Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’
IGF-USA 2012 Opening Plenary Remarks: Ambassadors Phil Verveer and Terry Kramer advocate Internet freedom, multi-stakeholder model
Brief session description:
Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Ambassador Phil Verveer, coordinator for international communications and information policy at the US State Department, offered opening remarks and introduced Terry Kramer, the former president of Vodafone North America, who was appointed in the spring of 2012 to be US Ambassador to the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which will take place Dec. 3-13 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The International Telecommunication Union description of WCIT: “The conference is a review of the current International Telecommunications Regulations, which serve as the binding global treaty outlining principles that govern the way international voice, data and video traffic is handled, and which lay the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth.”
Details of the session:
Ambassador Phil Verveer, US coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, emphasized the importance of Internet freedom at the Internet Governance Forum-USA Thursday morning at Georgetown Law Center.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, directly supports Internet freedom, Verveer said.
“Article 19:2 (states), ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,’” he said. “Every human is entitled to these rights simply by being human.”
Although it has been ratified by many nations, the declaration is not bound by international law, and Verveer acknowledged that differing government philosophies result in different Internet policies.
“There is a compelling case for Internet freedom grounded in human rights, but the problem, of course, is that it is not nearly enough to persuade some countries that have strong reasons to interfere with Internet freedom,” he said.
Verveer pointed out that the declaration does not provide the only support for Internet freedom. The economy also allows for strong incentive to liberalize Internet policy.
From an economic standpoint, the argument for Internet freedom is straightforward: The Internet is an enormous commercial channel, and there is a positive correlation between its accessibility and its economic potential.
“There is the fundamental intuition that serious reductions in innovation will handicap economic growth,” Verveer said.
Verveer said he expects that delegates to the 2012 World Conference of International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai will be in agreement that the amendments made to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) in 1988 be upheld.
“The United States will … prevent changes of ITRs that would … constitute a reversal of the liberalized telecommunications environment that has prevailed virtually everywhere in the world since 1988,” he said. “Our principal goal for WCIT involves maintaining this enabling environment, with complete confidence that if we are successful the benefits of information and communications technology will continue to increase and to expand to billions of additional people.”
Verveer then yielded the stage to Terry Kramer, US ambassador to the WCIT. Kramer charged the audience to think critically about the Internet’s future and about the messages relayed to other stakeholders in the global network.
“When it comes time for us to advocate directly (for Internet freedom), it will be very important that we come from a position of knowledge and fact, not just ideology,” he said. “(We must) be able to speak from knowledge about what worked in the past and how we see the future evolving.”
Kramer attested to the value of the multistakeholder model, given the distributed nature of the Internet and the diversity of its users. He emphasized the need to meet with international players at the forefront of the Internet’s evolution. “The multistakeholder model is the only effective one that will work,” he said. “The Internet is too global to have one organization in control. …We need to get examples of what success looks like (across the world).”
Kramer warned that some stakeholders’ ambitions are likely to oppose Internet freedom, openness and accessibility.
“There have been several proposals that … are worrisome,” he said. “One category of these is the control of traffic and the control of content. From every angle, that results in a bad outcome. It creates cynicism … and workaround solutions. … But there will be wisdom and good ideas here that we can effectively advocate.”
— Katie Blunt
Earlier in the day at IGF-USA, participants divided into three groups to discuss potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. At this session, moderators briefed the plenary crowd on the discussions and they and other IGF-USA participants in the audience weighed in with their observations.
Details of the session:
Building upon an experiment that had succeeded at the previous year’s meeting, the Internet Governance Forum-USA presented a set of hypothetical situations, ranging between idyllic or dystopic depending on the preferences of those in attendance. Splitting off into three groups, panelists and members of the audience discussed the pros and cons of the end results of an imagined timeline, then moved on to figure out how best either to ensure or prevent said timeline.
As a part of the concluding ceremony of the IGF-USA, the lead moderators of every respective group presented their scenario to those caught unaware by a possible destiny and pointed out what the Internet community, along with governmental and business leaders, can do to in response to the potential future.
The first, Regionalization of the Internet, revolved around a prospective world in which individuals are either in or out on the Web, blocked off from those deemed to be outside of their own government’s sphere of influence. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_Internet_islands.xhtml.)
Andrew Mack, of AMGlobal Consulting and the session’s lead moderator, described it as, “interesting, but a bit depressing. We took the Angel of Death view on this.”
The idea of the Internet as an open highway, in this world, is replaced by one replete with tolls, as cross-regional access is limited, or in the worst cases, cut off entirely. Because of national security concerns, economic weakness, pressure from climate change and the massive new adoption rates of the “next billion” Internet users found in emerging markets, the Internet becomes a series of castles.
