From the talking shop we created at WSIS in 2005, the Forum has developed into a really useful platform both for the practical exchange/dissemination of ideas and a sounding board for all parties in the overall governance debate. We still need more genuinely Multi-stakeholder input from Business and Industry; and despite the excellent and admirably consistent contributions from Rt Hon Alun Michael and his colleagues; more parliamentary input would be immensely valuable. Much of the governance debate is about keeping Governments honest. Who better to do this than their own parliamentarians?
If this was probably the most useful IGF yet, it is primarily because it clarified the ambitions of those who wish directly to subvert the multi-stakeholder model, or who through the pursuit of their own limited ambitions risk undermining it in the longer term.
Three key elements emerged in Nairobi:
- ITU Secretary General Toure made clear his ambition to replace the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR’s) at the forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) scheduled for November 2012. He will have a lot of support for this view. There were rumours in Nairobi that the African group will propose new rules designed to regulate modern communications networks; including the Internet. Are we prepared to counter such unwelcome proposals?
- Commissioner Kroes left little room for doubt as to her insistence upon a more international mechanism to control the “IANA” contract, which lies at the heart of operating the Root of the Internet. A reasonable longer term objective perhaps, but with the contract due for renewal next March; and in a US Presidential election year, is this realistic, or indeed helpful? Some would say Europeans are doing the Chinese work for them. Is Kroes really speaking to policy agreed among all EU member states?
- ICANN has long been at the core of the Internet governance debate and has always acted as a lightning rod for community criticism. Now is an unfortunate time for that organisation to appear rudderless, and apparently fixated upon the still controversial introduction of new generic top-level domains. But it is the Multi-stakeholder model which suits the needs of those who wish to see a light touch governance model. The model needs our support. Are we prepared actively to defend it?
We need a truly international and multistakeholder plan to deal with these and other issues/threats over the next 18 months . I’m not sure I yet see much sign of one…….
(Posted by the UK IGF on behalf of Nick Thorne. Nick Thorne was UK Ambassador to the UN in Geneva from 2003-08 and led for the EU Presidency at the 2005 WSIS conference in Tunis.)