“What is NETmundial?” and other Frequently Asked Questions about the meeting on the future of the internet

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NEW YORK, 10 April 2014 (APCNews)

Graphic by AccessGraphic by AccessNETmundial will take place on 23-24 April 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Find out more about this meeting, its importance, the issues that will be discussed there, and why and how you should be involved in this FAQ.

What is NETmundial?

In September 2013, the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, strongly condemned the massive electronic communication surveillance activities by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in her opening speech to the UN General Assembly. She called it a “situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties […] and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty.” In that same speech, she called for “multilateral mechanisms for the worldwide network that are capable of ensuring principles,” which included freedom of expression, privacy, transparency, multistakeholder governance, universality, cultural diversity and net neutrality.

A month later, Rousseff met with Fadi Chehadé, president and CEO of ICANN, and they agreed to co-host a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of internet governance, also known as NETmundial. The meeting will take place on 23 and 24 April in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The formal organisers are the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, a multi-stakeholder body created by the Brazilian government, and 1net, a forum that brings together what is known as the technical community and includes ICANN, ISOC and regional internet registries, among other organisations.

Who will participate and how?

According to the latest figures from the NETmundial secretariat, they have received expressions of interest from the private sector (28.8%) and civil society (25.4%), followed by governments (14.1%), academia (13.5%) and the technical community (12.8%).

Remote participation will be available via remote hubs and through web streaming (more information here:http://netmundial.br/remote-participation/).

While well-funded and well-organised interest groups from within the technical and business communities will be advancing their agendas at NETmundial, civil society’s responsibility is to ensure that the outcomes do not conflict with the broader, long-term public interest. In order to coordinate our efforts, a pre-meeting will be held the day before (22 April) in Sao Paulo.

Why is it important?

APC and other civil society organisations see NETmundial as an opportunity to reinforce and strengthen efforts to improve and democratise internet governance; help restore trust in the internet governance ecosystem following the 2013 revelations of mass surveillance; and generate outputs which can be discussed further at global and regional arenas.

NETmundial is also a critical opportunity to reinforce the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum (IGF). It is critical that the IGF be strengthened and improved, especially in terms of increasing developing country participation. For this to happen, states and other stakeholders need to maintain their commitment to link to the IGF process from the outset. Failure to do this could risk fragmenting the still fragile but emerging process of consolidating an inclusive, participatory and democratic internet governance ecosystem.

What are the key issues that will be discussed there, and APC’s position on them?

As part of the preparatory process, the organisers opened the forum for submissions in two areas: internet governance principles and a roadmap for the further evolution of the internet governance ecosystem (Read all APC submissions here)

Internet governance principles

APC believes that the ability to share information and communicate freely using the internet is vital to the realisation of human rights as enshrined in several international human rights treaties and bodies. The internet can only be a tool to empower the peoples of the world if its governance, development and management are based on the following principles: access for all; freedom of expression and association; access to knowledge and shared learning and creation; privacy, freedom from surveillance and the right to use encryption; democratic, transparent and participative internet governance; and awareness, protection and realisation of human rights on the internet and through the internet.

Roadmap for the further evolution of the internet governance ecosystem

The internet does not exist in a parallel dimension. It is part of social, economic, cultural, personal and political life. Internet-related public policy issues are therefore not finite. They will emerge and change over time. The diversity of these issues is such that it would not be feasible to centralise decision making about them.

There is a vibrant and diverse internet governance ecosystem at work. The challenges are that:
(1) All parts of this ecosystem are not adequately inclusive, transparent and accountable.
(2) They do not communicate and collaborate with one another adequately.
(3) Power and influence in this ecosystem and its components are very unevenly distributed.

It is important to look at communication, collaboration, participation, power and influence in both the ecosystem and its components. We need common principles, rooted in human rights, to guide the development of the internet and its governance. Multi-stakeholder processes must be improved to make them more inclusive and representative and to avoid dominance by special interests. The IGF can play a key role to enable communication, debate and collaborative policy making.

Are there any other key issues that will be discussed there?

Among others, there are two “burning issues” that will be prominently discussed at the meeting.

DNS system transition from the US Department of Commerce

Many discussions will revolve around the recent announcement made by the United States Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of its “intent to transition key internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community.” ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the body to which the NTIA entrusted the development of the transition plan. APC calls on ICANN to look beyond its own internal multi-stakeholder processes in bringing together the larger community for the necessary consultations on how this transition should be undertaken. Submissions to NETmundial by all stakeholders could be the first step for an inclusive and democratic process.

Privacy and surveillance

Against the backdrop of the Snowden revelations that underscored the need for a global dialogue such as the Brazil meeting, NETmundial presents a unique opportunity to get a strong commitment from governments on this issue.

APC believes that all surveillance by states should comply with the following principles (derived from “Necessary and Proportionate”:https://necessaryandproportionate.org/take-action/ORG‎, and Minister Carl Bildt’s input at the October 2013 Seoul Conference on Cyberspace):

  • Legality: Surveillance must be based on laws that were adopted in a transparent manner through a democratic process.
  • Legitimate aim: Surveillance must be conducted on the basis of a legitimate and well-defined aim and surveillance measures may never be carried out in a discriminatory or discretionary manner and only by specified state authorities.
  • Necessity and adequacy: The law should specify under what circumstances surveillance is necessary and justify its application, and then only to the extent adequate to achieve the legitimate aim.
  • Proportionality: A sound judgment must be made by a judicial authority, ideally an independent court, to carefully assess whether the benefits of surveillance outweigh its negative consequences.
  • Judicial authority: Decisions on the use of communications surveillance should be taken by a competent authority. As a general rule, an independent court should take such decisions.
  • Transparency: States should be as transparent as possible about how they carry out surveillance and under which circumstances court orders may be requested to practice surveillance. They should provide information on how the surveillance legislation works in practice.
  • Public oversight: Parliamentary or other credible institutions must provide oversight over the practice of surveillance and scrutinise how the laws work, to create transparency and build trust and legitimacy

(END/2014)

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