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<nettime> Milton Mueller: NYET-Mundial: Taming the Ambitions of the WEF/
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<nettime> Milton Mueller: NYET-Mundial: Taming the Ambitions of the WEF/ICANN/CGI Alliance


< http://www.internetgovernance.org/2014/11/20/nyet-mundial-taming-the-ambitions-of-the-weficanncgi-alliance/ >

   November 20, 2014

Nyet-Mundial: Taming the ambitions of the WEF/ICANN/CGI alliance

   Who will inherit the legacy of the NetMundial meeting? A one-off
   meeting in April of this year that successfully brought together
   governments, business, civil society and the technical community to
   produce a set of principles and a `road map' was lauded as a major
   success for multistakeholder Internet governance. The question of how
   to follow up on its accomplishments has become a new source of
   controversy. For better or worse, efforts to institutionalize its
   legacy under the leadership of ICANN seem to be faltering. And that may
   be a good thing.

   Despite our mocking of it as the Not-Mundial, ICANN, the Brazilian
   Internet Governance Steering Committee, and the World Economic Forum
   insist on calling it the NetMundial Initiative (NMI). They have
   registered the domain netmundial.org and are attempting to position NMI
   as the place where any and every non-technical policy issue affecting
   the Internet can be addressed. The leaders of this initiative are now
   trying to form a "Coordinating Committee" composed of 25 people
   "distributed across 4 sectors and five geographies." This top-down,
   centralized organization defines its mission as "to energize bottom-up,
   collaborative solutions in a distributed Internet governance
   ecosystem."

"No" from the technical community

   A recent statement by the Internet Society, a group not known for
   its hostility to private business or to ICANN, has sharply distanced
   itself from the NMI. ISOC flatly refused to occupy the permanent seat
   on the NMI Coordinating Committee allotted to it. After reading the
   statement, IGP is very pleased with the nature of their reasoning:

     At its heart, the Internet is a decentralized, loosely coupled,
     distributed system that allows policies to be defined by those who
     require them for their operations and that ensures that issues can
     be resolved at a level closest to their origin.

   ISOC reiterated its view that there should be no single platform for
   Internet governance, and also accused the Initiative of not being
   decentralized, bottom-up, open, transparent, or accountable.

   The simple fact is that NMI's agenda is too ambitious. It comes across
   as an attempt to establish hegemony over global Internet policy, and to
   create a structure of privileged access for the small circle of
   Internet governance directors, government officials, activists and
   MS devotees who are well-placed within ICANN, CGI and WEF.

   Of course there is nothing wrong with private initiatives to organize
   responses to specific policy problems, or private initiatives to
   promote specific ideologies or viewpoints. The recent so-called
   Global Commission on Internet Governance compares favorably to NMI
   in this regard; it is a bunch of "important people" getting together to
   promote their views on Internet governance. The Commission, however,
   makes no bones about the fact that it is a private, rather exclusive
   group with an ideological bias. (Although it does have an irritating
   tendency, like NMI, to claim that this is being done on behalf of all
   of us: witness their domain name "ourinternet.") NMI, on the other
   hand, is positioning itself as a public institution, one that
   holistically addresses all of the non-technical aspects of Internet
   governance.

"No" from Civil society, too?

   Now it is civil society's turn to decide whether to be swept up in
   NMI's embrace. An interesting debate is taking place within the Civil
   Society Coordination Group, and within Best Bits, another coalition
   of civil society groups involved in global Internet governance. One
   would think the decision would be an easy one. But civil society groups
   with no power except moral suasion are always tempted to attach
   themselves to powerful institutions in order to provide a more
   effective vehicle for their normative views. They must also face the
   perpetual tension between being co-opted by powerful players offering
   them access, and becoming ineffective or marginalized.

   Reviewing the debate in the Best Bits archive, it seems that the people
   within civil society advocating an accommodation with NMI are precisely
   the people who would be likely to be selected for privileged access or
   elevated status in an ICANN/WEF/CGI based regime, and those who oppose
   it are precisely the ones who would not be so selected. This kind of
   supplicant/divide and conquer relationship is not healthy for civil
   society's role in Internet governance.

   The civil society groups became more critical when NMI informed them
   that the NMI leaders would not allow the CSCG to appoint all of the
   five Coordinating Committee members allocated to civil society; NMI
   reserved the right to appoint some of its own selections. This is
   because the World Economic Forum has longstanding ties with specific
   NGOs and it wants to reward its friends. So by accepting a position
   on NMI's coordinating committee, civil society groups would be lending
   legitimacy to the structure while endorsing the ability of the NMI
   organizers to define who or what represents civil society. At the
   original NetMundial meeting, civil society selected its own
   representatives on committees and there was no artificial, top-down
   designation of who represents civil society.

   Our recommendation is that the CSCG follow the lead of the Internet
   Society and refuse to formally appoint anyone to the NMI Coordinating
   Committee. They should do so not out of hostility or spite, but simply
   to make it completely clear that NMI is an ICANN- and business-led
   policy initiative and not an open, public governance institution. It
   would be acceptable to work with NMI if or when it proposes specific
   actions or policies that civil society supports, but there is no reason
   to allow civil society participation in Internet governance to be
   gate-kept in this way, or to allow itself to be incorporated into a
   structure defined by and under the control of ICANN, WEF and a
   Brazilian national agency (CGI).


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