The Future of Internet Governance
“This is the right time to make changes. This opportunity must not be missed. We see the future of Internet Governance as an evolution of what is being done today.”
Those were the words chosen by Raul Echeberría, LACNIC’s Executive Director, to highlight before the Latin American and Caribbean community that this is the right time to take advantage of the momentum we are currently observing in world diplomacy to strengthen the multistakeholder Internet governance model. He then added that “winds are currently blowing in the direction that civil society has been promoting for the past decade: an open and inclusive Internet, with no legal or political ties to major corporations or world powers.”
Just a few hours after landing on his flight back from Bali, Indonesia, where the Internet Governance Forum sponsored by the United Nations was held, and three weeks after the Montevideo Statement was released, Echeberria expressed his enthusiasm about the future of Internet Governance.
During his speech at the LACNIC 20 event held in Curacao, LACNIC’S CEO reviewed the last decade of Internet Governance. “During these 10 years of ongoing debate, many stakeholders have perceived a status quo, but we at LACNIC believe that the situation in 2013 is completely different from the situation in 2003. Today, in contrast to 2003, the relationship between the region’s stakeholders is more fluid; furthermore, I believe that in Latin America and the Caribbean the relationship between Internet stakeholders has reached a level of maturity that can be considered a global example.”
Echeberría then went on to note that LACNIC no longer needs to knock on intergovernmental forums’ doors, as invitations are routinely received. “We are invited because we are viewed as a valuable contributor. Examples of this include eLAC, a process born out of the ministerial conferences, where a follow-up mechanism has been established in which LACNIC has its own place.”
During the past decade, civil society organizations have increased their influence throughout the world. “During the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society, NGOs weren’t allowed to enter the meeting rooms. We had to wait outside, in the hallways, to lobby or meet government representatives we already knew to exchange opinions with them. Today, no one would even consider the possibility of holding a debate on Internet Governance without all those involved being present,” Echeberria added.
New Mechanisms. The Internet Governance Forum, created in 2006, has modified the Internet Governance landscape. “This is a very important achievement. We created a hybrid,” said Echeberría, “something completely new within the system of international relationships, one which is formally related to the UN but does not belong to this organization. It is a forum convened by the UN Secretary General, yet it is funded by different sources, donations, RIRs, etc. It’s an open space that operates under the United Nations umbrella but without the rules governing the United Nations, one where the participation of all stakeholders –governments, civil society, corporations– on an equal footing provides an innovative, unorthodox touch that has created a new way of working.” This global initiative has materialized at national and regional IGFs, where new mechanisms have increased stakeholder participation in the debates leading up to the global Internet Governance Forum.
Right now, after recent revelations regarding Internet surveillance, some visions are gaining speed and the demands to put an end the special role of the U.S. Government in relation to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions have been growing. LACNIC’s points of view have always been public and clearly in favor of ending this special role of the U.S. Government. “Our position has always been consistent,” said Echeberria, while he recalled that “the NRO has always shared this position as well.”
The revelations regarding Internet surveillance on the part of the security establishment, especially the NSA, have affected people’s trust. “We have reached a point where people do not know who to trust. And the perception on the part of some governments regarding the lack of mechanisms for discussing certain Internet Governance issues has increased,” said Echeberria.
In this sense, LACNIC’s CEO highlighted that the Montevideo Statement released by the I* group –a group that had never released a statement before– includes two main points. The first, a call for accelerating the globalization of ICANN, which, in LACNIC’s opinion, means that this organization should no longer be “an organization based in the United States operating under the US legal framework, but one operating with total independence from the US Government and established under an International status.” The second point is a call for catalyzing the discussion process towards a new governance model. “A broader framework is needed, one that provides a more appropriate environment,” added LACNIC’s CEO.
Echeberria applauded all initiatives and meetings created for discussing Internet Governance, yet mentioned that they should coalesce around the IGF. “The Forum represents a key venue for debate that has been conquered and must be protected. Both the debate and the future Governance model should include the Internet Governance Forum. Any solutions or proposals should be based on the existence of the IGF and should involve an evolution of the Forum. The IGF is extremely valuable, either we evolve this IGF or, at the end of the road, if we discover that we cannot evolve the forum until reaching something satisfactory, only then should we start to think about creating something entirely different.”
He noted that during the Bali IGF the Internet Coalition was created. This group is broader than the Montevideo group and will try to bring together all stakeholders and achieve “leadership for seeking a new Internet Governance model that will satisfy all stakeholders.”
Echeberría added that “the Internet Coalition does not intend to provide the solutions but, rather, its basic mission is to create trust among all stakeholders so that they can really feel there is a commitment to reaching an agreement.”
Echeberria concluded by highlighting that “this is the right time to make changes” and asked everyone not to miss the opportunity. “As a result of current affairs such as the revelations regarding the NSA and the weakening of trust, other major actors are already in agreement; however, if those threats disappear from their sight we will probably lose the people that are now willing to walk a different path. We need to seize the moment,” he said.
The goal is to consolidate the open, inclusive and multistakeholder model. “Any other goal would not be acceptable. Everything we have built so far must be the foundation on which the future of Internet Governance is built.”