The Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) is a group that was created at the direction of the UN General Assembly to discuss progress in Enhanced Cooperation
[The General Assembly] ..Invites the Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to establish a working group on enhanced cooperation to examine the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society regarding enhanced cooperation as contained in the Tunis Agenda, through seeking, compiling and reviewing inputs from all Member States and all other stakeholders, and to make recommendations on how to fully implement this mandate; when convening the working group, the Chair should also take into consideration the meetings already scheduled on the calendar of the Commission, and the working group should report to the Commission at its seventeenth session, in 2014, as an input to the overall review of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society..
- Governments and Intergovernmental organiations
- Multistakeholder organizations that bring together organized populations in a democratic manner
The following are the updates I sent to the IGC and Bestbits lists during the WGEC meeting.
Well day one came and went.
We reviewed some of the recommendations that had not yet been reviewed, and once again got hung up on the fundamental differences:
– Enhanced cooperation is only about governments
– Enhanced cooperation is about all stakeholders.
– Para 35 for the says all there is to say about Respective Roles and Responsibilities
– Para 35 needs to be revisited to match reality.
– WGEC needs to deliver a consensus report
– WGEC can come out with a report that reports the varying models
– we trust the chair and he can write a chapeau discussing the differences of viewpoint.
– we like the chair, but he is just human, we need to write up our own viewpoints.
– we should go back to our hotels and write up a brief (several line) opinions on Enhanced Cooperation and Multistakeholderism
– we don’t need to do this but should continue working on trying to find the item(s) we can reach consensus on.
The Sessions are broadcast live. I do not know if there are archived recording, but there probably are – I will check. The CSTD secretariat has come a long way in the short year this WG has been working. From a first meeting where streaming was not possible, to a meeting 11 months later, with streaming and remote participation for absent WG members – not that any did participate as far as I know.
Process wise, Observers are allowed to comment but only in a 15 minute slot just before breaks.
While we had brief reports on NETmundial, the IGF, ITU activities etc, these were not discussed as there were those who argued that these were not immediately relevant to the work of the WGEC which has its own mandate. The chair concurred.
Tomorrow is another day.
It was a long day. We finally made it through all of the proposed recommendations that group members had offered. We are at least half a day or more behind our schedule for the meeting. We also had a discussion of the Correspondence group report. While the report was appreciated by all, we developed yet another point of fundamental disagreement:
– This is marvelous work that should become a living document
– This is a useful piece of work, but enough trying to understand, now lets come to conclusions about new mechanisms and bodies to fill the gaps.
Discussions were robust, and some of the language remains bracketed and needs further discussion.
The fundamental oppositional themes remained as sub-themes, especially the scope of Enhanced Cooperation:
– among governments
– among all stakeholders.
One of the longest discussions revolved around the need to include discussions on issues related to marginalized peoples issues and women’s participation in the Internet governance as part of Enhanced Cooperation. The fundamental group-division fed into the discussion:
– this discussion is a waste of time that keeps us from discussing the real issue of Enhanced Cooperation – relationships between governments and a new body wherein those discussions can be held
– this a critical component of Enhanced Cooperation among all stakeholders.
Neither side in the discussion could believe that the discussion went on as long as it did. I am sure this discussion will resurface at some point in day 3.
As it was apparent that there are, at least two models of Enhanced Cooperation, there had been discussion the first day of including these models in the document. This discussion continued the second day with some arguing:
– we should have a report on the things we could reach consensus on, and there seem to be some such points
– we should discuss the various oppositional models.
At one point one of the protagonists argued that they were only accepting certain text because they expected a document that would include a model that rejected the relevance of the discussion of the points they had just accepted.
We also did not manage to resolve the issues of whether we would have”
– a chair’s report
– a WG group
A skeleton of the draft report was sent to the members.
A point I want to make in this sketchy report, some governments have begun the move to argue that the WGEC is only having these oppositional problems because it is trying to be a multistakeholder discussion. There is every chance that a final oppositional impression is being set up:
– realizing that a 16 year fundamental difference of opinion needs more than a few days of meetings spread over a year to resolve
– the multistakeholder model is the root of all failure
Of course I realize that within the group of civil society readers of this sketchy report, we have people on both sides of this discussion.
Finally there was a moment when an observer was reprimanded for using twitter to say things that offended some WG members. To me, this showed how really out of touch the whole WSIS based Tunis Agenda driven discussions are in todays’ world.
Or rather, how the opposition between the restriction of expression and free expression is also one of the fundamental oppositions that underlay our discussions.
And then there was the third day.
The last day.
We spent the morning wandering through the wilderness of repeated arguments. Reviewing and revising recommendations that had not reached consensus, and some that had reached rough consensus – what we needed was to reach full consensus.
As we discussed them, sometimes we got tantalizingly close to full consensus, but then one or another of us, and sometimes it was me I must confess, said something that showed the closeness had been a tempting illusion.
