[IRPCoalition] from Netmundial to WEF, an expected journey

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Thu Aug 28 14:18:42 EEST 2014

  - Please excuse multiple posts -

Hi All,

I did a piece on 'Global Internet governance: a developing-country 
<http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2014/287-288/cover02.htm> in the 
current issue of the magazine 'Third World Resurgence 
<http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2014/287-288.htm>" which is 
published by the Third World Network, Malaysia and Geneva. The news 
about the WEF NetMundial initiative came along as I was writing it, and 
I put my views on the initiative into a box in the article. In fact, it 
fitted quite well with my arguments that I was making in the article in 
any case.

(The issue of Resurgence has primary focus on global Internet 
governance, and contains several articles on the issue. It can seen at 
http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2014/287-288.htm . The pdf version 
of the magazine is at 
http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2014/287-288.htm . A promotional 
email will be circulated separately.)


(/*Excerpt from the article*/ /*related to the WEF NetMundial initiative 
are be*//*low*//*)*/

Even after Snowden had so thoroughly rattled public perceptions about 
the Internet, and there has been an intense desire to 'do something' 
about it, which is why the world initially rallied behind Brazil in its 
initiative, the status quo-ists were able to completely hijack the 
NETmundial event. It should prima facie be considered strange that a 
meeting called to address a global horror unveiled by Snowden regarding 
the practices of the US government and its corporations ended such that 
the meeting and its outcomes were most celebrated by these very actors. 
Through the practices at NETmundial and its outcome document, they were 
able to lay out a roadmap which points in exactly the opposite direction 
to where the developing countries need to go. It is little surprise then 
that the next stop is the World Economic Forum, where a new 'NETmundial 
Initiative' is now being cooked up (see box). Such processes and 
meetings are sought to supplant traditional, UN-based global governance 

*From NETmundial to the World Economic Forum*

Walking the tightrope of seeking as wide a global legitimacy as possible 
while still keeping things under full control, the protectors of the 
status quo Internet governance order now seem to be seeking the cover of 
the World Economic Forum (WEF). A NETmundial Initiative1 has been 
announced to be launched at WEF headquarters in Geneva on 28 August 
2014, 'to carry forward the cooperative spirit of Sao Paulo [where the 
NETmundial meeting was held] and work together to apply the NETmundial 
Principles...'.  As can be expected, the list of invited participants is 
heavily dominated by Northern corporations. A select group of government 
leaders and a few civil society organisations are also invited.

In this context, it will be useful to look at the kind of views on 
global Internet governance that have been expressed in WEF reports over 
the last few years. This is what an analysis2 of the WEF's Global 
Redesign Initiative (GRI) has to say about the initiative:

    "One of GRI's major recommendations is that experiences with
    "multistakeholder consultations" on global matters should evolve
    into "multi-stakeholder governance" arrangements. This
    transformation means that non-state actors would no longer just
    provide input to decision-makers (e.g. governments or multinational
    corporations) but would actually be responsible for making global
    policy decisions..."

    'Their recommendations for multistakeholder governance include the
    introduction of parallel meetings with the governing bodies of the
    WHO, UNESCO, and FAO where non-state actors will hold independent
    sessions as a complement to the official government meetings. GRI
    also recommends a second new form of multi-stakeholder governance
    for conflict zones in developing countries. They propose that the
    non-state actors, particularly the business community, join with the
    UN system to jointly administer these conflict zones."

    'There are some sharp differences between "multistakeholder
    consultations" and "multistakeholder governance", some of which are
    often blurred by the loose use of the term "multistakeholder"' .

Multistakeholderism apparently is a new, post-democratic form of 
governance which gives big business a major, institutionalised, 
political role and authority. Multistakeholderism in this form is the 
preferred neoliberal model of governance, whose application begins at 
the global level and with Internet governance but is certainly meant to 
be taken to national levels as well as to all sectors of governance. The 
plan is dead serious, with clear calls for setting up multistakeholder 
organisations that will do policy-making and governance. To quote the 
WEF's Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet from GRI's 
final report3:

    'This means designing multistakeholder structures for the
    institutions that deal with global problems with an online
    dimension. Thus the establishment of a multistakeholder institution
    to address such issues as Internet privacy, copyright, crime and
    dispute resolution is necessary. The government voice would be one
    among many, without always being the final arbiter. And as ever more
    problems come to acquire an online dimension, the multistakeholder
    institution would become the default in international cooperation"

The continuing and inevitable digitalisation of our social systems 
appears to be the chosen path for their de-democratisation through 
multistakeholderisation (read: the rule of big business, with some 
crumbs thrown to other parties). //

1 See Internet Governance Transparency Initiative website, 


3 'Everybody's Business: Strengthening International Cooperation in a 
More Interdependent World', pp. 317-21. 

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