By APC LONDON, UK, 30 September 2004
The Geneva phase of the WSIS (December 2003) produced a political declaration and plan of action which was adopted by governments and intended to guide the Tunis ‘implementation’ phase of the WSIS (November 2005).
There were two issues on which governments were unable to reach consensus – ‘internet governance’ and ‘financing mechanisms’. In both cases, Kofi Annan the UN Secretary General has been asked to form task forces to carry out reviews and assessments and report back to the Summit at meetings next year (Prepcoms II in February 2005 and Prepcom III in August-September 2005).
The ‘working group on internet governance (WGIG)’ is led by Mr. Markus Kummer, a former Swiss diplomat seconded to the UN for the WGIG process. The ‘Task Force on Financial Mechanisms for ICTD*’ is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Both groups have a very short period of time to conduct their work (primarily from now until July 2005) and expectations are high, both in terms of the substance and issues the groups will deal with, and the extent to which civil society and developing country participation is equal, effective and meaningful.
THE WORKING GROUP ON INTERNET GOVERNANCE
The first open consultation of the WGIG was held in Geneva on September 20-21 2004. The meeting addressed three main areas:
HOW DO WE DEFINE INTERNET GOVERNANCE?
Discussion focused around:
What issues should be included in this definition? Spam, content regulation, e-commerce, trademarks and copyright? Or should it be the narrower focus of adminstration of IP names and numbers (eg domain names eg .info or country codes eg .br for Brazilian web addresses)?
Who are the various bodies involved in governance mechanisms in relation to these issues? For example, do we connect the agenda of WSIS to that of ICANN (the organisation currently responsible for controlling internet names and numbers), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)? Are these governance bodies/mechanisms working ‘effectively’, and if not, why not?
Which of these issues, and therefore governance mechanisms, should the WGIG take on board during its review and assessment?
HOW SHOULD THE WORKING GROUP BE CONFORMED?
The general consensus was that the WGIG should:
be small but with ‘balanced’ representation of governments, private sector and civil society.
have access to expertise through ad hoc advisory groups, and
be inclusive and transparent in carrying out its work.
TIMELINE OF THE WGIG
Mr Kummer reiterated that the work of the group will run for the life of the Tunis WSIS phase. It will meet four times between late November 2004 and June 2005 with a final draft report ready for government by July 2005.
Discussions focused significantly on the role and legitimacy of ICANN. Some governments expressed strong positions on the perceived and real lack of independence ICANN has from the US government, with whom ICANN has a contractual memorandum of understanding expiring in 2006.
APC PRESENTATION ON INTERNET GOVERNANCE
APC was invited to make a formal presentation during which focused on this issue and proposed a transfer of power from the US Department of Commerce to supervision under the UN Secretary General – which generated numerous reactions.
THE ‘TASK FORCE ON FINANCIAL MECHANISMS FOR ICTD’
The UNDP will host the first meeting of the Task Force on October 4 2004 in New York. There hasn’t as yet been the level of communication or interest in this process as seen in the internet governance process, but no doubt the meeting will provide some indications of how the process will be organised, in what ways contributions can be made, and a clearer sense of the working groups remit.
APC has been invited to join this Task Force and will be represented at the New York meeting.
* ICT4D = information and communications technologies for development