Internet governance in debate at Netmundial

note2At the close of April, Brazil hosted NetMundial, the global multi-stakeholder meeting on Internet governance, coinciding with the time when the World Wide Web was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Delegates from 87 countries, including civil society, government, international organization and technical community representatives, have agreed to sign a final declaration, in an élan to answer the question namely “how to govern the web?”


Historically, the web has been governed by the United States. But the Snowden case and the emergence of players such as China and Brazil regularly propel the polemic to the forefront. While the European Union recently demanded global oversight of ICANN and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) coveted to be relieved of some of the functions it assumes, NetMundial had to decide the delicate issue of governance.


The final statement provides guidelines and the establishment of a roadmap by virtue of which this non-binding document will materialize. It lays down inter alia a number of principles designed to foster a more democratic supervision of the Internet, based on a multi-stakeholder model to strive towards “a stable, decentralized, secure, interconnected network accessible to all.”


It is in this context that, on March 14 NITA imparted its wish to delegate some of its functions to a multi-stakeholder organization. The transition plan, widely debated at NetMundial, will be implemented in the upcoming months. However, U.S. Congress intends to veto the project and has introduced legislation prohibiting any transfer before a detailed report on the subject is rendered.


The final declaration adopted at NetMundial has been generally accepted, particularly by AFNIC which manages .fr domain names and saluted “the success of NetMundial, the transparency of the meetings and the constructive involvement of all stakeholders involved.” In regards to free internet activists, they continue to assert that the text offers “no concrete measures.”


The final declaration covers other important topics. Matters which were extensively explored included reduction of the digital divide, protection against illegal or arbitrary data collection or the fact that the rights of individuals who are off-line should also be protected online. The concept of net neutrality was flagrantly excluded from the final declaration despite having been advocated by many civil society stakeholders. “It may not be perfect, but it is the result of a multilateral process (…), the first stone of a path which we all build together,” argued the Chairman of the summit, Virgilio Almeida.


Internet governance stakeholders will meet in September at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which will look at implementing the principles adopted in Sao Paulo. To be followed…


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