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NETmundial an inflection point in Internet governance

In several ways the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance was a success.  In one important way, it was a great success.

The Success

In its outcome document entitled NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement – to be known as the São Paulo Statement – a set of Principles and a Roadmap for the Future of Internet governance were defined and approved by general acclimation, though some, such as the Russian Federation, registered disagreement – they reject multistakeholder decision making.  Some of the Principles are especially important to our community.  And while not always expressed as strongly or explicitly as we might like, it was significant that a multistakeholder conference that included governments could come to rough consensus on such progressive statements.

Most importantly it was agreed that the Internet was to be governed according to human rights principles with guidelines derived from those principles. Some Excepts from the São Paulo Statement


Human rights are central values and universal as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that should underpin Internet governance principles.  Rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in accordance with international human rights legal obligations, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Those rights include, but are not limited to:

  • Freedom of expression: everyone has the right to hold and express opinions, and to seek, receive, and impart information on the Internet without arbitrary interference.
  • Freedom of association: peaceful assembly online, including through social networks and platforms.
  • Privacy: the same rights that people have off-line must also be protected online, including the right to privacy, avoiding arbitrary or unlawful collection of personal data and surveillance and the right to the protection of the law against such interference.
  • Accessibility: persons with disabilities should enjoy full access to online resources on an equal basis with others.
  • Freedom of information and access to information:  Everyone should have the right to access, share, create and distribute information on the Internet.
  • Development: all people have a right to development and the Internet has a vital role to play in helping to achieve the full realization of internationally agreed sustainable development goals. It  is a vital tool for giving people living in poverty the means to participate in development processes.

Internet governance process principles

  • Multistakeholder: with the full participation of governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, academia and the users in their respective roles and responsibilities.
  • Open, participative, consensus driven governance: The development of international Internet-related public policies and Internet governance arrangements should enable the full and balanced participation of all stakeholders from around the globe, and made by consensus.
  • Transparent:  Decisions made must be easy to understand, processes must be clearly documented and follow agreed 
  • Accountable: Mechanisms for checks and balances as well as for review should exist.
  • Inclusive and equitable: Internet governance institutions and processes should be inclusive and open to all interested stakeholders. Processes should be bottom-up, enabling the full involvement of all stakeholders, in a way that does not disadvantage any category of stakeholder.
  • Distributed: Governance characterized by distributed and multistakeholder mechanisms and organizations.
  • Collaborative: Internet governance should be based on and encourage collaborative and cooperative approaches that reflect the inputs and interests of stakeholders.
  • Enabling meaningful participation: Anyone affected by an Internet governance process should be able to participate in that process. Particularly, Internet governance institutions and processes should support capacity building for newcomers, especially stakeholders from developing countries and underrepresented groups.
  • Accessibility and low barriers: Internet governance should promote universal, equal opportunity, affordable and high quality Internet access so it can be an effective tool for enabling human development and social inclusion. There should be no unreasonable barriers to entry for new users.
  • Agility: Policies for access to Internet services should be future oriented and technology neutral, so that they are able to accommodate rapidly developing technologies and different types of use.

Roadmap for the Future Evolution of Internet governance

The Internet governance framework is a distributed and coordinated ecosystem involving various organizations and fora. It must be inclusive, transparent and accountable, and its structures and operations must follow an approach that enables the participation of all stakeholders in order to address the interests of all those who benefit from the Internet.

Internet governance decisions are sometimes taken without the meaningful participation of all stakeholders. It is important that multistakeholder decision-making and policy formulation are improved in order to ensure the full participation of all interested parties, recognizing the different roles played by different stakeholders in different issues.

Internet surveillance – Mass and arbitrary surveillance undermines trust in the Internet and trust in the Internet governance ecosystem. Surveillance of communications, their interception, and the collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, interception and collection should be conducted in accordance with states’ obligations under international human rights law.

All the organizations, forums and processes of the Internet governance ecosystem are encouraged to take into account the outcomes of NETmundial.

The Great Success

The great success, was the fact that over the course of 6 months, governmental and non-governmental actors, organized by Brazil and a coalition of non-governmental actors called /1net, could work together online and in person to arrive at a set of decisions on principles and on a roadmap that could be agreed upon by general acclimation.  Up until this time, while many respected multistakeholder processes, they were not seen as a vehicle for decision making.  The NETmundial showed us otherwise.  That is a major achievement and an inflection point.    Now that we understand that multistakeholder decisions are possible, and have seen an example of how it can be done, we can make progress toward the time where public policy decisions regarding the Internet, at all levels, will be made by diverse participatory and democratic multistakeholder processes.

NETmundial also provided a great example for dotgay LLC, as they continue their work on developing their community multistakeholder Registry Advisory Board.  As applicants for managing part of the Internet ecosystem, LLC is committed to developing policies for  .gay using multistakeholder models as recommended in the outcomes of NETmundial.

The NETmundial documents are open for comment to the world.  Anyone with a free moment should take a look and even comment on issues that are important to you. It is easy to do.

For a further view on the scope of the meeting, tiwtter feeds can be found under hashtags #netmundial and #netmundial2014.


Related items of interest

IP Justice

Internet Governance Project

Interview with Wolfgang Kleinwachter