Monday, May 5, 2014

NETmundial 2014: The Birth of Multistakeholderism on World Stage

Brazilian President Rousseff Opening NETmundial
The NETmundial conference ( which was held in São Paulo on April 23-24, 2014 was a culmination of events brought about by revelations of former NSA contractor turned whistle blower Edward Snowden.  
This meeting which was organised by the Brazilian Government and ICANN sought to address two issues namely;
  1.  Internet Governance Principles, and
  2.  the Roadmap for the future evolution of the Internet Governance Ecosystem
Normally, these two issues would not appear to be contentious, neither would they be areas where governments/states seek to have a greater say. However, in light of the startling revelations about NSA mass surveillance on the American public plus a number of world leaders. It was inevitable that issues of internet governance had to crop up especially given the role internet currently plays in a globalised world.
Hence, with the issue of internet governance on the fore, the main question was how the world was going to address this issue. Was this issue going to be solved through a multilateral approach? In which case you have the tried and tested approach, where you would have world governments/states discussing issues on internet governance. In such a scenario a key constituent would have been locked out. Therefore, the less tried multistakeholder approach which is usually synonymous with civil society had to be tried.
In an audacious gamble the Brazilians choose to try the multistakeholder on issues of internet governance in a world conference where government’s delegations would also be present. The Gig as it were was aptly named - the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance [some delegates went as far as calling it the ‘world cup’ before the world cup]. For those not in the know Brazil will be hosting the world cup from June this year].
The NETmundial conference organisers invited delegates from four main background categories, namely;
  1.        Government
  2.        Private Sector
  3.        Academia
  4.        Civil Society and
  5.        Technical Community
In the run up to the conference there had been a call for submissions and under this there were 187 submissions made in time which formed the basis of NETmundial draft outcome document which had been updated as of March 14, 2014. This document was then made available for public comments. The document attracted over 1370 comments.

The submission made have been excellently analysed here

The Conference
I arrived in São Paulo a day before the conference kick-off and thus I missed the usual pre-conference roundtables and opening cocktails which normally give you a pulse of the meeting before kick-off and the expectations we all have before such events. However, I was able to chat with a number of folks before the conference kick off at my hotel and most of us were pessimistic about any outcome document given the diversity of delegate’s backgrounds.

Day 1 – Wednesday, April 23 2014
The first think that captured you when you arrived the meeting venue itself, the Grand Hyatt. The majestic building at the heart of São Paulo business district meant the Brazilians meant business!
The registration was very smooth and took very few minutes plus, the security was adequate.
The opening ceremony went on quite well with speeches from; Virgilio Almeida [NETmundial Chairman who has a striking resemblance to the former Brazilian President Lula], Wu Hongbo [UN Under-Secretary-General who made the announcement of the appointment of Janis Karklins as IGF chair], Nnenna Nwakanma from Civil Society who gave an excellent speech, Vint Cerf from the Private Sector, Tim Berners Lee [Academia] and Fadi Chehadé [Technical Community]
The Brazilian President H.E. Dilma Rousseff accented to the Marco Civil Act before giving her address and formally opening the meeting.
After tea break, there was a long session dedicated to ‘welcome remarks’ mostly from government representatives and other stakeholders present. Out of this session, of note was Michael Daniel Speech – special assistant to the president & cybersecurity coordinator [US], on USgovernment’s announcement earlier this year of its decision to relinquish the oversight responsibility on IANA exercised by the USA’s government.
As has been pointed out in other articles, this session could have been better used but it is understandable that when you have governments represented – such ‘welcome remarks’ sessions are inevitable.
The real business of NETmundial forum got cracking in the afternoon with setting of the goals session immediately after lunch and the first working session dealing with internet governance principals following.
The submissions were open to the floor under four categories; Governments, Civil Society, Academia and Private Sector.
For those not physically present there was the remote hubs participation – through video and online participation through a text stream.
Under the working session 1 – Principles part 1. Most of the submissions centered on human rights with South American CSO’s delegates pushing for a stronger wording of the human rights clause. Other principles had a number of submissions with cybersecurity strongly following esp. issues of internet surveillance. Culture and linguistic diversity also had a number of submissions.

