Multi-stakeholder approach in Internet Governance and a need for enhanced co-operation, nationally and globally

The Working Group on Enhanced Co-operation was established by the Chair of the Commission for Science Technology and Development(CSTD) under the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on the basis of a resolution of the General Assembly. The working group is entrusted with the task ofexamining the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society regarding enhanced cooperation as contained in the Tunis Agenda, through seeking, compiling and reviewing inputs from all Member States and all other stakeholders, and to make recommendations on how to fully implement this mandate. The working group invited responses from all stakeholders on the issues to be considered by the working group by circulating a questionnaire.SFLC.IN provided an extensive feedback on this questionnaire

Paragraph 69, 70 and 71 of the Tunis Agenda focuses on enhanced co-operation amongst various stakeholder groups. In our answers to the questions asked, SFLC.IN identifies protection of human rights on the Internet, governance of critical Internet resources, access and capacity building, and law-making as the major international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet.

SFLC.IN stressed that development of public policies from the enhanced cooperation platform would ensure stability, security and continuity. However, such engagement with various stakeholders should happen at multiple levels, viz., global, national and local. The engagement should follow a bottom-up model. This should ensure a proper and meaningful participation in international policy dialogues by the Government as well as by the various stakeholders in the country. There should be sharing of information, resources and know how between the Government and various stakeholders and this would facilitate better policy making on issues.

SFLC.IN opined that enhanced co-operation model should not be a top-heavy model and should be balanced with proper representation from all stake-holders at all levels. There cannot be one single mechanism or one single entity to implement enhanced co-operation. It will be more appropriate to discuss the principles to be followed in evolving such a mechanism. It is essential for all inter-governmental and international organizations to work on the principle of enhanced co-operation. The implementation of enhanced cooperation should be based on the principles of transparency, balanced representation of stakeholders and informed decision-making.

SFLC.IN is of the view that the major issues in the digital space in developing countries relate to access, content, infrastructure and security. Currently, the influence of developing nations in the global Internet governance space is limited. The inter-governmental and international organizations need to work towards rectifying this anomaly. These organizations need to work towards a balanced resource allocation based on categorization of countries. Care should be taken to ensure that there is proper representation of least developed and developing countries in the policy space.

SFLC.IN proposed that national Governments should hold national and regional consultations with participation from all stakeholders. Such consultations will result in greater deliberation of policy issues and will result in creation of entities that have better understanding of Internet governance issues. The national Governments should also hold consultations with stakeholders prior to any international forum or consultation. Government delegations to international forums should have multi-stakeholder representation.

However the Government of India despite making repeated assurances about adopting a multi stake holder approach on issues and policies related to internet governance is once again advocating for the establishment of a multi-lateral body under the auspices of the General Assembly wherein the governments will occupy the driver’s seat.

This position not only ignores the principles and ethos on which the Internet is based but also raises the question as to why a software giant which is also one of the biggest markets in the world is unwilling to leverage its unique, beneficial position in the world and is advocating for one country -one vote regime.

As no consultations were held in India before the adoption of this official position, one is left to wonder about the ways to decipher the doublespeak and the esoteric processes followed. The next meeting of the WGEC is scheduled to be held from February 24 to 28, 2014. We hope that the Government of India holds a consultation before this meeting and re-considers its position.

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