The global Internet governance architecture

Since India first made its proposal to establish a UN Committee for Internet-related Policies (UN CIRP), there have been repeated claims in the international media that the “UN is trying to take over the Internet”. Governments have indeed been trying to establish greater control over the Internet, both domestically and internationally. But need this necessarily be a bad thing, as it is often made out to be?   Read More

At the Internet Democracy Project, we believe that greater international coordination among governments at times is essential to safeguard the human rights of all Internet users, including in India. The problem lies, however, in the centralised nature of all proposals currently on the table to facilitate such coordination: whether they see the Internet Governance Forum or a new entity taking up this role, they all intend one body to become the ultimate clearing house for all Internet related policies at the global level.

In contrast, the Internet Democracy Project believes that the solution to global Internet governance challenges lies in the development of distributed, or networked forms of governance. At the heart of such a approach is the establishment of networks of governance actors and institutions, both domestically and internationally, who are linked in multiple ways and have a crucial stake in supporting and collaborating with each other: without the approval and agreement of others, no single actor can dominate the field.

In our work on the global Internet governance architecture, we develop these ideas step by step. We also follow closely two global processes in which the question of global Internet governance is addressed repeatedly and in some detail:

  • The ITU and global Internet governance
  • The WSIS+10 Review

This is in addition to the Internet Governance Forum and the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation, which we will be updating you about whenever relevant as well. More recently, the NetMundial meeting in Brazil in April 2014 has emerged as another important venue for these issues to be discussed.

More details about the the ITU-related processes and the WSIS+10 Review can be found under their respective sub-headings.


Posts & Reports

  • Dots and connections - Internet explained through rangoli

    Remember we had begun to use rangoli as a way to explain networking concepts? We have turned that exercise into a video now! Well, some parts of it - watch it here. With the support of Greenhost and the Totem Project, we made an explainer video that goes into what ‘internet’ means, how information travels …   More

    25 August

  • India’s data protection draft ignores key next-generation rights

    (This article was first published in Asia Times. You can find the link to the original article here.) In the last week of July, two events happened in rapid succession: the release of India’s much-awaited draft data-protection legislation, and a breaking news story that Watson, IBM’s computing system that helps physicians recommend individualized cancer treatments, …   More

    21 August

  • Corporate actors must not facilitate human rights violations through new Chinese rules

    Recent efforts by Verisign at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in response to China’s new draft Internet Domain Name Management Rules present a serious threat to the right to privacy and freedom of expression online. By facilitating the implementation of real name policies for domain name registration in China, the rules risk seriously encroaching on Internet users’ rights, and Verisign’s technical and policy proposals to comply with them don’t include any consideration of potential human rights impacts. There is a whole constellation of actors involved in making this policy possible, all of whom have a responsibility to respect human rights.   More

    02 Dec 2016

  • India at the Internet’s root? Understanding India’s pitch for a root server

    This paper was co-authored by Dr. Anja Kovacs and Rajat Rai Handa.
    In September 2015, news reports noted that India had pitched with the United States (US) for a root zone server to be placed within the country. What to make of India’s request? In order to fully understand the weight, import and potential consequences of India’s stance, it is essential to gain a deeper understanding of the root zone, its functioning and its management, as well as of India’s historical positions on related issues. In this paper, we aim to aid such understanding in several steps as we examine both a variety of technical aspects involved and the larger politico-strategic context in which India’s bid has to be understood.

    Report 30 Mar 2016

  • Cybersecurity, Internet governance and India’s foreign policy: Antecedents and the way forward for non-governmental stakeholders

    On 27 February, 2016, the Internet Democracy Project organised a national meeting of non-governmental stakeholders at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, to discuss the findings of its latest research study, ‘Cybersecurity, Internet Governance and India’s Foreign Policy: Historical Antecedents’ by Mr. Saikat Datta. In this report, we summarise the findings of the discussions.

