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Strategically timed at a key point in the configuration of the governance of digital technologies, the upcoming NETmundial+10 event organised by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee ( “aims to debate the global challenges for the governance of the digital world.” Taking place on 29 and 30 April 2024 in São Paulo, the event will bring together stakeholders from the private, public, academic, technical and civil society sectors, offering a critical opportunity to dig into practical, viable ways to affirm and strengthen the multistakeholder approach to digital governance.

To that end, the upcoming meeting will be an important space to ensure that civil society priorities and perspectives are strongly represented and build on APC’s historical engagement in key internet policy and governance processes. APC is committed to facilitating the engagement of its network to articulate common and coordinated civil society input, using the opportunity of NETmundial+10 to build shared agendas around issues of common interest.

Across the globe, principles and frameworks for the digital future are being decided through processes like the Summit of the Future (including the Global Digital Compact and the Pact for the Future), the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the WSIS+20 review. In that context, NETmundial+10 presents a platform to “bring concrete recommendations for actioning the multistakeholder approach in a way that is meaningful, effective and transformative,” explains Valeria Betancourt, APC’s Programmes and Advocacy Engagement/Internet Governance lead, who was recently appointed a member of the NETmundial+10 Executive Committee. “My expectation is for NETmundial+10 to come up with recommendations oriented to making governance of digital technologies democratic, in a context in which the future is being decided.”

Building on a history of consensus

NETmundial+10 is a follow-up meeting to the first NETmundial event that took place in 2014, at a time when internet governance was in a period of crisis. With Brazil’s strong and consistent record of diplomacy on digital technology issues (as one of the only Latin American countries with a state policy on digital technology-related matters), establishing NETmundial was a political move in a fragmented context to prove that it is possible to reach consensus around critical matters that are going to be determinant for the future.

Until that point, UN spaces were the only ones where such discussions could take place, but the power of veto meant that any one member state could override crucial decisions, leading to circular negotiations and lack of progress. NETmundial was created in contrast as a counterweight to this process. “The first NETmundial happened outside the UN system and was a moment in which it was necessary to prove that it was possible to reach consensus between different stakeholders,” explains Betancourt, who also took part in the first NETmundial meeting in 2014. “Principles were agreed through an inclusive methodology.”

The meeting, which brought together participants from across sectors, saw the successful adoption of principles for multistakeholder and democratic governance. Following on this, APC produced a detailed report outlining key learnings from the event, highlighting how “NETmundial demonstrated a remarkable thing: that governments and non-governmental actors in the internet governance space can indeed produce an outcome document together, using innovative and collaborative methods in a rather short period of time.” The report documents the purpose, process and format of the meeting and includes recommendations for the future.

Modalities of participation in NETmundial+10

The decision by to convene a follow-up event came from the need to outline concrete ways to strengthen the multistakeholder approach in the governance of digital technologies. At the 2023 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Kyoto, Japan, initial conversations took place with representatives across different sectors to explore the visibility and political viability of a second NETmundial meeting. Based on positive feedback, the agreement was made to go ahead with the organisation of NETmundial+10.

At this stage has formed an Executive Committee with representatives from each of the stakeholder groups, including five civil society representatives. The Executive Committee will decide and shape the process and the agenda of the meeting, coordinate with the various working groups to ensure accountability in sharing information and maintaining a flow of communication with coalitions and groups interested in the process, as well as highlight opportunities for engagement.

The format of NETmundial+10 will in many ways mirror the first edition, with a programme for the two days of discussion currently being mapped out. Only 100 people per stakeholder group will be able to participate on-site, which means that unlike the first meeting, a hybrid model will be adopted. The Executive Committee is in the process of determining criteria to ensure that the remote modality allows broad and equal participation by those attending on-site and those connecting remotely.

While the mechanisms for engagement are being determined, there are currently three working groups on consultation (ensuring participation and inclusion in the broader community), programme development (to shape the agenda for the two days of the meeting) and participation (to select online and on-site participants and mobilise sectors for optimal participation).

For those who wish to participate in NETmundial+10, there is an Expression of Interest open until 18 March to register for the event, available online.

Engaging as a network

“One of the values that APC brings is that expertise and political willingness to facilitate engagement and processes, to bring perspectives, and to ensure that perspectives of civil society are considered,” Betancourt says. “We have been consistently trying to build on this process, and ensure that the perspectives we bring correspond to global South realities.”

Although it is premature to consider recommendations at this planning stage, what is important to highlight as a network is our willingness to shape the process in a way that helps us to come up with concrete recommendations on how to strengthen the multistakeholder approach. “We are not only facing new challenges, but also confronted with persistent and exacerbated challenges, including digital inclusion in a complex and unbalanced configuration of power between stakeholders and between countries,” Betancourt states. “In order to be able to provide responses and to address those persistent and emerging challenges, it is necessary to complement the multilateral approach with the multistakeholder one.”

This will entail building effective bridges between not only the different digital governance processes taking place, but between the different stakeholders. One clear and direct way to do this will be to use the opportunity of NETmundial+10 to come up with concrete mechanisms for making the governance of digital technologies democratic and inclusive. This means building on the outcome of the upcoming meeting to connect with and inform parallel processes taking place. “We have to see the value not only in relation to the two-day meeting,” Betancourt notes, “but how it can build on its outcome as a key input for the other processes that are shaping the digital future.”

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