[alac] UNICT press release on "Internet Governance" meeting, FYI.
- To: "Interim ALAC" <alac@xxxxxxxxx>
- Subject: [alac] UNICT press release on "Internet Governance" meeting, FYI.
- From: "Denise Michel" <denisemichel@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004 12:26:34 -0800
GLOBAL INTERNET GOVERNANCE SYSTEM IS WORKING BUT NEEDS TO BE
MORE INCLUSIVE, UN FORUM ON INTERNET GOVERNANCE TOLD
NEW YORK, 26 March (UN DPI) -- The current system of Internet governance
seemed to be working well, and the question was how to better coordinate the
work of specialized bodies and ensure the involvement of all stakeholders,
participants told a forum on the issue that concluded today at United
The Global Forum on Internet Governance, held on 25 and 26 March and
organized by the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT) Task Force, was attended by more than 200 leaders from government,
business and civil society. Participants included officials from developing
and developed countries, as well as private-sector personalities such as
Paul Twomey, President and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers (ICANN) and two "fathers of the Internet", Vinton Cerf,
Vice-President of MCI and Robert Kahn of the Corporation for National
The Forum was intended to contribute to worldwide consultations to prepare
the ground for a future working group on Internet governance to be
established by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which is to report to the
second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be
held in Tunis in 2005.
Mr. Annan, addressing the opening on 25 March, said the issues were numerous
and complex, but the world had a common interest in ensuring the security
and dependability of the Internet. Equally important, inclusive and
participatory models of Internet governance should be developed. The medium
had to be made accessible and responsive to the needs of the world's people.
Its current reach was highly uneven, and the vast majority of the world's
people had yet to benefit from it.
Mr. Annan said he would establish in the near future a working group on
Internet governance, as requested in December by the World Summit on the
Information Society. But before doing so, there was a need to consult a
broad cross-section of the communities involved. The views emerging at the
Global Forum and other consultations would help to frame the issues, find
areas of convergence and identify issues for future consultations. Once
these consultations took place, the Secretary-General would be in a position
to establish the working group, which would be open, transparent and
The same principles would also apply to the task force on funding that the
Summit had asked him to create, Mr. Annan said. This body, to be
established shortly, would review the adequacy of current funding approaches
and consider new funding mechanisms that might strengthen efforts to bridge
the digital divide.
Mr. Annan called Forum participants not to lose sight of the larger task --
helping people everywhere to build free and decent lives. "That is the real
backbone of your deliberations. Whatever you do must contribute to the
cause of human development."
Various private-sector participants reminded the Forum that "if it works
don't fix it", that "the best governance is the least governance", and that
ICANN was making good progress in becoming more transparent and inclusive.
What were needed were further negotiations in specialized bodies. But some
developing countries felt that the current system did not involve them
enough, and reflected a crisis of legitimacy not just in Internet governance
but in global governance.
Vinton Cerf, senior Vice-President of MCI and "one of the fathers of the
Internet" according to ICT Task Force Chair Jose-Maria Figueres Olsen, said
the Internet had developed openly and freely, without much governmental or
other oversight, because its technical rules had been developed openly and
adopted voluntarily. The very openness of the Internet design had fuelled
its evolution, as participants in its operations and development had been
able to contribute new ideas and applications.
As the Internet continued to evolve, it had begun to incorporate functions
that had long been the subject of considerable regulations, and this had
raised the question whether it needed more governing, Mr. Cerf said. But
more important were the uses to which the Internet was put. If there was a
need to govern, one should focus more on the use and abuse of the network,
and less on its operations.
Governance should be thought of as the steps taken collectively to
facilitate the spread, development and collective use of the Internet, Mr.
Cerf said. For instance, e-commerce could be promoted by adopting
international procedures for the use of signatures, mechanisms to settle
disputes of international electronic transactions, treatment of
international transaction taxes and protection of intellectual property.
Internet use could help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the
areas of poverty reduction, education and health care, the environment and
gender equality Mr. Cerf said. The Forum should weave together these
objectives by asking how the Internet community could facilitate the
constructive use of the Internet.
Engineers used to say, "If it isn't broken don't fix it", and doctors "First
do no harm". The technical aspects of the Internet were evolving very
openly in forums open to all. Rules for Internet use were less well
developed and deserved more consideration. "I would caution, however, that
one should strive not to stifle the innovation and freedom to create that
the Internet offers", Mr. Cerf said. There were many places at the Internet
table -- a grand collaboration of many entities in all sectors. The task
was to assure that all who may benefit have a seat at the table and an
opportunity to contribute to its evolution.
Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN, said his organization was a
national, multi-stakeholder body coordinating Internet systems of unique
identifiers. The ICANN's meetings focused on technical problems, were open
to all, and the ICANN community welcomed all stakeholders. The mandate of
ICANN was similar to that the WSIS had required for the Working Group to be
established by the Secretary-General.
Richard McCormack, honorary Chairman of the International Chamber of
Commerce (ICC), said there were 850 million Internet users, twice as many as
in 2000, and stressed the need to focus on areas where government
intervention was necessary. The Working Group on Internet Governance should
be a steering committee rather than a normative body, and should contribute
to the expansion of the Internet in both developing and developed countries.
Brazilian delegate Maria Luiza Viotti stressed the Internet was
"increasingly seen as an international public utility that should be managed
very broadly". Internet governance should not be the prerogative of one
group of countries or stakeholders, and the specific roles of all
stakeholders should be defined. Governments also had a stake, and the
concerns of developing countries should be taken into account.
"It is true that many issues are technical, but technology is not outside of
politics," said Lyndall Shope-Mafole, Chairperson of South Africa's National
Commission on Information Society and Development. The issue was not that
something was broken and should be fixed. The issue was rather legitimacy
of the process, and this is why developing countries had brought the issue
of Internet governance to the United Nations, "which we feel represents us".
Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director of South Africa's Association for
Progressive Communication, said the issue of Internet governance related to
the greater global governance issue. Developing countries had concerns with
global bodies such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),
and the international financial institutions. There were global governance
concerns, if not a global governance crisis. On the other hand, there was
an increasingly overlapping of interests among different stakeholders rather
than a North-South divide. "In many developing countries, the concerns of
civil society are the same as those of the private sector."
Juan Fernandez, Coordination of the Cuban Commission on e-Commerce, reminded
participants "of the people who would rather have clean water, electricity
and a loaf of bread rather than computers", and stressed that WSIS had been
a development summit rather than a technology summit.
Mr. Figueres Olsen noted that the meeting had been an example of the coming
"global polity" that would be necessary to tackle major geopolitical,
economic and environmental challenges. Global polity involved bringing
together all stakeholders in a broad dialogue, and the Economic and Social
Council Chamber hosting the meeting was a symbol of it. Used in the past to
host statements by political leaders only, the Chamber during the Forum had
hosted addresses by many different stakeholders, representing the global
society, who had came together to express opinions and define policies.
Preparations for Tunis
Ferial Beji, CEO and General Manager of the Tunisian Internet Agency, said
her country was already fully involved in preparations for the Tunis phase
of the World Summit on the Information Society, to take place in November
2005. Cabinet meetings were held regularly, all Ministries had been
involved, and a high-level National Committee had been created to steer all
preparations. She called on all components, including the private sector,
civil society and the media, to contribute to the Summit.
The first Preparatory Committee would be held in Tunis at the end of June,
and consultations on holding regional and thematic conferences were under
way. The expected outcome of the Tunis Summit would be a political document
and an operational agenda built on regional action plans.
Marc Furrer, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, called
on the private sector and civil society to participate fully in the Tunis
phase. The private sector would be very much needed in implementing the
WSIS Plan of Action, and together with civil society should participate
fully to the preparations for Tunis. Tunisia had taken over the
responsibility for the Summit. Switzerland was prepared to help and advise,
"but of course Tunisia is now in charge, even if we will not drop the ball".
There was no need to govern or regulate what works, Mr. Furrer said. The
system worked, ICANN worked, and there was rather a need to concentrate on
specific issues such as property rights, e-commerce, privacy, contract law
and Internet security, while defining what should be the role of
Markus Kummer, a Swiss diplomat who had coordinated the final negotiations
for the outcome documents of WSIS, said the Forum needed to focus on
defining the right modalities of the process ahead. The working group on
Internet governance should be totally independent and not affiliated to any
United Nations body; should be transparent, involving all stakeholders and
giving them equal access; and should focus on gathering facts and making
recommendations. It should be a small group, perhaps with a two or
three-tier system so as to fully include governments and allow developing
countries to make their voices heard. The working group should start "by
deciding who does what", then define the issues to be dealt with.
On 25 March the Secretary-General appointed Mr. Kummer as the head of a
secretariat to assist him in setting up the working group.
For information, please call Enrica Murmura at tel.: (212) 963 5913 or
Edoardo Bellando at tel.: (212) 963 8275; or visit