Some in the session actually thought the scenario fit the present more than an illusory future, and the more dire of descriptions could become the status quo within five years. To prevent it, governments were urged to be flexible and practice their own advice, industries were urged to increase their focus on the next billion users, who as of yet have no champion to advance their causes, and IGF was urged to resist the advance of ITU, the United Nation’s mass communications arm.
The second session, lead by Pablo Molina of the Georgetown Law Center, presented a more positive picture. “Youth Rising and Reigning” (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_youth_rise.xhtml.)projected a world with the youth-led revolutions in the Middle East spreading to Europe and other disaffected masses taking up the call to utilize new Internet-based technologies to assert their own independence in light of continued economic and civil strife. And though many agreed that there’s a strong plausibility of “Youth Rising …” a key distinction that strikes at its heart was made.
“The defining factor is digital literacy and mastery, not age,” Molina told the audience, bringing to earth the notion that everyone younger than 30 is an Internet messiah, and bringing to light the fact that with the right competencies and skill, even the most elderly can have an influence on the Web. And despite the positive outlook of the scenario, an important distinction was made: Bad actors will always find ways to capitalize on new advances, and inadvertently, some innocents will be inconvenienced or, at worst, suffer as a result of those ill intentions.
To encourage, if not the revolutionary subtext of the hypothetical situation, the political and societal awareness of the youth, all means to promote participation in political discourse were advocated, be they through industry continuing its innovative advances, governments empowering instead of reigning in their citizens, or IGF supporting the participation of more and more stakeholders to ensure all voices are accounted for. And, of course, education, coming in the form of digital literacy, is a must for the youth to have the tools to, at most, incite a just revolution, and at the least, fight for their own causes in an effective way once the Internet further integrates itself within society.
The talkback that was perhaps the most pessimistic and grimly reminiscent of the most bleak of science fiction was “Government Prevails,” led by Steven DelBianco of NetChoice. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_government_prev.xhtml.)It depicts not victorious and noble governments deservedly beloved by its populace, but ones that, through a series of calamities, find themselves with the responsibility and power over maintaining surveillance over their entire citizenry.
Natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude and hacking sprees running rampant across the globe, in this scenario, coupled with rapid advancements in mobile and surveillance technologies, give the world’s governments both the mandates (since its presumed that they win the public trust after being the only entities capable of responding to such horrendous occurrences) and means to fulfill a vision reminiscent, albeit not quite as menacing, as that of George Orwell’s “1984.”
“I woke up this morning feeling fine, and now I’m afraid,” one member of the session said after hearing about the timeline.
Each of the elements of the prevailing government could be, as separate entities, taken as positives. Many responded warmly to the possibility of a more advanced version of London’s CCTV, scanning entire cities in the hopes of preventing crime, or smartphones that were not only mandated to keep tabs on your location at all times, but which could be used to turn in violators of strict anti-pollution legislation. But at the end of the day, it’s still a world in which the government is given the sole proprietorship of its people, with a seemingly omniscient awareness of their every little move.
To keep it from happening, the workshop decided, industries should obey the laws to avoid losing public trust, and they work together with the government to avoid the current philosophy of “government vs. private business interests.” Governments, obviously, shouldn’t grab the chance at such power and instead opt for a more open and decentralized Internet.
As for IGF? It should stick to its current duties and engage with all stakeholders, though such a future, while seemingly horrendous to Western minds, DelBianco mused, could be equally as appealing to those in countries such as Iran and China. This, in the end, illustrated one of the most evocative elements of the hypothetical exercise. Just as one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, one man’s dystopia can be another man’s utopia.
– Morgan Little
The opening plenary session of the third IGF-USA featured general remarks from Pablo Molina CIO of the host institution, Georgetown University Law School, Chengetai Masango, a representative of the United Nations Secretariat for the Internet Governance Forum, and Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department.
Details of the session:
U.S. Ambassador Phil Verveer emphasized the importance of keeping the Internet free of what he called “intergovernmental controls” across continents so that ideas and information can continue to flow openly and freely at IGF-USA. Certainly, he said, it’s the U.S. view that the Internet not be used as a means of oppression or repression.
“It’s equally clear that we—all humanity—are better off if the Internet remains as it is, free of intergovernmental controls,” Verveer said. “In the view of the United States this is critically important. (An open and free Internet should be) open to new ideas and uses and to the kinds of organic change it has served so well and also free of censorship and other tools of political oppression.”
