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    ITU The Scope of WGIG's Mandate
    posted by michael on Tuesday August 03 2004, @01:50PM

    Bruce Levinson writes "The UN's World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) recently completed a meeting (PrepCom-1) in Hammamet, Tunisia in preparation for the second phase of the WSIS process. Following the meeting, the Secretariat of WSIS' Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) issued a statement discussing the organization's plans and goals.

    The WGIG will produce a report and recommendations on internet governance prior to the 2005 WSIS meeting. Although the WGIG could well have a substantive impact on ICANN and virtually all internet stakeholders, the scope of the WGIG's mandate and its operation remain either undetermined or shrouded in secrecy.

    A statement from the WGIG Secretariat begins with a commitment to working through an "open and inclusive" process with the "full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries". However, other elements of the statement raise serious doubts about WGIG's commitment to these goals."




    "The first doubts about openness and transparency are raised by the fact that there is no indication as to how stakeholders can be nominated to serve on the WGIG. Instead of having an open nomination process, the WGIG will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General assisted by the already existing Secretariat. The Secretariat has stated that there will be "consultations on the composition of the WGIG, the profile of its members..." and that the membership will have a "balanced composition." Thus, the group potentially responsible for the making key decisions about the future of internet governance will be appointed by the UN bureaucracy following "open-ended" consultations with those with whom they choose to consult. The specific decision-making process for determining WGIG membership is not discussed.

    Once the WGIG is appointed, they will decide on what it is they are supposed to work. As the Secretariat's statement explains, "It will be up to the WGIG to decide on the scope of its mandate." The statement goes on to note, "But of course we need to be thinking about the possible scope of the mandate when proposing the members of the WGIG." Thus, the UN appointed group will have, in essence, free reign to involve themselves in and make recommendations regarding virtually every aspect of the internet, including content.

    According to an interview with the Executive Coordinator of the WGIG Secretariat, issues that may potentially be addressed by WGIG include "concerns related to Internet content (e.g., spam and offensive content)." The notion of a United Nations' organization discussing and making recommendation regarding "offensive" internet content is, to say the least, rather disturbing.

    Despite the apparent commitment to being "open and inclusive" the WGIG meetings will be "closed." However, in addition to staging closed meetings, the WGIG will also engage in yet more "open-ended consultations." Furthermore, the process may also be "supplemented by additional meeting and special advisers..."

    The Secretariat describes the WGIG process as "a compromise between efficiency and legitimacy." In reality, the process appears to be neither efficient nor legitimate but simply compromised."

     
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    · Also by michael
     
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    The Scope of WGIG's Mandate | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 1 comments | Search Discussion
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    Off the mark
    by Mueller ({mueller} {at} {syr.edu}) on Sunday August 08 2004, @07:24PM (#14052)
    User #2901 Info | http://istweb.syr.edu/~mueller/
    I am wondering what Bruce's real point is. We are presented with two rather indirect attacks on the legitimacy of the WSIS process. But is his purpose to defend the status quo? Is the legitimacy of the current system of Internet governance, conducted by WIPO, ICANN, WTO, US Department of Commerce, any better than what we see happening at WSIS and WGIG? Those of us who have watched this thing close up for the last seven years are way beyond scare talk about
    "gummint regulators," after seeing things like UDRP routinely used to attack web sites or domain names on the basis of their content. For the latest outrage, look up clearchannelsucks.com at the NAF website.

    Mr Levinson states: "The first doubts about openness and transparency are raised by the fact that there is no indication as to how stakeholders can be nominated to serve on the WGIG."

    Hogwash. Anyone can send a name they favor to Markus Kummer. Or even to Kofi Annan. Just as anyone could send a name to Jon Postel, Ira Magaziner, Roger Cochetti and Mike Nelson to nominate someone for the initial ICANN Board back in 1998. The process is almost identical in
    form. The public proposes, and an insider group disposes, based on the usual lobbying activity. The only difference is, this time it's a different set of folks making the decision, and it's probably a lot bigger and a more internationally representative crew. But we'll see what the results are.

    "Instead of having an open nomination process, the WGIG will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General assisted by the already existing Secretariat."

    Well, who else would a UN working group be appointed by, if not the UN Secretary-General? The Internet Society? A global electorate? At least the UN SG is accountable to his member-states, and can be voted out of office for his decision. How accountable were Becky Burr and Karen Rose?

    Levinson complains: "Thus, the UN appointed group will have, in essence, free reign to involve themselves in and make recommendations regarding virtually every aspect of the internet, including content."

    Actually the UN appointed group has no power whatsoever to "involve themselves" in any aspect of the Internet. They are going to write a report that defines Internet governance and the policy issues associated with it. Neither the United Nations nor WSIS have any power over the Internet unless governments choose to give it to them. That would take a convention or treaty, and a lot of debate.

    If Mr. Levinson doesn't think that the world's governments - including the USA - aren't already "involving themselves" in Internet regulation he's been asleep since 1997. So what's wrong with openly discussing and debating the wisdom of regulating the Internet? I for one am optimistic that when these issues are brought into the open and deliberated upon by a larger world community, that the freedom of the Internet might actually be enhanced.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]


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