Recommendations to the third meeting of the UN CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation

by Anja Kovacs

The UN CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) is due to submit to the CSTD by May 2014 a report with recommendations on how to fully implement the World Summit on the Information Society’s mandate on enhanced cooperation. As an on-site observer at the third meeting of the WGEC, which was devoted to the formulation of such recommendations, the Internet Democracy Project made, together with several other civil society representatives and observers present there, a series of recommendations for the consideration of the WGEC in relation to section B of its report, on public policy issues and possible mechanisms to address them. The recommendations draw on the Internet Democracy Project’s August 2013 submission to the WGEC, as well as on work we have done since then. They were submitted through Joy Liddicoat from the Association for Progressive Communications, one of the official civil society representatives in the WGEC

The following recommendations were submitted jointly by a range of civil society participants and observers in the WGEC:

Recommendation 1:

All stakeholders should commit to the continued development of a distributed form of Internet governance at national, regional and global levels, in which stakeholders with relevant expertise collaborate with governments to develop internet-related public policies that fall within their specific domain.

Recommendation 2:

Establish [within the CSTD] a platform, which includes all stakeholders, to build upon work already done (including within the WGEC) to seek, compile, review, research and analyze inputs on progress and gaps in international Internet related public policy and to recommend the most appropriate venue or venues to develop further policy as required.

Recommendation 3:

All processes initiated to develop Internet-related international public policy should be multistakeholder, democratic, inclusive, transparent and accountable, with sufficient and timely notice and background being provided to all stakeholders on modalities, aim/​purpose and significance.

These recommendations reworked and condensed, on the request of the Chair of the WGEC, a set of recommendations submitted by the Internet Democracy Project to the WGEC earlier in the meeting. This more extensive set of recommendations drew directly on our submission to the WGEC from August 2013, as well as on related work that we have done since then:

  • We commit to the continued development of a distributed or networked form of governance over the Internet, in which networks of actors across stakeholder groups work together on making policies around an issue related to the Internet that falls within the specific domain of expertise of those actors.

  • All processes and networks thus initiated should adhere at a very minimum, to the following principles:

  • They have participation from all stakeholder groups.

  • They are inclusive, transparent and accountable to the wider Internet governance community, with sufficient and timely notice and background being provided to all stakeholders on modalities, aim/​purpose and significance.

  • They are global in nature. Solutions’ developed in fora with a limited geographical reach do not amount to international Internet public policy making as envisioned by the enhanced cooperation agenda. In order to be global, substantial representation across regions is essential.

  • They are arranged in such a way that none of the stakeholders or regions can determine the outcome without the cooperation of all other stakeholder groups and regions.

  • Where an Internet-related international policy issue has already been included in the WSIS Action lines, a coalition consisting of the different UN Agencies that are responsible for the various Action Lines in which the Internet governance issue in question was earlier embedded constitute a multistakeholder process to start taking forward necessary work regarding this issue. As a preliminary exercise, the exact aspect(s) of each issue that requires global policy making or oversight over implementation is/​are isolated and defined in more detail in the relevant multistakeholder group. Once the preliminary work is finalised, the multistakeholder group moves towards deciding how to take forward this work, and then starts implementing it. It can also decide to possibly delegetate the issue to others.

  • To decide where to take forward issues that are not currently embedded in the WSIS Action Lines, a multistakeholder Committee will be established under the CSTD. The Committee will be a permanent body to which all Internet issues that are not yet resolved can be referred. The Committee will explore the various ways in which they could best be taken forward, including by mapping existing process and for a that already work in this area where needed. As before, the isolation and detailed definition of the exact aspects of an issue that require global public policy making should be an intrinsic part of this exercise. The Committee can recommend a variety of venues to take forward the Internet governance issue at hand, including working groups under the CSTD and existing multistakeholder processes outside of the UN system.

In addition, the Internet Democracy Project also submitted the following recommendation, which is still to be considered in the next meeting of the WGEC:

The IGF will take in this structure the function of a clearing-house, as a venue where ongoing and future processes and their outcomes are presented to and discussed with a wider audience, and where new initiatives can easily find a sounding board while making connections between issues and networks where necessary. The IGF will therefore be restructured to include structured feedback processes on ongoing issue-specific Internet governance processes, so that a wider audience can voice its opinions on proposals as they are being evolved. Taking wider stakeholder feedback at the IGF will be an essential requirement for each of the issue-specific Internet governance processes described above. Some of the proposals of the Working Group on IGF Improvements provide a helpful starting point for thinking on how to channel such feedback in an organised manner at the IGF in practice.