Netmundial+5: The legacy and implications for future internet governance

25 Nov 2019 13:05h - 15:05h

Event report

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

Reflecting on the five years since the NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement and Roadmap was adopted in 2014, the panellists concluded that NETmundial had regulative input into other processes and is still relevant, but in order to be effective, it needs institutional commitment, monitoring, and clear follow-up. The future IGF should draw lessons and ensure better global, multistakeholder co-operation.

According to Mr Jörg Schweiger (CEO, DENIC), the initiative set out the values and was a testing ground for Internet governance. Mr Hartmut Glaser (CGI.Br, Brazil) praised it for giving a definition of multistakeholderism, along with a series of guiding principles still applicable today. Ms Jeanette Hofmann (The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Germany) reminded everyone that producing a document in a multistakeholder process for the first time in history was the result of numerous drafting efforts and considerable flexibility in decision-making. Mr Stefan Schnoor (Ministry of Economics, Germany) added that the IGF should strive to build on the values and principles in the NETmundial statement. Mr Carlos Afonso (Institute Nupef, Brazil) said that the governmental participation was unprecedented, but asked if this inclusive decision-making process has truly been accepted today. Mr Wolfgang Kleinwachter (Euro-SSIG, Germany) said that although governments as stakeholders are still missing at the table, the NETmundial outcomes were significant. It marked a first-ever agreement without the use of formal negotiation mechanisms and inspired other forums, such as the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. Ms Avri Doria (Association for Progressive Communications) expressed discontent with the rigid division of stakeholder groups, which rendered some participants voiceless.

Elaborating on the pitfalls of the process, Mr William J. Drake (University of Zurich, Switzerland) stated that the periodic reporting that the roadmap required never happened. It was exceptional that NETmundial added a political layer of broader accountability and inspired other processes globally, but, he asked, have the principles really seen the light of day? The panellists agreed that they were never truly implemented. Mr Vint Cerf (Google, USA) observed that the NETmundial process is a useful measure to learn if co-operation went beyond agreement on principles into actual implementation. He said that the latest initiative called Contract for the Web could be a good opportunity to test the presence of principles. He also warned against fragmentation and said that the IGF as a platform should bring everyone back to the same table. Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications) agreed that fragmentation has occurred, which signifies a lack of governance norms and a lack of monitoring. NETmundial was significantly innovative from the outset as it came close to defining the principles that should underpin Internet governance. She expressed concern that governments are turning to regulative aspects without agreement on principles. It seems that the spirit of NETmundial lives on, but the document itself had a soft, diffusive effect.

What mechanisms do we need to present to the IGF? NetMundial was successful because it was a coalition of the willing, so, first, the IGF has to discover the commitment levels of stakeholders. Second, tracking and monitoring is required for accountability. That is, beyond having committed people at the table, multistakeholder input has to lead to a clear output. It was agreed that the context of NETmundial was a moment of crisis in global co-operation, and this initiative came at the right time. Should we then expect another crisis before we can move forward together? The ITU Policy Forum, a year-long consultation process, was mentioned as a good practice example. It was agreed that Internet governance will work only in a transnational regime where the elementary principles of openness are globally respected.

By Jana Mišić