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Working Group on Internet Governance

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Overview Edit

The Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was a United Nations working group initiated after the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) first phase Summit in Geneva to agree on the future of Internet governance.

The first phase of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) agreed to continue the dialogue on Internet governance in the Declaration of Principles and Action Plan adopted on December 12 2003, to prepare for a decision at the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis in November 2005. In this regard, the first phase of the Summit requested the United Nations Secretary-General to establish a "Working Group on Internet Governance" (WGIG). The WGIG was asked to present the result of its work in a report "for consideration and appropriate action" for the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis in 2005.

The Working Group's activities Edit

The main activity of the WGIG was "to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005." The WGIG was asked to present the result of its work in a report "for consideration and appropriate action for the second phase of the WSIS in Tunis 2005."

It was asked, inter alia, to deal with the following issues:

  • Develop a working definition of Internet governance;
  • Identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance;
  • Develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, existing international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries.

A few weeks before the release of the WGIG Report the U.S. reiterated its claim of ICANN and stated that it wished to "maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file."[1].

View of Internet governance Edit

The report of the WGIG divided Internet Governance into four sections:

Proposals Edit

Four options for the management of Internet-related public policy issues were proposed in the Final Report of the WGIG, finalized during their fourth meeting, and presented to stakeholders on July 18, 2005, in preparation for the November 2005 meeting in Tunis. These proposals all include the introduction of an open multistakeholder-based Internet Governance Forum to give greater influence to the stakeholders around the world, including civil society, private sector and governments. Each model also included different strategies for the oversight role held by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The proposed models were:

  1. Create the Global Internet Council (GIC) consisting of governments and involved stakeholders to assume the U.S. oversight role of ICANN.
  2. Ensure that the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee is an official forum for debate, strengthening its position by allowing for the support of various governments.
  3. Remove the U.S. oversight of ICANN and restrict it to the narrow technical role, forming the International Internet Council (IIC) to manage most aspects of the Internet administration.
  4. Create three new bodies:
    • The Global Internet Policy Council (GIPC) to manage "internet-related public policy issues"
    • The World Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (WICANN) to take over from ICANN
    • The Global Internet Governance Forum (GIGF), a central debating forum for governments.

Analysis Edit

Some critics hinted that the idea that the world's countries require a more "equal" say in Internet governance masked the desire by some governments to conduct censorship or monitor their citizens more effectively.[2]

Fears that increased "governance" would bring with it more regulation and fees were expressed. IT experts expressed doubts that a U.N. body that did not necessarily know enough about the Internet could effectively coordinate the Internet technologically. The director of ICANN expressed concerns that some of the changes proposed represent a government-focused "top-down" philosophy, and that this was incompatible with the current "bottom-up" structure of the Internet mandated by U.S. policy.

The U.S Government's negotiating position in Tunis Prepcom 3 was flexible on the principle of global involvement, very strong on the principle of multistakeholder participation, but inflexible on the need for U.S. control to remain for the foreseeable future in order to ensure the "security and stability of the Internet." This generally showed itself in U.S. support for proposals allowing other governments to have a larger role in the management of their ccTLDs, but no change to the management or control of the root zone file.

The majority of stakeholders want to avoid a politicization of the Internet, and some consider the effort of the WGIG as launching a set of alien and dangerous terms and ideas. Others believe that it has been an important forum for discussion of the often contentious issue of Internet Governance, as well as a model for multistakeholder cooperation.

Some fe;t that either of the alternatives was better: a division of the Internet or a defense of the status quo. The United States had traditionally considered its function as a defender of citizens' rights worldwide, which is one reason it wanted to keep the Internet free for private individuals rather than overly regulated by governments or international organizations. Some of the options presented in the WGIG Report could be seen by some as too government-oriented, while one option reflects the status quo, and may be seen as being too U.S.-centric.

The final agreements reached in Tunis[3] include the formation of the Internet Governance Forum. No agreement was reached on the oversight function.

References Edit

  1. Kieren McCarthy. "UN outlines future of US-less internet," The Register (July 15, 2005) (full-text).
  2. EFF on Internet Governance.
  3. The Tunis Agenda (paras. 29-82 concern Internet Governance) and the Tunis Commitment.

See also Edit

External resources Edit

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