[IRP] Civil Society Statement at the upcoming UN meeting on democratizing global governance of the Internet

parminder parminder
Sun May 13 09:42:41 EEST 2012

*Call to support a joint civil society statement on democratising the 
global governance of the Internet, proposed by */*Focus on the Global 
South (*//Thailand//*), Instituto Nupef *//(Brazil)//*, IT for Change 
*//(India)//*, Knowledge Commons *//(India), //*Other News *//(Italy) 
and //*Third World Network *//(Malaysia/

Dear All,

Greetings from IT for Change!. And first of all apologies for possible 
multiple hits from this message. We think it has important bearing on 
Internet rights and principles. Democracy is one of the most important 
rights, and equal treatment of the small and the big on the Internet its 
basic architectural principle. This statement is about both being 

As per the UN General Assembly resolution of December 2011, the UN 
Commission on Science and Technology for Development is holding a one 
day meeting on 'Enhanced Cooperation on Public Policy Issues Pertaining 
to the Internet' on 18th of May in Geneva. This important  meeting will 
take stock of the future directions for global Internet governance and 
what may be needed to democratise it. *A joint statement 
by civil society organisations and individuals is being proposed on this 
occasion*. A document on background information can be found here 

This is a call to support and endorse the statement. We are happy to 
provide any clarification that may be needed, and to engage further on 
this subject. *If you would like to support this statement, kindly send 
your endorsement ? organisational or personal ? to itfc at itforchange.net 
<mailto:itfc at itforchange.net>, before 16*^*th* *May.

IT for Change*
/*On behalf of the proposing organisations */*

/_*Global Governance of the Internet must be Democratised!*_/

/A joint statement by civil society organisations for the UN CSTD 
meeting on 'Enhanced Cooperation on Public Policy Issues Pertaining to 
the Internet' to take place in Geneva on May 18^th , 2012/

/*proposed by */

/*Focus on the Global South (*Thailand*), Instituto Nupef *(Brazil)*, IT 
for Change *(India)*, */

/*Knowledge Commons *(India),* Other News */*(Italy)*/*, Third World 
Network *(Malaysia* * /

/*and endorsed by */

/*organisations and individuals listed at the end of the statement*/

The Internet is a major force today, restructuring our economic, social, 
political and cultural systems. Most people implicitly assume that it is 
basically a beneficent force, needing, if at all, some caution only at 
the user-end. This may have been true in the early stages when the 
Internet was created and sustained by benevolent actors, including 
academics, technologists, and start-up enterprises that challenged big 
businesses. However, we are getting past that stage now. What used to be 
a public network of millions of digital spaces, is now largely a 
conglomeration of a few proprietary spaces. (A few websites like Google, 
Facebook, Twitter and Amazon together make much of what is considered 
the Internet by most people today.) We are also moving away from a 
browser-centric architecture of the 'open' Internet to an 
applications-driven mobile Internet, that is even more closed and ruled 
by proprietary spaces (like App Store and Android Market). *In fact, 
some Internet plans for mobiles come* *only with a few big websites and 
applications, without the open 'public' Internet, which is an ominous 
pointer to what the future Internet may look like. *What started off as 
a global public resource is well on its way to becoming a set of 
monopoly private enclosures, and a means for entrenching dominant power. 
*At this stage, it is crucial to actively defend and promote the 
Internet's immense potential as a democratic and egalitarian force, 
including through appropriate principles and policies at the global level.*

/*Who governs the Internet*/

It is a myth that /'the Internet is not governed by anyone'/. It is also 
not a coincidence nor a natural order of things that the Internet, and 
through it, our future societies, are headed in the way of unprecedented 
private gate-keeping and rentier-ing. The architecture of the Internet 
is being actively shaped today by the most powerful forces, both 
economic and political. A few US based companies increasingly have 
monopoly control over most of the Internet. The US government itself 
controls some of the most crucial nodes of the global digital network. 
*Together, these two forces, in increasing conjunction, are determining 
the techo-social structure of a new unipolar world.* It is important for 
progressive actors to urgently address this situation, through seeking 
globally democratic forms of governance of the Internet.

While the US government and US based monopoly Internet companies already 
have a close working relationship to support and further each other's 
power, this relationship is now being formalised through new power 
compacts; whether in the area of extra-territorial IP enforcement (read, 
global economic extraction) through legislations like _SOPA 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act>_ , or in the area 
of security (read, global extension of coercive power) through 
cyber-security legislations like _CIPSA 

The US government has stubbornly refused to democratise the oversight of 
the Internet's root server and domain name system, which it controls. 
While the US pooh-poohs the security concerns expressed by other 
countries vis-a-vis such unacceptable unilateralism, rather 
hypocritically, it seeks to contractually obligate the non-profit 
managing these key infrastructures to appoint its security officials 
only on US government advice. (The chief security officer of this 
non-profit body is already, in fact, a sworn member of the 'Homeland 
Security Advisory Council' of the US!)

