.“
The text in paragraph 35a has been the topic of much discussion by some government ever since the Tunis Agenda was written in 2005 as part of WSIS Phase 2.
Paragraph 69 of the Tunis Agenda has also been at the heart of discussions on the role of governments in Internet governance:
“69. We further recognize the need for enhanced cooperation in the future, to enable governments, on an equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities, in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, but not in the day-to-day technical and operational matters, that do not impact on international public policy issues.“