    Report 14 Mar 2016

  • Multistakeholderism in Cybersecurity: What Civil Society Brings Uniquely

    As again became clear in the recently concluded WSIS+10 Overall Review, governments around the world, including India’s, continue to argue that cybersecurity should be under the primary purview of the state. Many however, believe that multistakeholderism rather than multilateralism is the way forward in cybersecurity, as has been the case in Internet governance. What is the kind of dominant role then that the government is poised to play? Why do we need multistakeholderism in cybersecurity? In this post, we investigate these questions. As it is the civil society’s role that is most often questioned, we focus on their role in particular.   More

    09 Mar 2016

  • With or without us: Bilateralism and India’s cybersecurity policies

    While India has become a staunch supporter of multistakeholderism in Internet Governance, it has also stuck by its stance that cybersecurity should remain primarily the responsibility of governments. In the past quarter of 2015, there has been a flurry of bilateral negotiations between India and other countries on cybersecurity. What did these negotiations address, and …   More

    30 Dec 2015

  • Importance of a rights-based approach to development needs to be recognised: Our comments on the WSIS+10 Non-Paper

    Until Friday 18 September, comments were invited on the UN Non-Paper for the WSIS+10 Review from UN member-states, observer states and all relevant stakeholders. The Internet Democracy Project submitted comments in the form of specific text proposals on all the different sections of the non-paper, namely Digital Divide, ICT for Development, Human Rights, Internet Governance, …   More

    24 Sep 2015

  • Digital India abroad: India’s foreign policy and digital rights

    THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CO-AUTHORED BY ANJA KOVACS AND SAIKAT DATTA. If India has supported economic, social and cultural rights far more vocally at global fora than civil and political rights, this is a result of both domestic security compulsions and historical foreign policy positions. Internet rights advocates’ strategies will need to take into account India’s preoccupation with sovereignty and an improved international stature to gain the country’s full support. This article was co-authored by Anja Kovacs and Saikat Datta, and first published in Lettinga, Doutje and Lars van Troost (eds.) (2015), Shifting Power and Human Rights Diplomacy: India. Amsterdam: Amnesty International Netherlands.

    Report 08 Apr 2015

  • We need a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy!

    The Internet Democracy Project was one of more than ninety organisations supporting an NGO oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council calling for a UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. The statement was delivered to the UN HRC’s 28th ordinary sesion by Article 19 on 13 March. The UN General Assembly, the …   More

    18 Mar 2015

  • Re-Interpreting Document 98: India’s proposals at the ITU Plenipot 2014 and the evolution of Internet governance

    At the recently concluded ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, India proposed a controversial new resolution that sought to contribute to realising a more secure information society. But while some criticisms of the draft resolution were justified, much of the discussion at the ITU Plenipot overlooked the considerable merit that India’s proposed new resolution has when considered against the backdrop of the larger politics of global Internet governance. For its attempt to find solutions to long-standing concerns of developing countries while at the same time recognising the value of existing internet governance institutions, India’s proposal deserves a second reading, argues Anja Kovacs.

    Report 02 Feb 2015

  • Civil society statement on the 2014 Internet Governance Forum

    The Internet Democracy Project has joined forces with a range of civil society organisations and individuals from across the world to release, during the Internet Governance Forum, the following statement on the Internet Governance Forum, related processes and human rights and development. The complete list of signatories to the statement can be found here. We, …   More

    05 Sep 2014

  • Is a reconciliation of multistakeholderism and multilateralism in internet governance possible? India at NETmundial

    In the eyes of many observers, India is one of a handful of countries that are in a position to swing the outcome of the internet governance debates. It is of importance, therefore, to understand in greater depth the stances that the Government of India is likely to take in the many important Internet governance meetings and events that will take place in the remainder of 2014 and in 2015, and how they can be engaged constructively. This short paper outlines and examines these positions, taking as its starting point India’s participation in NETmundial – Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, which took place in São Paulo, Brazil, on 23 and 24 April 2014.

    Report 04 Sep 2014

  • Moving multistakeholderism forward: Four practical proposals

    In a previous post, Anja Kovacs used the widely accepted working definition of Internet governance that is contained in the Tunis Agenda as a starting point to highlight three conceptual moves that the Internet governance community should make to address current controversies regarding multistakeholderism head-on while at the same time strengthening its democratising potential. In …   More

    27 Aug 2014

  • Moving multistakeholderism forward: Conceptual pointers from the working definition on Internet governance

    Multistakeholderism has become a deeply contested term and practice. How can we fully address the controversies that surround it, especially regarding the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, so as to retain its democratising potential? Takes as her starting point the working definition of Internet governance included in the Tunis Agenda, Anja Kovacs provides three …   More

