Colloque "Prospective de l'Internet", Institut Jules-Destrée, 4 mars 2005 - Conference "Foresight of the Internet", The Destree Institute, Namur, 4 March 2005

Working Group on Internet Governance

Frank March
Executive Coordinator Deputy to Mr. Markus Kummer and
Senior Programme Adviser of the
Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG),


Table ronde 1 Round Table

Table ronde 2 Round Table

Table ronde 3 Round Table


1        Introduction

The Working Group on Internet Governance was formed in mid-November 2004 and has held two face to face meetings since then in Geneva: 23-25 November 2004 and 14-18 February 2005 (immediately preceding the second WSIS Prepcom meeting).  Subsequent meetings are planned for 18-20 April 2005 and 14-17 June 2005.

I will discuss briefly why the Working Group was established, how it has proceeded with its work, some of the issues it is currently working on, and how it expects to complete its work with a report at the end of June to be considered by the third PrepCom Meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society second phase (WSIS-2). 

I will conclude with some observations on the working methods of the Working Group which may provide an interesting model for this type of process in the future.

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2        Establishment of the Working Group on Internet Governance

It is well known that the first phase of the WSIS, held in Geneva in December 2003, discussed the central importance of the Internet in the Information Society and the key role it plays now, and will continue to play in the future, for the economic development of all states.  The WSIS nevertheless held differing views on the suitability of current institutions and mechanisms for managing processes and developing policies for the global Internet.  Accordingly the Secretary-General of the United Nations was asked to set up a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG). Terms of Reference and work programme for the Working Group are set out in the WSIS Declaration of Principles and the WSIS Plan of Action adopted in Geneva.

The WGIG has been asked inter alia to “investigate and make proposals for action, as appro­priate, on the governance of the Internet by 2005”, to:

(i)    develop a working definition of Internet governance;

(ii)   identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance;

(iii)    develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of govern­ments, existing international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries; and

(iv)     as the main deliverable, produce a report to be presented “for consideration and appropriate action” for the second phase of WSIS in Tunis in 2005.

Discussions leading to the establishment of the Working Group took place from early in 2004 and included workshops and consultations at a wide range of meetings of intergovernmental and other organizations.  These included meetings in Geneva, Cairo, Barcelona, Hammamet, Kuala Lumpur, and Busan in Korea. Consultations on the setting up of the Working Group were held at the United Nations in Geneva on 20 and 21 September 2004, chaired by Mr Nitin Desai, Special Advisor to the Secretary General for the WSIS.  Subsequently, after further informal consultations with all stakeholders, on 11 November 2004 the Secretary-General announced the establishment the WGIG with 40 members from governments, private sector and civil society. Mr Desai was appointed Chairman of the WGIG.

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3        Initial Work Programme

(i) The first phase

The WGIG sees itself not as a negotiating body but as a working group with the task of preparing the ground for the negotiations of the Tunis Phase of the WSIS in November 2005.  Accordingly, it does not necessarily need to seek full agreement on every point from all its members, but to establish useful options, based on thorough analysis of the issues relating to Internet governance for consideration by the WSIS.

At its first meeting in November 2004, the WGIG decided that it could find itself dealing with complex issues where it might well make very limited progress if it started its work at too high a level.  Accordingly the Working Group chose to begin with identification of public policy issues that are potentially relevant to Internet governance without concerning itself directly with defining Internet governance per se.  It was felt that an iterative method would be the best way of moving toward an implicit working definition of Internet governance.

The WGIG agreed to take a broad approach and, in a first step, not exclude any potentially relevant issue.  As a starting point, the WGIG identified some 41 issues which can be grouped into one or more of these areas:

·          equitable distribution of resources;

·          access for all;

·          stable and secure functioning of the Internet;

·          multilingualism and content and other issues for consideration.

On the basis of this list, the WGIG has so far developed 21  'draft working papers'. Each paper was written by a small group of contributors and then discussed by the WGIG as a whole.  However, the papers do not necessarily present a consensus position, nor do they contain agreed language accepted by every member. The purpose of these papers was to act as a brief summary document setting out some of the basic issues and to identify aspects of relevance to the task of the WGIG.  The production of these papers also secured the effective working of the group via the Internet and thereby laid the foundations for future collaborative work within WGIG.

The papers have been made available on the WGIG website []  for public comment, and the comments themselves have also been published on the site. Comments received so far have added many factual elements and corrections, as well as expressing a range of opinions about the content of the draft papers. The WGIG agreed that all comments received would be part of the background material it would use when writing its report. Although obvious mistakes will be corrected, the papers will not be redrafted.  They should be read with the comments as part of a package, which is considered to form part of the raw material that may be used when drafting the report.

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(ii) Second phase

At its second meeting in February 2005, the Working Group started on the next phase of its work to develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, intergovernmental and international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developed and developing countries.  It also started discussions on a working definition of Internet governance, recognising that the term does not imply a perfect, or permanent definition, but is an approach towards a description that would enhance the preparation of the content of the report.  Internet governance is not simply regulatory in nature, it also includes an enabling dimension.

