The UN Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation: Report on the second meeting

Author's name: 
Joy Liddicoat, Avri Doria and Lea Kaspar

Background:
This 3-day meeting took place in Geneva Nov 6-8 and was the second physical meeting of the multi-stakeholder working group (papers and documentation available online)

The Group was set up pursuant to UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/67/195 to “to examine the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society regarding enhanced cooperation as contained in the Tunis Agenda through seeking, compiling and reviewing inputs from all Member States and all other stakeholders, and to make recommendations on how to fully implement this mandate.” (Para 20 – Read more background information

These recommendations will feed into the work of the UN Commission for Science and Technology in Development, then to ECOSOC and then to the General Assembly. The group comprises 22 government members, 5 from private sector, 5 from academia/technical community, 5 from civil society, and 5 from international organisations.

Second meeting
WGEC’s starting point was to review inputs on matters related to enhanced cooperation from submissions made on its public questionnaire. The WGEC received 69 responses from a variety of stakeholders, most of which are available online.

The focus of the second meeting was to review these responses and decide on a framework for making recommendations. One input to the meeting was the analysis of responses prepared by the WGEC Secretariat, led by its Chair, Peter Major. However, this analysis, while useful, needs to be treated with caution as it has a number of serious errors including the attribution of the entire Best Bits submission to APC and omission of reference to at least two civil society submissions (APC and Access Now).
Highlights from this meeting include:

  • The meeting agenda reflected the Chair’s preliminary analysis in which responses were organised in 5 groups. The meeting followed this structure by discussing responses to each of these groups of questions.
  • A review of the second group of responses (replies related to public policy issues and possible mechanisms) led to a lengthy discussion about responses to Question 4, 8 and 9 (What are the relevant international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet? // What are the most appropriate mechanisms to fully implement enhanced cooperation? // What is the possible relationship between enhanced cooperation and the IGF?).
  • A number of interventions, including those by representatives from the governments of India, Iran, and Saudi Arabia and the civil society representative from India, called for an holistic approach to internet governance as a means to fully implement enhanced cooperation, and for this to be materialised in a new centralised global inter-governmental mechanism. Others, including from civil society, opposed this solution stating that a better understanding of the deficiencies of the current system is needed before any such new mechanism is developed. A number of participants emphasised the need to strengthen the IGF as an already existing central mechanism to address internet-related policy issues.
  • Based on this discussion, it was decided that further analysis of these responses was necessary before recommendations could be drafted and that the group should carry out a mapping exercise. It was decided that the mapping would be carried out remotely (via email) by an ad hoc ‘Correspondence group of the WGEC’ (CGWGEC), to be coordinated by Phil Rushton (BT, UK) and completed by the end of January 2014.

The proposed TOR of this group are set out at the end of this post, below.

There was a debate about how open this drafting group should be – many in the room and those participating remotely fought hard to allow broad and inclusive participation. As a consequence, the group is now ‘open to all stakeholders’.

The expected output – an analysis of issues/existing mechanisms/on-going activities will feed into the WGEC recommendations which will be discussed at the next WGEC meeting in 2014.Those interested in participating in this group please send an email to the group coordinator – Phil Rushton at philip.m.rushton@bt.com. He should be following up with more info, including modalities of participation, in the next few weeks.

  • A number of WGEC members shared suggested recommendations, but there was no opportunity to discuss these in detail (these have been reported in Carlos Afonso’s report on the meeting and can be found at http://avri.doria.org/post/66362228738/a-second-take-on-wgec-recommendat...)
  • After a preliminary review of the remaining responses, the group considered a draft framework for recommendations, tabled by the India government working group member. The framework is meant to be finalised at WGEC’s 3rd meeting in Geneva.
  • In view of the discussions, the WGEC decided that a 5 day meeting was needed to allow time to fully consider the mapping exercise, to agree on a framework for recommendations and to develop draft recommendations.
  • The next meeting will therefore be in Geneva, from 24-28 February 2014.

ENDS

Terms of Reference as circulated on the WGEC Members list, 8 November 2013:

“Final Terms of Reference for the Correspondence Group of WGEC

1. The correspondence group will work electronically. If necessary, conference calls will be held, but the main method of working will be emails.

2. The correspondence group is open to all stakeholders.

3. The correspondence group will provide three update reports to the WGEC Chair and Mailing List at: End of November 2013, beginning of January 2014 and End of January 2014.

4. The Correspondence Group will provide an initial output in the first week of January 2014 and a final document for consideration by the WGEC by the 12th of February 2014.

5. The Correspondence Group will:
(a) Review the identified international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet in the spreadsheet that has been developed in the second meeting of the WGEC.
(NB) Additional issues may be added to the identified public policy issues if agreed by the WGEC.
(b) list where there are existing international mechanisms addressing the issues in the list
(c) identify the status of mechanisms, if any, whether they are addressing the issues
(d) Attempt to identify the gaps in order to ascertain what type of recommendations may be required to be drafted by the WGEC.

6. Any issue that cannot reach consensus in the Correspondence Group will be referred to the Working Group, with the options that represent the range of opinions expressed in the Correspondence Group. The final decision on such issues will be made by the WGEC.

7. This Correspondence Group does not replace the WGEC and will not take any decision pertaining to the mandate of WGEC.

As agreed by the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation,
8 November 2013.”

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