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NETmundial Initiative Taking Positive Steps Forward

By Wolfgang Kleinwächter

The NETmundial conference in São Paulo in April 2014 added a new element to the global Internet Governance Ecosystem. It demonstrated that the multistakeholder model for the governance of the Internet is able not only discuss issues of global importance, as we do it now for nearly ten years within the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), but it can also produce a concrete outcome. The Universal Declaration of Internet Governance Principles and the São Paulo Roadmap have enhanced the existing mechanisms. The innovation from São Paulo was that the conference more or less implemented what the Internet Governance definition of the Tunis Agenda from 2005 as calling for: Sharing of policy development and decision making. This was another step into a new and still unknown territory.

The NETmundial Initiative (NMI) is now aimed to take the next small stumbling step. To get this step right it is extremely important that all the elements, which made the São Paulo conference and the multistakeholder approach so far a success, are further stabilized and enhanced: Everything has to be open, transparent, inclusive and bottom-up.

It is now up to the community, to define what the specifics of the initiative could and should be and how this new stumbling step forward into the still unknown territory of the cyberspace is designed. The development of Terms of Reference (TOR) of the NMI is insofar a rather important element.

In January 2015, the NMI Secretariat and the nominated 23-member Inaugural Coordination Council (CC) started a process to outreach as much as possible to the broader Internet Governance community to stimulate an open, transparent, inclusive and bottom up discussion process.  A key element is the questionnaire which has now been published by the TOR Subgroup of the CC. This Call for Comments (CFC) is addressed to everybody. It is an open invitation to join the discussion how the NMI could and should work to enrich the global Internet Governance world. The announcement and questions can be found here, while all comments received are publicly available here. It takes about 5 minutes the complete the form.   

The draft document, which will produced on the basis of the feedback from the questionnaire, will be made available for public comment and further discussion from 2-16 March 2015, using the same open and transparent interface as the one used to collect community input during the NETmundial São Paulo meeting. The Council will discuss the adoption of the document at its first face-to-face gathering on 31 March 2015, which will take place in San José, Costa Rica.

The meeting in San José will be supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications of Costa Rica, with Minister Gisela Kopper closely involved with the process. While the Initiative is global in scope, by holding its first meeting in the global south, it is sending a clear message that it is willing and ready to enable projects that focus on the next billion Internet users. To this end, the Initiative can make positive contributions by providing a platform for engagement that includes and supports global players who do not have a multistakeholder space.

Beyond these developments, preliminary discussions between members of the Council suggest that outreach and engagement efforts are likely to take place alongside other important Internet governance meetings. The 2015 Internet Governance calendar is already fully packed with conferences. One highlight will be the 10th IGF in November 2015 in Brazil.

The global multistakeholder community expects more than ever, that all those discussion will lead also to actions which will help to bring solutions to the growing number of open issues. The NMI has a great opportunity to bring additional knowledge, expertise, resources and authority to the process so that such solutions can be achieved. In this process each voice – be it from governments, the technical or academic community, civil society or the private sector – is needed.

Disclaimer: I was recently appointed as Special Ambassador of the NETmundial Initiative.

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Diverse, global participation is a necessary component that embodies the NETmundial spirit and the multistakeholder, bottom-up approach endorsed as the way forward in improving the existing Internet governance framework. The global Internet community is invited to contribute proposals or ideas for distributed Internet governance. Contribute here.