During the WGIG discussions as well as in the open consultations a convergence of views emerged, based on the following observations:

·          the terms ‘governance’ and ‘govern’ mean more than ‘government activities’;

·          the enabling dimension includes organized and cooperative activities between different stakeholders; and

·          Internet governance encompasses a wider range of conditions and mechanisms than IP numbering and domain name administration.

Useful work on the definition could take into consideration the following points:

·          the fast moving technological environment;

·          the need to be action-oriented;

·          the roles and responsibilities of different actors set out in Paragraph 49 of the WSIS Geneva Declaration of Principles;

·          identification of the full range of issues that are Internet-related on a forward-looking, dynamic basis, with reference to the general and specific policy objectives embedded in the Declaration of Principles;

·          a practical basis for distinguishing between technical and public policy issues; and

·          that the term “governance” implies new forms of governance, based on a multi-stakeholder approach.

Work on the definition will be further clarified as the work of the WGIG proceeds. Some draft definitions were submitted to the WGIG and are posted on its website. [].

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4        Looking Forward

The next phase of this segment of work is to establish what are the key public policy areas for further investigation and discussion.  Following the group’s second meeting, and taking into account comments received during public consultations and the second PrepCom itself, the following four areas have been identified.

(i)                  Issues relating to infrastructural issues and the management of critical Internet resources, including administration of the domain name system and IP addresses, administration of the Root server system, technical standards, peering and inter-connection, telecommunications infrastructure including innovative and con-verged technologies, as well as multilingualization.  These issues are matters of direct relevance to Internet Governance falling within the ambit of existing organisations with responsibility for these matters.

(ii)                Issues relating to the use of the Internet, including spam, network security, and cybercrime.  While these issues are directly related to Internet Governance, the nature of global cooperation required is not well defined.

(iii)              Issues which are relevant to the Internet, but with impact much wider than the Internet, where there are existing organisations responsible for these issues, such as IPR or international trade.

(iv)               Issues relating to developmental aspects of Internet governance, in particular capacity building in developing countries.

The group has also noted the importance of some horizontal issues that affect every aspect of Internet governance. As a next step, these higher-level ‘cross-cutting’ issues such as the economic and social aspects of the Internet would need to be examined.  Another important aspect relates to the capacity of existing Internet governance arrangements to address governance issues in a coordinated manner.

Furthermore, the WGIG agreed that certain principles elaborated in the Geneva documents needed further discussion in the context of Internet governance. These principles include the terms “multilateral”, “transparent”, and “democratic” as well as the notion of the “full involvement of governments, stakeholders and international organizations”. 

The next steps will be to assess the adequacy of present Internet governance arrangements and to develop a more detailed “common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities” of all actors, and work will continue on the definitions of both the Internet and Internet governance.  Papers on these issues would be posted no later than 31 March 2005, allowing stakeholders to comment prior to the April meeting.

During the last phase of its work the WGIG will develop “proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of the Internet” and prepare a report for “consideration and appropriate action at the second phase of WSIS in Tunis in 2005”. The final meeting will be held in Geneva from 14-17 June 2005, with open consultations to be held on 14 June. The report will be submitted to the Secretary-General in July with a last session of open consultations in mid-July for presenting the report to all stakeholders.

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5        A Comment on Working Methods

The WSIS Declaration of Principles declares that international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic.  In the Plan of Action, the WGIG is called upon to be “open and inclusive” in its work and design a “process that ensures a mechanism for the full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, involving relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums”.

The WGIG spent some time at its second meeting examining, in the context of Internet governance, the meaning of the terms: ‘transparent’, ‘democratic’ and ‘accountable’.  It is seeking as far as possible to ensure that its own processes meet these requirements.  In order to maximise transparency and open communication, and to facilitate its own work, the WGIG uses the Internet to the maximum extent possible. Thus members work extensively through email, IP based streaming video, bulletin boards and a discussion forum, and use of the WGIG website to communicate with the public.

All formal meetings are accompanied by consultations open to all stakeholders. The public sessions held in conjunction with the second WGIG meeting on 15-16 February were webcast.  Translation of key documents and interpretation of working sessions is a priority for the WGIG.

While the main work of the WGIG is clearly still ahead of it, it has established processes based on wide representation, including the private sector and civil society, as well as governments  It  incorporates open consultations as integral segments of meetings and actively seeks comments for incorporation in its work. Already one group participating in the WSIS process – the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus – has proposed that: “As a first step, conformity with this norm should be carefully assessed with respect to existing arrangements at intergovernmental level, like the ITU, OECD and WIPO, private sector arrangements like ICANN, and to any new emerging mechanisms.” (IGC Caucus comment to the WGIG-2 Open Consultation, 15-16 February 2005)

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Prospective de l'Internet - Foresight of the Internet
Colloque international -Namur, 04.03.2005 - International Conference

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Colloque "Prospective de l'Internet", Institut Jules-Destrée, 4 mars 2005 - Conference "Foresight of the Internet", The Destree Institute, Namur, 4 March 2005