Verveer said intergovernmental controls involve Internet lag times and attempts at coming to a consensus about important issues, which ultimately results in locating the “lowest common denominator.” And all that is inconsistent with today’s version of the Internet, he said.
An excess of rules and regulations, too, are problematic because of the fretful future they could bring.
“There’s a great danger that we’re going to end up in a situation where some administrations can claim the assistance of all other administrations with respect to things like censorship and greater political control that we in the United States feel very, very strongly should be avoided.”
One way to avoid unnecessary rules is through communication, and that’s where the Internet Governance Forum, a multistakeholder organization, enters the picture, said Pablo Molina, campus CIO and AVP of Georgetown University.
“Communication is a fundamental human right,” Molina said. “The ability to communicate with others and exchange information is critical for human development.”
Individuals who send and receive money across borders and immigrants who use the Internet to bridge the gap between their foreign and origin countries must rely on communication, he said.
And with communication comes the right to education, according to Molina. More and more students and professors are working at colleges and universities form other parts of the world and opening up countries to engage in international initiatives, Molina said.
These important initiatives is why the private sector, all countries, governments, private organizations and academia are all on equal footing while at IGF, said Chengetai Masango, United Nations Secretariat of the IGF, who discussed the history of IGF during his opening remarks and will speak later in the afternoon about the national Internet Governance Forum this September in Kenya.
This allows for open and honest discussion without the fear of something being held against a speaker because no policy decisions are made at IGF, he said. Instead it is a chance for people to learn, share and bring back new ideas to help shape their various groups.
Some have criticized IGF’s approach as a soft form of government, yet Masango stressed the forum is meant to spur discussion and open dialogue to increase cooperation in the technological field.
“The Internet is the largest and most successful cooperative venture in history,” Verveer said.
And it has produced many multistakeholder organizations, including ICANN and IGF, with many more cropping up every year.
Marilyn Cade, chief catalyst for IGF-USA, welcomed more than 100 members of civil society, academia, government and the private sector to the third IGF-USA and laid out the busy day ahead.
“We focus on IGF-USA by taking a national perspective with a global view,” Cade said. “And you will see that in the workshops and sessions today.”
The workshops and sessions will focus on youth Internet stereotypes, regionalization of the Internet, cloud computing and the changing landscape in the domain name system.
– Anna Johnson
Marilyn Cade, chair of the IGF-USA Steering Committee, led a closing discussion that also included remarks from Markus Kummer, executive administrator for the global IGF Secretariat; Larry Strickling, assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Deimante Bartkiene, a representative of the Lithuanian Embassy, invited IGF-USA attendees to the global IGF, taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sept. 14-17.
Details of the session:
Marilyn Cade, president of ICT Strategies, asked the gathered audience during the closing session of IGF-USA 2010 to suggest at least five ways the IGF process can be improved in the future. She received more input than that. Here are a few of the ideas:
- The “users reign” scenario isn’t based in reality right now. The only way the scenario can come to fruition is if the people involved in global IGF efforts help design it and make it work.
- People should not demonize innovative companies that make mistakes. When companies take risks, let them fail, call them out but don’t overreact or issue calls for new laws to stop an experiment from ever happening again.
- The people involved with IGF should embrace transparency, inclusion and collaboration. Inclusion, in particular, means reaching out to parties that don’t show up to participate in opportunities like IGF-USA. The IGF effort should increase awareness, extend more outreach and have broader information available to people.
- The organizers of IGF should extend participation, particularly remote participation (ability to “attend” virtually, online), to the conferences.
- The Internet is inherently not like real life, and the more we try to make it like real life, the less appealing it will be to users. The people participating in the discussions at IGF should to keep this sentiment in mind going forward.
- The IGF organizers should more clearly articulate the roles of the different Internet stakeholders and organizations, define and implement a funding model for IG and enact some form of output for the IGF itself.
- The IGF should have more voices from emerging markets and the private sector at the table.
- A final piece of advice: Make sure what the people involved in IGF ask for is going to gain the best result. Don’t change the mandate, just renew.
Strickling said in his closing remarks that the U.S. government is committed to the continuation of the IGF in its current form. He said allowing a multistakeholder discussion will only enhance the accessibility of the Internet.
“Internet stakeholders across the globe are committed to this type of forum,” he said. “We want to make sure IGF is not just about dialogue. We need to make sure lessons learned from these discussions are put into action. I don’t imagine I am alone in thinking that open dialogue in IGF is an ideal way to enhance trust in these stakeholders.
“Changes that place one group above another in IGF would ultimately undermine this model.”
Kummer closed by saying that the IGF mandate will be up for a vote in the United Nations’ General Assembly later this year, and he added that the general assembly should almost certainly vote to extend the IGF mandate. But he’s concerned about what kind of changes might be suggested.
