Internationalisation versus globalisation
Essentially, what we have is a debate between those who favour 'internationalisation' and those who favour 'globalisation'. Historically, decision-making about the internet has been dominated by the USA and a number of European countries. The involvement of people from other regions has been relatively limited. Both the internationalists and the globalists want to see participation broadened. However, global internet governance is liable to place at loggerheads different cultures and different views on the role of the state. The internationalists want national governments to have a central role in future decision-making, while the globalists favour decision-making by a multistakeholder process. The latter model implies the involvement of all relevant stakeholders from around the world (governments, the technical community, users supported by academics) and decision-making on the basis of consensus.
NETmundial appears to assume a multistakeholder model
NETmundial seems likely to be an important event in the ongoing debate on internet governance. Last year’s disclosures about the NSA included the revelation that the US had eavesdropped on the President of Brazil. That prompted her to deliver a stinging rebuke in a speech to the United Nations, during which she argued for the internet to be under UN control. Following the speech, ICANN’s CEO sought to win her over to the idea of a multistakeholder model. Discussions between the two led to plans for NETmundial: a global summit for governments, the technical community, civil society and academia to exchange ideas about the form that internet governance should take. While almost everything is apparently up for discussion, it seems to be taken for granted that a multistakeholder model is the way forward.
Two focuses: guiding principles and a roadmap for the development of internet governance
NETmundial will have two focuses: the definition of guiding principles for internet governance and the formulation of a roadmap for the further development of internet governance mechanisms. Clearly, the two matters are closely linked. And, as indicated above, the conference is explicitly pro-multistakeholder. That fact is underscored by the document prepared as the basis for proceedings at the conference, drawing on the 188 advance contributions. Not to mention the meeting’s title.
Will emerging nations support the multistakeholder model?
Although they are attending NETmundial, countries such as China, Russia and Iran are not expected to embrace the multistakeholder concept. It will be interesting to see whether they participate actively in the public discussions and put forward any alternative ideas. More interesting still will be the extent to which emerging nations, such as India, South Africa and the South American countries, including host nation Brazil, give their support to the multistakeholder model and maintain a similar line in other forums where internet governance is discussed. After all, recruiting such support appears to be the ultimate aim of the conference.
Internet Governance Forum may become the main platform for discussion of internet governance issues
The definition of guiding principles for internet governance is, of course, welcome. However, such principles are inevitably highly abstract and will not be enforceable. Furthermore, the draft roadmap is anything but definite and it is debatable whether the conference will do much to change that. Nevertheless, the proposed reinforcement of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a platform for the discussion of internet governance issues appears to be gathering momentum. If NETmundial yields a structural mandate for the IGF and proper funding for its activities, that will be an agreeable, tangible result.
Follow the proceedings on netmundial.br
Over the coming days, the proceedings of NETmundial can be followed on the internet. You can even make remote contributions to the debates. More information about the conference is available from netmundial.br, where you can view the programme and the discussion document and find details of the remote participation arrangements.