The role of governments and intergovernmental organisations with regard to public policy issues pertaining to the Internet have for long been on the agenda of Internet governance discussions. At the World Summit on the Information Society (2003-2005), such discussions were reflected in the final documents, with the Tunis Agenda addressing the issue directly by noting that ‘policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign rights of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues’ and that ‘intergovernmental organizations have had, and should continue to have, a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issue’.
Similar discussions have also been held within the framework of the International Telecommunication Union, and resulted in several documents and initiatives addressing the role and responsibilities of governments, and more specifically, of the ITU, in Internet public policy related matters. One example is the Resolution 102 - ‘ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses’, initially adopted in 1998 and lastly revised in 2014. While recognising the important role of the private sector in the expansion and development of the Internet, the resolution outlines the fact that ‘all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the existing Internet and its future development’. It is further explaines that the role of governments includes the provision of a suitable legal framework that promotes the interoperability and wide accessibility of global ICT networks and Internet networks.
With regard to the management of the Internet critical resources (domain names and addresses), it is noted that this needs to be reflective of the geographical nature of the Internet, and take into account ‘an equitable balance of interests of all stakeholders’. The need to respect of the sovereign and legitimate interest of countries regarding decisions affecting their country code top level domains (ccTLDs) is also emphasised.
The resolution asks the ITU to continue its activities on international Internet related public policy issues within its mandate, as well its involvement in international discussions and initiatives related to the management of Internet domain names and addresses, and other Internet resources. It also calls for a continuation of the work of the ITU Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG Internet) - an intergovernmental group created on the basis of the Resolution 72 (2012) with the main aim to identify, study and develop matters related to international Internet-related public policy issues.
On the basis of these and other resolutions, the ITU and its various bodies have continued to be active on matters related to the Internet, including through: standardisation work in areas such as Internet protocol-based networks and IPv6; a continuous activity of the CWG Internet (which, among others, started work on an online repository of experiences and best practices in international Internet-related public policy issues, as submitted by member states and other stakeholders); and initiatives aimed at facilitating access to and use of the Internet in developing countries.