Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

UN, U.S. representatives emphasize vital need for international dialogue about the future of the Internet

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1 open IGF_USA 09At the opening of the inaugural Internet Governance Forum-USA, representatives from the United Nations and the U.S. government commended the Internet Governance Forum for its support of multistakeholder discussions and expressed optimism that the group’s annual conferences will continue well into the future at the first ever IGF-USA.

Markus Kummer, the executive coordinator of the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum, and Larry Strickling, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce and administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, expressed their gratitude to organizer Marilyn Cade and other IGF stakeholders for making a U.S. conference possible Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C.

“I’m very impressed with the interest that has developed here not just in quantity but in quality,” Kummer said. “It’s an impressive gathering. This has turned into an enthusiastic endorsement of the IGF as a platform for dialogue.”

Kummer, briefly reviewed the history of the creation and execution of the UN-facilitated international IGF conferences, which have taken place previously in Athens, Rio de Janeiro and Hyderabad, India, and he said more regional IGF conventions are now taking place in cities and countries worldwide, proving the global importance of discussions regarding how the Internet is governed.

“There was a question of what kind of governance do you want?” Kummer said. “Do you want to stick to the traditional form of top-down governance or do you want a widely-distributed decision-making process? In essence it was a decision to continue the dialogue in a multistakeholder mold.”

The U.S. government is now even more accepting of allowing greater international access to the domain name system. Just this week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce that affords the nonprofit ICANN greater independence and gives additional emphasis to the international oversight of the organization.

“I was pleased I was able to represent the United States on Wednesday to sign the historic document,” Strickling said.

Strickling, who helped form the new agreement, titled an “Affirmation of Commitments,” said the new set-up has been well received from within President Barack Obama’s administration and members of Congress.

Strickling said the agreement ensures accountability and transparency in ICANN and establishes mechanisms to address security. He said it should continue to increase the “free and unfettered flow of information and commerce” online.

“It contains the U.S. government’s strong endorsement of the rapid introduction of internationalized country codes,” Strickling said.

The ICANN Affirmation of Commitments follows through with the IGF’s mission of creating open and honest international dialogue. Representatives will gather for the group’s fourth global conference in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The initial mandate agreed upon during the World Summit on the Information Society process stipulated that the IGF would meet yearly for five years, and the meeting in Egypt will be its fourth. Both Strickling and Kummer, though, said they hoped the IGF will be extended.

“There is obviously some need for this kind of gathering,” Kummer said.

Strickling added that President Obama supports holding more IGF conferences both worldwide and domestically.

“The U.S. government supports extending IGF past five years,” Strickling said. “The hope and expectation is that today’s event will be first of many U.S. IGFs that will shape priorities in the Internet governance arena and bring stakeholders together. The Obama administration looks forward to next month’s meeting in Egypt and commends all of you for gathering at today’s U.S. meeting.”

- Colin Donohue, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

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