Apart from the direct application of US law and whims (think _Wikileaks 
<http://www.technewsreview.com.au/article.php?article=13028>_) over the 
global Internet, and Internet-based social activity (increasingly a 
large part of our social existence), default global law is also being 
written by the clubs of powerful countries that routinely draft Internet 
policies and policy frameworks today. The OECD and Council of Europe are 
two active sites of such policy making, covering areas like 
cyber-security, Internet intermediary liability, search engines, social 
networking sites etc. Last year, OECD came out with its '_Principles for 
Internet Policy-Making 
<http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/40/21/48289796.pdf>_'. These Principles, 
heavy on IP enforcement and private policing through large North-based 
Internet companies, are to guide Internet policies in all OECD 
countries. Recently, OECD decided to 'invite' other, non-OECD, countries 
to accede to these Principles. *This is the new paradigm of global 
governance, where the powerful countries make the laws and the rest of 
the world must accept and implement them. *

/*Who is not allowed at the governance table*/

While Northern countries are very active at Internet related policy- and 
law-making, which have extra-territorial ambition and reach, they 
strongly resist any UN based initiative for development of global 
Internet principles and policies. *This is in keeping with the 
increasingly common Northern efforts at undermining UN/ multi-lateral 
frameworks in other global governance arenas* like trade, IP etc. For 
instance; trying to keep global financial systems out of UNCTAD's 
purview at the recent Doha UNCTAD meeting 
and bringing in Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 
as a new instrument of extra-territorial IP enforcement by the OECD, 
bypassing WIPO.

The mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) for 
building a globally democratic space for developing Internet related 
global policies is quite clear. The WSIS _outcome document 
<http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs2/tunis/off/6rev1.html>_ states that, ?the 
process towards enhanced cooperation (on Internet-related international 
public policies), (is) to be started by the UN Secretary-General ... by 
the end of the first quarter of 2006?. However, six years down the line, 
developed countries do not seem to be willing to even formally discuss 
how to operationalise this very important WSIS mandate of 'enhanced 
cooperation', much less do something concrete about it.

/*OUR DEMAND - Internet Governance must be democratised*/

*We, the undersigned civil society organisations,* *affirm that the 
Internet must be governed democratically*, with the equal involvement of 
all people, groups and countries. Its governance systems must be open, 
transparent and inclusive, with civil society given adequate avenues of 
meaningful substantive participation. While we denounce statist control 
over the Internet sought by many governments at national levels, we 
believe that the struggle at the global level also has significant 
dynamics of a different kind. *Our demands with respect to 'global' 
Internet Governance espouse a simple and obvious democratic logic.* On 
the technical governance side, the oversight of the Internet's critical 
technical and logical infrastructure, at present with the US government, 
should be transferred to an appropriate, democratic and participative, 
multi-lateral body, without disturbing the existing distributed 
architecture of technical governance of the Internet in any significant 
way. (However, improvements in the technical governance systems are 
certainly needed.) On the side of larger Internet related public 
policy-making on global social, economic, cultural and political issues, 
the OECD-based model of global policy making, as well as the default 
application of US laws, should be replaced by a new UN-based democratic 
mechanism. Any such new arrangement should be based on the principle of 
subsidiarity, and be innovative in terms of its mandate, structure, and 
functions, to be adequate to the unique requirements of global Internet 
governance. It must be fully participative of all stakeholders, 
promoting the democratic and innovative potential of the Internet.

The Internet should be governed on the principles of human liberty, 
equality and fraternity. It should be based on the accepted principle of 
the indivisibility of human rights; civil, political, economic, social 
and cultural rights, and also people's collective right to development. 
*A rights-based agenda should be developed as an alternative to the 
current neo-liberal model driving the development of the Internet,* and 
the evolution of an information society. The UN is the appropriate place 
for developing and implementing such an alternative agenda. Expedient 
labelling by the most powerful forces in the Internet arena, of the UN, 
and of developing countries, as being interested /only/ in 'controlling 
the Internet', and under this cover, continually shaping the 
architecture of the Internet and its social paradigm to further their 
narrow interests, is a bluff that must be called.

We demand that a *Working Group of the UN Commission on Science and 
Technology for Development (CSTD) be instituted to explore possible ways 
of implementing 'enhanced cooperation' for global Internet-related 
policies*. (Such a CSTD Working Group is also being sought by some 
developing countries.) 'Enhanced cooperation' must be implemented 
through innovative multi-lateral mechanisms, that are participatory. 
Internet policy-making cannot be allowed to remain the preserve of one 
country or clubs of rich countries. *If the Internet is to promote 
democracy in the world*, which incidentally is the much touted agenda of 
the US and other Northern countries, *the Internet itself has, first, to 
be governed democratically.*

/*Click here to endorse the statement 

/*Click here for the current list of signatories to the joint civil 
society statement 

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