(No.145) Threats to multi-stakeholder internet governance – is it worth protecting?

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Workshop Theme: 
Taking Stock and the Way Forward
Theme Question: 

IG4D Question 2; Taking Stock and the Way Forward Question 1 and 5

Concise Description of Workshop: 

"Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet." Tunis Agenda for the Information Society
Anyone who has attended an Internet Governance Forum has heard people singing the praises of multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet. On the whole, there is general agreement that governance structures should remain dispersed, multi-stakeholder and bottom-up, rather than top-down and controlled by governments. And there are a number of models developing which seek to address internet governance issues in multi-stakeholder ways including at ICANN, the Council of Europe and of course, the IGF.
But multi-stakeholderism is far from uncontroversial – both as a theory, and in terms of how it works in practice. How does multistakeholder governance relate to important governance principles like: representation, participation, accountability, responsibility, transparency, and efficiency? These are difficult questions that too often are swept under the carpet. But in recent years we are seeing more and more challenges to multistakeholder governance, paving the way for governments to exercise far more control.
If we want to protect multi-stakeholder governance, we need to scrutinise exactly what it is we are protecting. It is time to reconsider and revive the concept and practice of multistakeholder governance. This workshop seeks to address this challenge head on by examining some key questions:
Who gets to participate in internet governance processes (and who is excluded or underrepresented)? What incentive do different stakeholders have to engage in these policy processes? What legitimacy do different stakeholders have to influence policy? Is multistakeholder governance non-democratic? Where are “users” and “citizens” wants and needs expressed in the current regime? How do we explain, and justify, multistakeholder governance to the general public?

  • Introductions (15 mins)

Framing the issues and a short introduction from each panelist. 

  • An analysis of multi-stakeholder participation as a concept (30 mins)

What legitimacy do different stakeholders have to influence policy? Is multi-stakeholder governance non-democratic? How do we explain, and justify, multi-stakeholder governance to the general public?
Panelists: Bertrand De La Chappelle, Anriette Esterhuysen, Franklin Silva Netto

  • How is multi-stakeholder participation working at present?(60 mins)

Who gets to participate in internet governance processes (and who is excluded or underrepresented)? How is it working in practice? Are there important IG spaces which are not practicing multi-stakeholder participation? What is the effect of this?
Panelists: Jeremy Malcolm, Theresa Swineheart, Bitange Ndemo, Philip Veveer

  • Wrap up and key lessons (15 mins)
Organiser(s) Name: 

Dixie Hawtin, Internet Rights and Principles Coalition and Global Partners & Associates.
Marilia Maciel, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Brazil

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

(All confirmed)

  • Jeremy Malcolm, Consumers International  (Civil society, Malaysia)
  • Bertrand de La Chapelle, International Diplomatic Academy (Academic, Austria)
  • Theresa Swineheart, Verizon (Business, US)
  • Franklin Silva Netto, Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations (Government, Brazil)
  • Bitenge Ndemo, Permanent secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communication (Government, Kenya)
  • Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communications (Civil Society, South Africa)
  • Philip Verveer, US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy (Government, US)

Moderators: Dixie Hawtin (Global Partners and Associates) and Marilia Maciel (Fundação Getúlio Vargas)

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Marianne Franklin, University of Goldsmiths
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
About half of the participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was mentioned briefly in the presentations and discussions
Reported by: 
Dixie Hawtin
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

Moderators: Dixie Hawtin (Global Partners and Associates), Carlos Affonso Pereira de Souza (Fundação Getulio Vargas)
Panellists: Philip Verveer (US Department of State, Benedicto Fonseca Filho (Ministry of External Relations – Brazil), Bertrand de la Chapelle (International Diplomatic Academy), Anriette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications), Jeremy Malcolm (Consumer International), Theresa Swinehart (Verizon),
Multi-stakeholder governance is a central value of internet governance - beginning with the evolution of engineer-driven bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, confirmed in the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society and practised in a range of institutions and processes where internet governance and policy occurs. The multi-stakeholder approach is based on the idea that those who will be affected by decisions have a right to be involved in the making of them, and that a diverse body of viewpoints will contribute to better decisions, and more successful policy implementation. Arguably this is especially important in the realm of the internet where traditional regulatory tools do not work as effectively and power is intrinsically distributed.
However, multi-stakeholder governance of the internet faces a range of threats. Both intrinsically  - who participates? What legitimacy do they have? How are decisions made?  - and externally as governments and businesses, for example, increasingly look to processes which are not adequately multi-stakeholder to make internet governance decisions, be it the International Telecommunications Union or multi-lateral processes such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In the context of these existing and growing threats – and the WSIS ten year review beginning this year – this workshop sought to unpick the concept and practical challenges of multi-stakeholder internet governance.

Conclusions and further comments: 

Some key findings:

  • Multi-stakeholder participation is necessary due to the trans-border character of internet issues. The involvement of many different viewpoints allows for better, and more legitimate, decisions. In an environment where there are no clear separations of jurisdiction, shared governance norms are crucial. There should be work to develop a set of global multi‑stakeholder principles for internet governance at the Internet Governance Forum.
  • Multi-stakeholder governance works well when it comes to the functional aspects of the internet, the challenge is to develop the appropriate tools for multi-stakeholder governance of what happens on the internet.
  • Brazil’s national multi-stakeholder process to develop the Marco Civil was pointed to as an example which should be studied and applied in other forums and processes. Governments in general need to make more commitment to implementing the multi-stakeholder principles.
  • Multi-stakeholder governance is a developing concept and it is important for governance structures to include mechanisms which will allow for the structures to develop and improve.
  • While there is widespread support for multi-stakeholderism in theory, in practice it often seems to be just lip service with new laws and practices being formed without consulting all stakeholders. This is a problem both at the national level (e.g. SOPA, PIPA, the new laws on cybercrime in the Philippines and Malaysia) and at the international level (e.g. ACTA and the TPP). It is also a problem with corporations – for example Google’s response to the Innocence of Muslims video was unilateral.
  • The Internet Governance Forum is the only global, multi-stakeholder internet governance forum which deals with internet governance (beyond functional governance). However there are many problems which need to be overcome. The IGF is lacking leadership at present – a special advisor and executive secretary should be appointed as a matter of urgency.  The Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group has proved resistant to evolving the IGF’s processes, and there is a lack of adequate funding. 
  • At the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications there is a chance that the ITU’s mandate will be expanded to include more of the internet. There appeared to be consensus that the ITU was not the appropriate forum for this due to, for example, a lack of transparency and of adequate civil society participation. The US is going to oppose an extension of the ITU mandate and while Brazil has not yet finalised its position the ambassador announced that he does not anticipate Brazil supporting an extension of the ITU mandate.  
  • Both the Brazilian and American government representatives agreed with the idea of creating a multi-stakeholder working group on enhanced cooperation.
  • The upcoming WSIS +10 Review was identified as another potential threat to multi-stakeholder governance (alternatively, another opportunity to promote better implementations of multi-stakeholder governance). The WSIS review process is likely to look at how policy decisions are made, the ability of stakeholders to engage and gaps which need to be filled.