“Now we will have to find synthesis between two tendencies: the Internet will stay with us and nation-states will stay with us,” Kummer said. “We see the IGF as a synthesis between these two tendencies.
“I hope they will not do much tweaking moving on. All of you can have a role to play in this by reaching out, talking to governments.”
Click here to go to the main site used by
the organizers of IGF-USA: http://www.igf-usa.us/
-Colin Donohue, http://imaginingtheinternet.org
IGF-USA Scenario Discussion: Panelists, participants discuss future that puts Internet governance in hands of governments worldwide
IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. In this session, the description given to the discussants was: Most of us assume that the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs will continue to be the leading players on the Internet stage, with governments playing just a supporting role. This scenario describes an alternate future, where citizens and industry worldwide demand that their governments take center stage to clean up an Internet that has become infected with dangerous content and criminal conduct.
Details of the session:
Panelists and gathered participants in a scenario session at IGF-USA 2010 in Washington, D.C., expressed discouragement about an Internet future that will quickly witness larger international governmental control that would ultimately remove power from the ICT industry, media companies and NGOs, who now continue to be the main controllers of the Internet.
“A scenario is not a prediction,” said panel moderator Steve DelBianco, the executive director of NetChoice Coalition. “It’s designed to be provocative, but plausible. It’s designed to challenge your assumptions.”
Some members of the audience were skeptical that the scenario, as a whole, is plausible, but all agreed that if it became reality, it would be a frightening prospect. (Read the full description of the scenario here: http://api.ning.com/files/KeHnmv3O-PHbKeh0tKl8RaAjWl7S9siFVN8YEM6lN0ImimLqwuq6B2UlGNDtHBKp7MwNPjexPsur3DKlypEhgQ__/GlobalGovernmentfortheInternet.pdf)
DelBianco presented three converging forces that serve as drivers for the scenario:
- Consumers lose trust in online content and e-commerce.
- Businesses can no longer tolerate losses from fraud and lawsuits.
- Governments have successfully used electronic monitoring to thwart terrorist attacks.
As a result of those three forces, the scenario proposed the following about the Internet in 2020:
- Governments cooperate to oversee online content and e-commerce to a greater degree than ever before
- Government and businesses require biometric ID for online users
- Online publishers are now liable for user-generated content and conduct
- You need an “Online License” to use the Internet.
Janice Lachance, the chief executive officer of the Special Libraries Association and an invited panelist for the session, said she is anxious about the scenario’s potential to stem the openness of the Internet.
“I think this scenario gives us all a lot to think about,” Lachance said. “As someone who has an organization that’s concerned with the free flow of information and the access to information, I think that excessive government involvement raises red flags for us. It probably isn’t all bad, but if it’s certainly getting to the point that’s described here, I fear we will have a lot of consequences if you’re trying to do business.”
Walda Roseman, the founder of CompassRose International, said she thinks there’s a “rolling thunder” toward more governmental control because of the increasing security threats facing online users. A member of the audience agreed, saying the scenario is not so unlikely because it’s happening at lower levels already.
“All of these situations are going on, just not at a tipping point,” said the participant. “I don’t think this is necessarily avoidable. I think the focus should be on how to facilitate solutions, rather than to prevent something that currently exists.”
One possible solution, according to Roseman, is to rely on more and better intergovernmental cooperation. She said it’s necessary for countries to find ways to hold more cohesive and inclusive dialogues.
“Can we shape conclusions as a world as opposed to quickly avoid them?” Roseman said. “We’re seeing a lot of collaboration among governments, and the collaboration is not yet 100 percent on the cybersecurity issues, but it’s a different alliance there. We’re wanting intergovernmental organizations to make the policy decisions and a whole lot more than the policy decisions.”
Several audience members said they don’t foresee national governments getting together on the issue of Internet governance in the near future when they can’t even come to concrete conclusions on financial regulation or climate change, for example.
So if “some bizarre world government” isn’t created to handle the issue, as one participant said, then it will fall, most likely, to the local governmental level or the United Nations. Even then, there was some articulated concern that a governmental body simply can’t respond and react in a timely fashion to any problems that may arise.
“I’m concerned about notion of institutional competence,” said an audience member. “Does the government have the competence to run the Internet? I don’t think they have the expertise or the quickness to react.”
Markus Kummer, executive coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum, said that government shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame for ineffective policies.
“We need to avoid having a black-and-white picture of all government is bad and all the other institutions are good,” Kummer said. “I think it’s a little more complex than that. How do we find a fruitful cooperation among all the actors?”