We had tea breaks and coffee breaks where the chair and various groups discussed the state of discussions to try and figure out what to do next.
We had lunch.
and we talked.
After lunch we finally admitted, in a consensual manner, that we were not going to reach consensus on recommendations in this meeting.
So we talked about the WG report, or rather, the Chair’s report.
Yes, we eventually did reach consensus on what to call the report!
We then started to discuss the form and content of the Chair’s Reports.
Many of us told the Chair how much we trusted him to write the report and be fair.
Some of us went on to tell him what he had to avoid saying in order to be fair.
Maybe some trust is only skin deep.
We went back on forth on what to do with the most valuable work done by the correspondence group. Some of us wanted it to continue and become a living artifact, and wanted that point made to the powers-that-be in the CSTD. Others said it was just an exercise of the WG and should be dropped – but i think that for these people the results of that work had not verified their view that there were huge gaps to be fill
(ok, so I am showing some prejudice in that last statement, please forgive me. One of the few things that really bothered me during the meeting was the apparent disrespect shown to the brave and worthy volunteers who took on this large body of work only to have their efforts deprecated – and no i did not help them and was not part of the workforce – it was too hard a job for me and I avoided it like a plague.)
As for the future, there may be further meetings.
There may not be.
If there are, they may occur this year.
Or they may occur next year.
I personally hope that we continue the work. but I hope we wait until after all of Internet governance 2014 events are over, and after all stakeholders have had time to adjust to the new realities that NETmundial presents. And after the IGF, which I hope learns something from NETmundial, and after the ITU PleniPot 2014 does whatever it is going to do.
I thought the meetings were valuable. I think the participants, and I hope their fellow stakeholders – however they define the groups they are part of, have a better understanding now than they did before.
And while we did not come together in final consensus, I thought some of the couplings at the meeting where wonderful. For example the KSA and Iran, normally not the best of friends, were bosom buddies at this meeting, united in their arguments on women’s rights, treatment of marginalized groups and a host of other issues. It is good that there are still some things that can bring enemies such as this together. And to see civil society members working closely with governments and with business was a good thing too. If we can’t work with the people we disagree with, how are we going to solve anything – we learn to build on the few things we do disagree with [in common].
Now I sound almost maudlin!
One last thing:
There was a possibility, as I mentioned in another one of these Quick Updates that we would need to submit Opinions. While we never did, as we never reached consensus to do so, several groups did arrive at a possible offering. Several of us from civil society, though not all by any means, did develop one. While I will leave it for the others who worked on this with me to associate with it or not, and thus to put themselves on the line to have to explain it, I am including this compromise proto-document below as I think it includes a fair number of ideas that are worthy of the light of day and of further discussion.
Signing out from Geneva airport and the WGEC, at least for now. Who knows what the future will bring.
The OpinionThis is the draft opinion of a group of Civil society participants including group members Avri Doria, …
Enhanced Cooperation: an ongoing multistakeholder and multilateral process where all stakeholders contribute according to their expertise and interests, to enable all other stakeholders to achieve full participation in order to improve and democratise the governance of the Internet at all levels.
Multistakeholder process: a form of participatory democracy where any person, alone or as part of a group, can contribute fully.
Equal footing: the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all stakeholders, on the basis of equality and without discrimination, of the freedom to participate in multistakeholder processes. In Internet governance this is in line with stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities, which should be interpreted in a flexible manner with reference to the issue under discussion. As with UN representation by governments, where all are equal regardless of size or wealth, contributions should be judged on their quality, and not by the number of people that a representative may claim.
There is support within civil society for establishing a multistakeholder mechanism, to promote the ongoing monitoring and analysis of Internet-governance developments, and the on-demand sharing of knowledge on policy issues, models and experiences that governments and stakeholders need to help them identify effective solutions. We view this as a first step, building on the work of the Correspondence Group of the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation. There is also support within civil society for a second step of a multistakeholder coordination mechanism that would recommend the most appropriate venue or venues to develop further policy as required. This could be accomplished through existing institutions as appropriate.
This mechanism could be attached to an existing multistakeholder body such the IGF (per paragraph 72 b of the Tunis Agenda), to the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), or to any comparable consistent with the guiding principles as established in the NETmundial Multistakeholder statement.
The discussions of the WGEC take their origin from the Tunis Agenda. The Tunis Agenda was a remarkable document for its time, that resulted from government discussions at WSIS. The Tunis Agenda laid a basis for ongoing discussions. The Tunis Agenda’s great value was in giving an impetus to the development of the multistakeholder model in Internet governance. Over the intervening years, the variety of multistakeholder models have progressed beyond what could have been imagined in 2005, in line with technological evolution. Allowing the Tunis Agenda to remain a static document, as if it was written in stone, risks it becoming ever more irrelevant in today’s world; Instead, we recommend that it be treated as a living document, a solid foundation upon which we can build our understanding of the enhanced cooperation of all stakeholders in the area of Internet governance.