Vision is needed at NETmundial

The Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, a.k.a. the NETmundial meeting, starts today in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  The NETmundial meeting has two goals: 1) articulate a set of Internet governance principles, and 2) propose a roadmap for the future development of the Internet governance ecosystem. The meeting comes a short 7 months after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gave a scathing speech at the UN General Assembly on NSA surveillance in which she called for mechanisms that would reinforce key principles related to Internet governance and use.

CDT submitted comments to NETmundial on the roadmap, contributed to and endorsed two BestBits submissions (one on principles the other also on the roadmap), and I joined a small number of interested individuals on an additional contribution on Internet principles. The draft of the NETmundial outcome document, a synthesis of scores of initial comments, was posted last week and now includes input from the public comment period.  While the text will undergo further changes as the meeting progresses, it should form the basis for achieving some consensus over the next two days.  CDT welcomes the clear commitment to multi-stakeholder approaches, as well as the recognition of the need for the continued evolution of the Internet ecosystem and particularly the strengthening of the Internet Governance Forum. The NETmundial meeting presents a unique open and participatory opportunity to develop a roadmap for the future and it should not be squandered.

CDT would like to see outcomes of NETmundial include agreement on a set of participation and process principles to underpin and frame Internet governance discussions and policy development going forward. Governance discussions continue to be bedeviled by debates over the mechanisms and processes by which such discussions should occur. The NETmundial meeting could make a significant contribution to the Internet governance space by clearly identifying the points of consensus on how Internet governance discussions should proceed. A set of widely endorsed principles for Internet governance processes would give everyone a set of guidelines for structuring and participating in governance activities in the future, and would articulate a standard against which existing processes could be evaluated.

In addition, NETmundial provides an important opportunity for stakeholders to address issues of mass surveillance and cyber security policy. CDT would like to see strong language emphasizing that nations must respect human rights to privacy and free expression in their surveillance laws, policies, and practices. Further, states should commit to engage in multi-stakeholder approaches to cyber security policy development, which will help to ensure such policies respect human rights while addressing security concerns.

Perhaps most importantly, success at NETmundial will require a forward-thinking approach that avoids the worn grooves of old debates, and emphasizes the importance of participatory decentralized governance. Some will seek to fall back on language from the 2005 Tunis Agenda, and constrain stakeholder participation to “their respective roles and responsibilities”; others will question, and try to discredit, the multistakeholder model. But, NETmundial offers everyone a unique opportunity to move beyond the confines of the Tunis Agenda and look to the future evolution of Internet governance. It will take a shared commitment to break new ground and CDT will be working with all stakeholders in Sao Paolo and beyond to meet this challenge.

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