[discuss] The Global Commission on Internet Governance

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at cis-india.org
Wed Jan 22 16:31:48 UTC 2014

CIGI and Chatham House have a new project.


Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the Global Commission on Internet Governance?

    The Global Commission on Internet Governance is a two-year initiative that will present a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance. Chaired by Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, the commission will include about 25 members drawn from various fields and from around the world, including policy and government, academia and civil society. All commissioners are listed at the commission’s website, www.ourinternet.org

    The commission will address four key themes, within which are a number of sub-themes:
        Enhancing governance legitimacy — including regulatory approaches and standards;
        Preserving innovation — including critical Internet resources, infrastructure and competition policy;
        Ensuring rights online — including establishing the principle of technological neutrality for human rights, privacy, cyber-crime and free expression;
        Avoiding systemic risk — including establishing norms regarding state conduct, cybercrime cooperation, and proliferation and disarmament issues.

    Why is the commission important?

    The current mechanism of Internet governance, colloquially called the “multi-stakeholder” model, is under threat. This threat to a free, open, and universal Internet comes from two principal sources. First, a number of authoritarian states are waging a campaign to exert greater state control over critical Internet resources. Second, revelations about the nature and extent of online surveillance have led to a loss of trust. Collectively, these circumstances have created a need to update legacy mechanisms for Internet governance; but deadlocks in international dialogue means the potential exists for the fragmentation of the Internet. Accordingly, a significant and timely opportunity exists to feed innovative new ideas into these negotiations through the establishment of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.

    What is Internet governance and the multi-stakeholder model?

    The Internet’s architecture is constantly changing. The content and computing devices which end users see are only the surface of a massive underlying infrastructure of networks, services, and institutions that keep the Internet operational. This architecture comprises private information intermediaries such as network operators, exchange points, search engines, hosting services, e-commerce platforms, and social media providers.

    Despite the privatized and somewhat autonomous nature of these network components, global coordination is necessary to keep the Internet operational. For example, global technical standardization ensures interoperability; cybersecurity governance maintains stability and authentication; and centralized coordination ensures that each Internet name and number is globally unique. These, and other, tasks necessary to keep the Internet operational, are collectively referred to as “global Internet governance.” As the Internet becomes increasingly enmeshed with vital aspects of everyday life, actors that perform these various Internet governance functions are also being called upon to provide expert knowledge on the governance of human behaviour online. This trend complicates an already difficult governance terrain.

    For the majority of its history, the Internet has been governed in an organic and piecemeal fashion by a variety of standard-setting and other technical bodies and by private companies performing key roles as network operators and information intermediaries. Multi-stakeholder governance means governance involving more than one of the four categories of participants: firms, states, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society (including technical experts acting in their individual capacities). It typically utilizes relatively non-hierarchical procedural rules. Rather than hard law and regulatory enforcement, governance is accomplished by means of voluntary compliance with technical standards, codes of conduct, and industry best practices.

    How will the Global Commission on Internet Governance influence the debate on Internet governance?

    The Global Commission’s goal is two-fold. First, it will encourage globally inclusive public discussions on the future of Internet governance. It will do this through public outreach activities, including accessible research as well as public consultation. Second, through its comprehensive policy-oriented report, and the subsequent promotion of this report, the Commission will communicate its findings with senior stakeholders at key Internet governance events, including, for example, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+10 review process, the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in spring 2014, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Meeting in fall 2014.

    Although the commission will formally begin its program of work at the conclusion of ICANN’s High Level Panel on Internet Cooperation, which concludes its work in May 2014, planning and research are well underway. The commission will tackle a broad range of issues through an intensive program of research and consultation over an extended, two-year period.

Carl Bildt - Chair
Gordon Smith  - Deputy Chair
Dominic Barton 
Pablo Bello 
Dae-Whan Chang 
Moez Chatchouk 
Michael Chertoff 
Anriette Esterhuysen 
Hartmut Glaser 
Dorothy Gordon 
Dame Wendy Hall 
Fen Osler Hampson 
Melissa Hathaway 
Patricia Lewis 
Mathias Müller von Blumencron 
Beth Simone Noveck 
Joseph S. Nye 
Sir David Omand 
Nii Quaynor 
Latha Reddy 
Marietje Schaake 
Tobby Simon 
Michael Spence 
Paul Twomey 
Pindar Wong 

Pranesh Prakash
Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society
T: +91 80 40926283 | W: http://cis-india.org
Access to Knowledge Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School
M: +1 520 314 7147 | W: http://yaleisp.org
PGP ID: 0x1D5C5F07 | