23 September 2005. After some days of general comments and discussions, the PrepCom will finally start drafting the Internet Governance chapter on Monday. Chairman Masood Khan this morning presented a paper as basis for further negotiations. Civil society is very upset about the clear danger it gets locked out of the drafting process again.
The governments discussions in the last few days showed the usual disputes over ICANN and the control of the core Internet resources, mainly between the United States and China, but also with other countries taking part. The Internet Society (ISOC) interestingly made its intervention in the business sector speaking slot normally used by the International Chamber of Commerce, though still officially accredited as a non-governmental organization.
The only consensus emerging so far seems to be that the security and stability of the Internet have to be maintained under all circumstances. While stability of the technical infrastructure is important, the "security"-language is concerning civil society groups. The Council of Europe is openly marketing its Cybercrime Convention here that has long been under fire from civil liberties groups for its overly broad mandate and the lack of due legal procedures for cross-border law-enforcement activities.
The civil society Privacy and Security Working Group therefore made a strong statement for improving privacy and data protection online and also organized a side-event yesterday. It can rely on important allies: Just a week ago, the world's data protection and privacy commissioners convened not far from Geneva and reached the same conclusion. Their Montreux Declaration appeals "to the United Nations to prepare a legal binding instrument which clearly sets out in detail the rights to data protection and privacy as enforceable human rights." This also echoes commitments taken by the Iberoamerican summit of Santa Cruz in 2003, the Francophonie Summit of Ouagadougou in 2004, and the Declaration on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Information Society adopted by the Council of Europe in 2005. The International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications also sent a letter to chairman Khan this week, urging him to make sure privacy is not forgotten over the struggle about the oversight of ICANN. There may be a slight chance that privacy does not get as neglected in the Tunis Declaration as it was during the first phase of the WSIS.
Draft of "Internet Governance" chapter presented today
Chairman Khan, as had had announced yesterday, today presented a first draft (officially just called the "Chair's paper") to get the negotiations from venting air to real work. It is divided into five parts and more or less follows the structure of the WGIG report:
- Part 1: Introduction (Geneva Principles, WGIG Mandate, Working Definition)
- Part 2: Stakeholders (roles and responsibilities, coordination)
- Part 3: Public Policy Issues (infrastructure and management of critical Internet resources, possible government/oversight function, use of the Internet)
- Part 4: Measures to Promote Development (interconnection costs, capacity-building and meaningful participation in global policy development, multilingualism, enabling environment)
- Part 5 Framework for interface between existing and future arrangement (recommended mandate, structure, light/heavy, loose/tight)
Quite a long list, one can certainly say. Khan therefore proposed to form drafting groups to work on the different parts. There was some discussion, of course. Canada stressed that there is an order to the structure: "We need to agree on principles and definitions first, before we draft text. And how do you discuss follow-up when you have not agreed on the policy issues yet?" But the time is running out, and discussing all these issues in a full subcommittee can take ages. A number of governments also were concerned that the number of drafting groups and the parallel work in subcommittee B (everything but Internet) still going on would stretch the resources of smaller delegations. Today they agreed to have three drafting groups. They will probably meet consecutively. On Monday, the PrepCom will already start working in three shifts: 10:00 to 13:00, 15:00 to 18:00 and 18:00 to 21:00. Later next week, negotiations will probably go on until midnight. The ITU has already booked more interpreters. But there are already rumours going around that there will be another PrepCom between now and the summit. The ITU is said to already have booked the rooms. But the budget for the summit is more than stretched, and other diplomats told us that the pressure to agree will only be high enough right before the summit.
Multistakeholderism or Multilateralism?
Most of yesterday's and almost all of today's session of subcommittee A was spent on discussing the transparency and inclusiveness of the drafting groups. The United States right in the beginning insisted that participation of observers in the drafting groups was very important. It was the scientific community that developed the Internet, it was the private sector who spread it, and (well, the US did not mention this) it is civil society that is cruicial in filling it with content and that is using it. Brazil, the Arab States, Iran and others were strictly against observer participation. They maintained that the summit decisions have to be taken by governments, so they have to meet according to traditional UN rules. Australia still said that it was impressed by the high quality of contributions by non-governmental stakeholders, and it even would like to have them involved in real-time. Chairman Khan was torn between them, while trying to prevent a total closure of the process. In this particular setting - "Internet governance" - private sector, CS and other stakeholders have a major role to play, he said, but at the same time called on civil society and the other stakeholders to maintain a "sense of realism and pragmatism." From what could be heard after a PrepCom bureau meeting and other informal consultations, the most likely option is "talk and walk": Observers will be allowed to make statements in the first five minutes of the sessions, but then have to leave the room. The praised "multi-stakeholderism" f the WSIS is again going back to Multilateralism, it seems.
Civil society in the evening plenary discussed these developments. Most participant were outraged. "We have not been through the Working Group on Internet Governance with its really open and inclusive process just to go back to square one" was the general feeling. Delegates who had government badges in the first phase of the summit told how useless this mechanism would be.
"It was basically a waste of time in phase one, an empty ritual", a civil society member from the Internet Governance caucus said at the meeting with the EU this afternoon. "If they listened at all, they did not care very much". This discussion is not just about participation, but also about transparency, as it is hard for civil society to react if the activists don't know which discussions are going on.
The civil society meeting in the evening agreed to draft a strong public statement on this over the weekend, and the NGO members are discussing other options to voice their protest. The final decision will be taken by the governments on Monday morning, but the groups active here in Geneva are preparing for a withdrawal from the whole process.