East-west commitment as multistakeholders

13 Nov 2018 10:15h - 11:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

There is a global consensus on the importance of the multistakeholder model, however East and West understandings are different in the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. We should not just simply adopt the idea of multistakeholderism without proper deliberation of its application to the local contexts.

In his opening statement, the moderator MBu Zhong, Pennsylvania State University, said that the multistakeholder approach has become widely accepted. He also emphasised that Internet governance should have multinational participation and multi-party participation of tech community, private institutions and citizens. In both the East and West, people have realised the necessity to avoid the polarising concept of the term ‘Internet governance’, but still, approaches could be very different.

Mr Xingdong Fang, Center for Internet and Society, Zhejiang University of Media and Communications said that he liked multistakeholderism for its development concept, saying that ‘development can really help us iron out the differences between East and West regarding Internet governance’. Multistakeholderism means playing different roles. In developed countries, the balance between the government’s role, the corporate world, and civil society is better, in contrast to developing countries.

Mr Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus, recalled President Macron’s speech at the opening ceremony, in which he said that the world now has two different Internets – California-based business dominated, and China-based state dominated – and that he proposed another way, Internet governance should to be based on the rule of law and regulations made in a multistakeholder environment. The key idea of this approach is to create a mechanism where participants can share policy development and decision making, ‘This is complicated because governments have their own decision-making procedures, which are more or less isolated. In the best case, they consult the non-state actors’. Kleinwächter also emphasised the concept of collaborative sovereignty, ‘You cannot execute sovereignty by ignoring the interests of other sides. We have one world, one Internet. We have to learn how to live together and work hand in hand’.

Mr Chengyu Xiong, Journalism and Communication School, Tsinghua Universitysaid that the Internet was a product of human civilization – it contained the efforts from both developing and developed countries. He also stressed that governments may have their own ideology agendas, and they may have their own business interest, but academia should overcome the gap between the two sides. According to Xiong, the multistakeholder and multilateral approaches should seek to find common ground instead of focusing on differences.

Mr Demi Getschko, CGI.br, gave the Brazilian example of creating the Internet steering committee in a multistakeholder way. He said that in Brazil, the Internet is recognised as added value over the telecom. In this case, it is not under the umbrella of the telecom regulation, so it can ‘grow and flourish in a very fast and easy way without any kind of bureaucracy’. Getschko also stressed the synergy between the top level management and administration resources. This helped them host two IGF meetings, make research and get statistics for the Brazilian Internet. Finally, CGI.br organised the Net Mundial in 2014, which produced valid documents on the principles of the Internet governance.

Mr Li Yuxiao, Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Cyberspace noted thatfrom the East to the West each country has its own demands in the governance of particular areas. For that reason,  we have different models of governance, as well as confrontations between some states. Yuxiao also stressed the importance of trust between nations for further co-operation.

Mr Liang Guo, Director, China Internet Project, and Associate Professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued that academia is different from the nongovernmental sector and should not be put together with civil society as one stakeholder. He was pleased that recent documents of IGF had separated the two. Guo also noted that civil society ‘does not cover the most important stakeholders – bloggers, game players, young users’. 

Ms Anita Gurumurthy, Executive-Director, IT for Change, noted that the time when Internet governance was just about technical management standards and guidelines has passed, and that it is time to think how this process can be political and democratic.

The moderator summed up the discussion between the panellists, saying that we have a global consensus regarding the importance of multistakeholderism. However, there are still controversies between East and West frameworks and designs of multistakeholder participation, primarily the role of governments, and the effect of advisory inputs to the decision-making process.


By Ilona Stadnik