Dialogue on the ‘Declaration for the Future of the Internet’

1 Dec 2022 12:05h - 13:35h

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Event report

The workshop aimed to discuss the Declaration for the Future of the Internet 2022 (DFI) with representatives from countries that have signed the declaration and those that have not, and elaborate on whether the signatories should include civil society and business stakeholders, given that the document endorses multistakeholder internet governance.

In the first round, the panellists shared their positions and personal views on the decision (not) to sign the DFI. The German ambassador said they signed it together with all EU member states, because states needed some self-assurance in terms of digital transformation and also to recommit to the basic principles of the internet.

For India, there were two reasons for not signing the declaration: the absence of sufficient consultative process, both multilateral and multistakeholder, and the document’s substance. India is unwilling to sign initiatives concerning the free flow of information without national security concerns being considered. 

For South Africa, there is a general view that the country does not sign the documents it has not negotiated. This is also seen as a response to a tendency for countries in the Global North to develop positions and statements and then expect the Global South to join. Also, for South Africa, multistakeholderism is a contentious issue – a principle that a state may adhere to nationally, but it should not be a global one. Brazil has the same position regarding signing non-negotiated documents. Still, in terms of the substance and principles of the DFI, Brazil already has them in place, including the Internet Governance Steering Committee.

The USA underlined that the DFI was designed as a signal of a shared positive vision for the future of the internet. The document came at a time of the rising trend of digital authoritarianism and was urgently needed for like-minded states to recommit their vision of open free internet. They added that the multistakeholder community should be invited to try to gather more countries to sign in.

The DFI became a state-only initiative because it started as a contribution to the Summit for Democracy. There was a strong alliance component as military allies of the US were among the first group of countries that the Biden administration approached. But the term alliance quickly disappeared because it was clearly not about «us» against «them» but recommitting to the principals.

Participants drew parallels with the NetMundial Statement, drafted and signed by different stakeholders in contrast to the DFI. But since 2014, the whole landscape has changed, and some topics have grown into specific niche areas and brought various processes to support them. However, we need to consider what it means to make something multistakeholder or strictly governmental. If the DFI was designed to signal to other states their consolidated position – it has done so. Also, such signalling between the lines brings a clear geopolitical context, given the language it has inside. But in terms of the multistakeholder process, it is unclear what the goals of the DFI are.

However, the declaration enshrines a role for civil society, the private sector, the technical community, academia, and other stakeholders to work to get more states into these principles and to hold states accountable for the principles afterwards. 

The DFI could also be a starting point for developing principles that the signatories feel more ownership of to put into the global digital compact process.

By Ilona Stadnik


The session in keywords

WS235 WORDCLOUD dialogue on declaration IGF2022