From the corridors of negotiations to the end of the night discussing principles and a roadmap for an acceptable summit declaration, Jovan Kurbalija and Vladimir Radunovic give us their insight on this promising summit.
It has been an extraordinary first day at NETmundial and as Geneva awakes, more discussions and bargaining are taking place between stakeholders in São Paulo. Though participants were given voting cards early on, which implies an option of voting was considered, no further reference to this idea was made during the first day of the summit. So far, a consensus-based approach seems to have the favour of the organisers.
A transparent discussion process
Process wise, with 800 participants from various stakeholders in the room, plus various remote hubs joining online, the organising committee set a strict procedure: each stakeholder group representative could contribute with two-minute interventions. After the session, experts appointed by the organisers sat and discussed the language of the next version of the document, in an open session where anyone, for the sake of transparency, could listen but not intervene. The next version of the draft will be discussed in another iteration during the second day. Controversial topics that are not likely to find compromise will be left out; the focus will be on topics that have wider support. The final version of the text will be negotiated on two tables: principles and roadmap. Expect more from us at the end of the night, Brazilian time.
Mass surveillance, the Internet nightmare
At the opening, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed Marco Civil, the Brazilian Law on the Internet that defends human rights and sets principles, adopted by the parliament in the previous days. But despite her inspiring speech, putting emphasis on democratising Internet governance (IG) by consensus-building around key principles, President Rousseff was disrupted by the #ourNetmundial group, as they believe mass surveillance is not being addressed enough by this legislative piece.
Several mentions of mass surveillance and even of Edward Snowden directly were then made during the day, supported by rounds of applause. It was suggested that mass surveillance stays in the document. This will likely remain a controversial topic till the very end. The principles of human rights were reaffirmed by representatives of civil society, with several loud requests for the NETmundial document to directly refer to mass surveillance. Representatives from developing countries also emphasised the issue of access and connectivity.
Fostering net neutrality
The concept of net neutrality has emerged as a key issue from the very beginning of the summit. Civil society representative Nnenna Nkwama, the ‘father of the web’ Tim Berners Lee, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff came up supporting it, though it has not yet found its place in the second draft of the final document. On the opposite side, the business sector – despite its diversity of opinions on the subject – has shown unity in arguing that NETmundial should not be the place to discuss this topic, relevant to national legislations.
The liability of intermediaries – especially telecom providers – was also raised several times: while the business sector requested explicit mention that intermediaries should not be liable, representatives of civil society disagreed and made the link between those intermediaries and mass surveillance.
An evolving multistakeholder landscape
GIP director Jovan Kurbalija addressed the summit early on, emphasising the role of the recently launched Geneva Internet Platform, underlining the need for building a codex for a genuine multistakeholder model and moving beyond simple training to a 360-degree capacity building programmes. He also suggested discussions around the inviolability of the Internet root zone.
The multistakeholder negotiation process, which is in its experimental phase, showed a difference from traditional diplomacy, when the chair (coming from a non-governmental sector) responded to a Russian government representative with direct words that the Russian contribution to NETmundial had not been accepted because it was submitted after the deadline, and if this were tolerated, other late submissions would need to have been taken into account also.
Support for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was voiced a number of times during the meeting, from all stakeholders and a variety of regions. It may therefore be one of the firm outcomes that most actors would support. It would also be a strong wind to the back of a decision on the IGF’s continuation by the United Nations General Assembly this autumn, in view of potential increased responsibility and weight of the IGF process after substantial improvements.
The UN Under-Secretary-General announced that Janis Karklins, current interim Chair of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), has been appointed MAG Chair with a full mandate. The UN Undersecretary-General then referred to the post-2015 development agenda including expanding access, overcoming gender gaps, and bridging the digital divide. Acknowledging NETmundial as an important milestone in IG and reminding that the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) principles remain relevant, the UN invited all stakeholders to participate in the WSIS+10 process.
The European Commission reaffirmed its support for a multistakeholder model rather than an intergovernmental one, advocating the globalisation of ICANN (the Internet Association of Assigned Names and Numbers) and IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), a strengthened role for the IGF, a demand for global capacity building, and more discussions about global jurisdiction on the Internet. Commissioner Kroes was very passionate about urging actionable outcomes of NETmundial.
UNESCO introduced yet another acronym to the IG field – ROAM, standing for its four key principles of universality: rights-based IG, openness, accessibility and social inclusion, and multistakeholder participation.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General Touré reminded that the IG includes wider policy issues than just managing critical Internet resources (legal, economic, development, and socioeconomic), noting the ITU’s efforts towards secure, equitable, affordable access to the Internet; underlining that NETmundial will be discussing the issues of critical Internet resources, he expressed confidence in ICANN’s capability, yet added that no single entity or small set of entities should control. He also invited all stakeholders to take part in the WSIS High Level event 10–13 June in Geneva.
The Russian position remained unchanged: clearly and strongly opting for an intergovernmental model of IG within the UN system, preferably the ITU, with strong focus on security issues.
India was critical of the draft document seeing it as unbalanced and advocating anchoring NETmundial in the WSIS process.
More to come during the second day of the summit...