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Monday, July 25, 2011

US backs multi-stakeholders’ approach to Internet Governance

The United States has declared support for multi-stakeholder approach to Internet Governance globally.

The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information at the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Mr. Lawrence E. Strickling, gave this indication in his remarks at the recently held Internet Governance Forum-USA in Washington, DC.

He said that some recent events in the global Internet community have made substantial progress on the goal to protect and enhance the multistakeholder process for Internet governance.

“We believe that preserving our existing institutions while extending this model to other aspects of Internet policymaking is important for ensuring the continued growth and innovation of the Internet,” he said.

According to him, starting last year, as one of the commitments, the global Internet community set forth in the Affirmation of Commitments, which the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has undertaken with a detailed review of its accountability and transparency models.

“I had the privilege of participating on the team that conducted this review. It was truly multistakeholder, with members from around the globe including China, Egypt, and South America, representing elements of the global Internet community such as registries, registrars, users, and governments,” he said.

Strickling pointed out that the team completed its review last December and issued a report with 27 recommendations to the ICANN board for improving accountability and transparency at ICANN.

He noted that at the Singapore meeting of the ICANN board, it adopted these recommendations as proposed by the review team.

“I am very pleased by the Board’s action, which demonstrates a commitment to improving the accountability and transparency of ICANN and to the multistakeholder process of Internet policymaking,” he said.

The Assistant Secretary, therefore tasked ICANN management and staff to take up the challenge of implementing these recommendations as rapidly as possible and in a manner that leads to meaningful and lasting reform.

These recommendations, he said, when implemented in a thorough and meaningful way, would measurably improve the accountability and transparency of the organization.

“And while a lot of people worked very hard to get to this point with ICANN, I think the success of the effort so far illustrates an important point about multistakeholder organizations,” he said.

Stressing that multistakeholder institutions derive their legitimacy from the support and active participation of all stakeholders, just as they are more likely than regulatory or treaty-based organizations to adapt to change and evolve when the stakeholders demand it.

“It is difficult to imagine employing a similar process to reform more traditional regulatory agencies as quickly or as thoroughly,” he said.

As said by him, the other big news in Singapore was ICANN’s decision to move forward to expand the number of generic top level domains (gTLDs).

He emphasised that while that decision may not have satisfied everyone, the process used by the Board to reach its decision is worthy of note.

“In response to long-standing concerns held by governments about the expansion proposal, the ICANN board held a number of focused exchanges with the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) to resolve as many of the issues as possible,” he said.

These exchanges, Mr. Strickling said, represented the first meaningful interactions between the GAC and the ICANN board since ICANN’s inception and it is critical that the lessons learned through these recent interactions result in clear, predictable processes for the ICANN board and the GAC going forward.

“From our perspective, ICANN improved the new gTLD programme by incorporating a significant number of the GAC proposals,” he said, noting the fact that not all of the GAC’s proposals were adopted does not represent a failure of the process or a setback to governments.

“… Rather, it reflects the reality of a multistakeholder model. More important is the fact that the ICANN Board now recognizes the need to bring governments into its multistakeholder policymaking in a more meaningful way,” he said.

Further, Mr. Strickling warned that if it’s to combat the proposals put forward by others, such as to grant the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the authority to veto ICANN board decisions, there would be need to ensure that multistakeholder institutions have provided a meaningful role for governments as stakeholders.

For him, a second major achievement of the last month was the action taken by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris at the end of June to adopt a set of Internet policymaking principles.

The occasion, he said, provided for the OECD’s High Level Meeting on the Internet Economy for senior decision-makers from governments, the private sector, civil society, and the technical community and it was an unprecedented opportunity to advance the global consensus around the working multistakeholder model that we believe is critical to the Internet’s continued success.

Noteworthy, he said, is that participants at the meeting agreed to a communiqué on policy-making principles that will create the conditions for an open, interoperable, secure, and continually innovating Internet.

Remmy Nweke
ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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