    25 Aug 2014

  • Open letter by Indian civil society organisations to the Chair of the ‘Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance’ to be held in Brazil in April, 2014

    A wide range of Indian civil society organisations active in the field of Internet governance, including the Internet Democracy Project, have come together to protest the appointment of Ms. Subi Chaturvedi as the civil society co-chair of the NetMundial meeting in Brazil this April. We believe that Ms. Chaturvedi does not possess the experience, expertise …   More

    24 Feb 2014

  • Unlocking enhanced cooperation

    Debates about ‘enhanced cooperation’ are, at their heart, debates about how Internet-related public policy is made, and what role different stakeholders can play in developing those policies. The outcomes that will emerge from several processes that are currently attempting to address these questions will likely shape how future Internet challenges are framed and how they can be addressed, including whether civil society will be in the room or not. In an effort to understand the concerns about the current Internet governance regime and the proposed solutions that are on the table, this paper brings into a conversation Grace Githaiga from Kenya, Joana Varon Ferraz from Brazil andAnja Kovacs from India with Lea Kaspar from the UK, to analyse the concept of enhanced cooperation and arguments around it. The paper then goes on to suggest a way towards formalising a distributed model of Internet governance.

    Report 02 Feb 2014

  • A third way? Proposal for a decentralised, multistakeholder global Internet governance model

    While progress has been made in some areas over the past decade, there are still numerous Internet-related public policy issues that require to be addressed at the global level and that do not have adequate processes involving all stakeholders in place. Many have proposed that all these issues should be made the responsibility of one global body, be it new or existing. The Internet Democracy Project, however, believes that this is not the right way forward. Instead, we propose a decentralised model that builds on various existing processes but is not restricted to it and that ensures all stakeholders are integrally involved. Let us explain.

    Report 24 Oct 2013

  • Letter from international civil society organisations to President Dilma Rousseff in support of her statement at the 68th Session of the UNGA

    Earlier this week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivered a rousing speech in the UN General Assembly, slamming the USA for the NSA’s spying, emphasising the importance of freedom of expression and privacy to support democracy, and calling for a global, democratic and just framework for Internet use and governance. The Internet Democracy Project joined other …   More

    28 Sep 2013

  • Our submission to the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation

    On 31 August, the Internet Democracy Project submitted its responses to the questionnaire that was made available by the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) last July. The questionnaire seeks to get input on the broad questions that constitutes the WGEC’s mandate: what is …   More

    04 Sep 2013

  • Pawns in a governments’ game? Civil society and evolving discussions on ‘multistakeholder’ Internet governance

    Ever since the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) brought out rather starkly disagreements among governments about governments’ role in Internet governance, this issue has received considerable attention. What is discussed far less, however, is that, in this ongoing tug of war, civil society is paying a high price: notwithstanding the extensive lip service both …   More

    10 Jul 2013

  • Reframing the debate: Cyber security, cyber surveillance and online human rights

    This discussion paper - co-authored by Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project and Dixie Hawtin from Global Partners and Associates - was written on invitation for the Stockholm Internet Forum. The paper examines the main challenges that the cyber security arena currently poses for the promotion and protection of human rights - including a lack of definitional clarity; a consequent pervasive but often illegitimate sense of crisis; and costly yet frequently ineffective solutions. It then investigates what a human rights approach to cyber security entails, taking as its starting point a positive, rather than negative, approach to security that supports not only the right to privacy but, crucially, also the right to freedom of expression.

    Report 16 May 2013

  • Mechanics and governance of the Internet - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is fourth in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. ‘It’s like a library.’ ‘But it’s not organised - it’s chaotic. That’s just the impression you get.’ ‘An electromagnetic web of information.’ ‘It’s the tech equivalent of a collective consciousness.’ ‘It’s basically …   More

    18 Mar 2013

  • Are we breaking up the Internet, one country at a time?

    In preparation for the Stockholm Internet Forum, Anja Kovacs was asked to submit a written contribution, detailing what she believes is the biggest emerging threat to online freedom. Here is what she wrote. “While it could be argued that a range of new threats to online freedom have arisen in recent years, there is one …   More

    24 Apr 2012

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