 Day 2 – Thursday, April 24 2014
On Day 2, it was a continuation of the working sessions with working session 2 – Road Map part 1 taking place in the morning. This session was initially scheduled for Day 1 but took place on Day 2 due to time constraints on Day 1 and the fact that the executive committee had to retire for deliberations on Day 1 submissions.
Thereafter, there were two more working sessions; principles part II and road map part II.
The afternoon session was occupied with discourse on Beyond NETmundial – NETmundial and Internet Governance Ecosystem. The critical question asked during this sessions was how the NETmundial input would find its way to IGF and other high level forums that would influence a binding document in future. Also, issues emerging under this session were the transition/handover of US government oversight responsibilities plus the reforming of ICANN to deal with the new responsibilities envisioned.
Thereafter, it was a long wait for the final outcome document, initially scheduled to be announced during the closing sessions scheduled for 1700 Hrs but which took place from 2000 Hrs as a result of last minute negotiations.
The closing session was chaired by Virgilio Almeida – NETmundial chairman and it is at this point it was announced that a final document had been agreed upon by most of the stakeholders present. This document was read out by Adam Peake and Jeanette Hofmann who had been instrumental to achievement of this feat. This final document was aptly named the São Paulo Multi-stakeholder Statement by Virgilio Almeida ( 

The São Paulo Multi-stakeholder Statement
Going through the São Paulo Multi-stakeholder Statement one of the things that you notice from its preamble is that the document is a non-binding outcome document. Thus, we are still a long way in the journey for a binding Internet Governance Principles however this is a good starting point.
  1.        Under the Internet Governance Principles
The document identifies a set of common principles and important values. Also, it goes further to state the internet is a ‘global resource’ which should be managed for the public interest.
The document goes further to enumerate nine key principles;
  1.        Human rights & shared values,
  2.       Protection of intermediaries,
  3.        Culture & linguistic diversity,
  4.        Unified & unfragmented space,
  5.      Security, stability & resilience of the internet,
  6.       Open & distributed architecture,
  7.        Enabling environment for sustainable innovation & creativity,
  8.       Internet governance process principles and
  9.       Open standards
Under the above principles, of note is the comprehensive human rights & shared values principle which references human rights identified in this document to the human rights enumerated in the universal declaration of human rights.
Unified &unfragmented internet space. Prior to this meeting there were fears that the internet as we know it today would be under the threat of countries or regions coming up with their own ‘internets’. This going forward seems to be an issue that was resolved at NETmundial.
Security, stability & resilience of the internet. This principle had a quite a number of submission made during the plenary with issues of net neutrality and incorporation of states and Corporates being floated. However, the final document did not factor this in and this clause remains as had initially been formulated.
The internet governance process principles are very well articulated in this document and of note is this clause -
‘Open, participative, consensus driven governance: The development of international Internet-related public policies and Internet governance arrangements should enable the full and balanced participation of all stakeholders from around the globe, and made by consensus, to the extent possible’.
Under this clause the only issue I have is the definition of consensus.

2.       Roadmap for the future evolution of the internet governance

The roadmap for the future evolution of internet governance is very well articulated in the document and points out;
‘Internet governance framework is a distributed and coordinated ecosystem involving various organizations and fora’.
It also points out the Tunis Agenda as a model for multistakeholder-ism and calls upon the participatory nature for internet governance.
Under the roadmap the following issues are addressed at length;
        i.            Issues that deserve attention of all stakeholders in the future evolution of Internet governance.
       ii.            Issues dealing with institutional improvements.
      iii.            Issues dealing with specific Internet Governance topics
     iv.            Points to be further discussed beyond NETmundial:
       v.            Way Forward
Of note were the points meriting further discussion such as roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, jurisdiction issues, benchmarking systems and net neutrality

Politics of NETmundial plus Overall Winners and Losers
NETmundial had its fair share of political dynamics at play. For a political scientist one could not help noticing that in an election year President Rousseff had to portray a strong image esp. against US. With the enactment of Marco Civil Act during the opening ceremony of NETmundial, this was to shove up her support.
 The rejection of the final document by Cuba and Russia was by all means not a coincidence. On the final day of NETmundial the Russian president had been quoted as saying the internet is a CIA project!
India on the other hand is going through an election and thus perhaps this was at the back of the government delegates hence they needed time to consult with the new administration. China on the other hand did not raise any objections during the closing ceremony but it remains to be seen their next moves. China has been a strong proponent of multilateral approach to issues of internet governance.

  1.        President Rousseff – Brazilian President
  2.        Mr. Fadi Rousseff – President & CEO of ICANN
  3.        ICANN - Organisation
  4.        Brazil – Country [leader in South America]
  5.       Internet Governance Forum – Institution [funding and lifespan]
  6.        Africa
  7.    European Union
  1.        US Government [oversight responsibilities of IANA]
  2.        Russian Government
  3.        China
  4.        Cuba
   The final outcome document can be accessed here

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