No matter who might claim Internet governance, panelists and participants expressed concerns about the future of anonymity, security, openness and freedom of information on the Internet. They said it’s up to the people who work together through IGF to continue having conversations that could lead to a positive future. “Citizens and business have lost patience, and they need solutions,” DelBianco said. “If we don’t deliver, entities that discuss may be seen as not fast enough to solve problems. We need to show progress. Lots of organizations will have to start delivering results so we don’t get the result we don’t want. We need to avoid having the Exxon Valdez of Internet security.”
Two U.S. government employees who were part of the audience for the scenario said the United States needs to look carefully and closely at how it views and values the Internet to figure out what it truly wants and needs. “This is moving so much faster than we expected,” said a U.S. State Department participant. “Are we going to lose by maybe trying to be idealistic and assuming that everyone else is going to take on our same model? Maybe we need to get together as U.S. citizens and ask, ‘What do we absolutely want for our Internet, what do we want as a country?’ and get really clear on that so that when we start making foreign policy decisions we’re not compromising our values.”
-Colin Donohue, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org
The opening plenary session of the second IGF-USA featured general remarks from leaders Judith Aren and Pablo Molina of the host institution, the Georgetown University Law Center, and from global IGF leader Markus Kummer and Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department.
Details of the session:
One highlight of the opening session of IGF-USA 2010 came when Markus Kummer, the executive coordinator of the United Nations-facilitated global Internet Governance Forum, reviewed the creation of many national and regional IGF initiatives. In the past few years the movement has spread to now include eight regional initiatives, such as the East African IGF, and 15 national IGFs. (Click here for links to these: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/regional-and-national-igfs)
“It’s just proof that in many countries people feel the need of discussing the issues in multistakeholder situations,” Kummer said.
He emphasized the importance of discussing these issues nationally and regionally, not just globally.
“Global coordination cannot work if there is no coordination on the national level,” Kummer said. “This is particularly true in developing countries where quite often the Internet has developed outside the sphere of governance. It is particularly important that these initiatives happen in developing countries so they realize the importance of understanding the discussions with these multistakeholders.”
Pablo Molina, chief information officer at Georgetown University Law Center, said such Internet governance talks should continue, especially in the United States. He noted that one in every five U.S. university students has taken a class online.
“It was once said that all that’s needed to have a university is a library and a printing press.” Molina said. “I would argue that today, all is needed is the Internet and a savvy community of faculty, staff and students.”
The IGF is a place where businesses, civil society, government, academia, technologists and researchers can discuss current topics and issues and the positive evolution of the Internet. Kummer called it a “soft” governance approach, offering a way for people learn from each other how best to improve working with the Internet, tackling problems not through treaties, but through best practices.
“The Internet itself obviously is deployable for both positive and negative purposes,” said Ambassador Philip Verveer of the U.S. State Department. “The positive is on exhibit here in the program today.”
Verveer said the positives of the Internet include the spread of knowledge and efficiency and the challenges include threats to cybersecurity and to children online.
“The IGF has been criticized for not producing concrete results, as a UN meeting normally produces some sort of resolution, however you usually pay a price for getting there,” Kummer said. “[In the IGF] we focus more on the substance, and by not having a negotiating framework, it allows for free dialogue.”
The United Nations will be deciding later this year whether to extend the mandate for meetings of the global IGF past the initial goal of having five annual sessions. “I am very optimistic the UN is going to extend the IGF and hopefully without any changes,” Verveer said.
Kummer said the majority of the people who have been involved in the IGF process to this point have expressed a desire to keep it as a non-negotiating platform, while others want to change the parameters, maybe to move toward some form of negotiating platform. Some people have said that if there are not major changes in the way it operates the IGF should not continue. The UN may make some suggestions about the future direction of IGF if it is to be continued past the fifth meeting, which takes place in September, 2010, in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“The question is will it be a simple ‘yes,’ or will it be a ‘yes’ but with certain conditions attached,” Kummer said.
-Rebecca Smith and Sam Calvert, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org
The second IGF-USA will take place July 21, 2010 at the Georgetown Law Center, in Washington, D.C. The one-day event will offer expert panels and workshops on important global Internet governance issues, as well as a plenary session on the continuation of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum.
If you are interested in receiving information about the upcoming IGF-USA join the community today.
The Internet Governance Forum USA (IGF-USA) is a multistakeholder effort to illuminate issues and cultivate constructive discussions about the future of the Internet. It provides a domestic forum in the US to engage civil society, government, technologists, research scientists, industry and academia, helping to create partnerships, coalitions and dialogues that demonstrate best practices and help move policy forward.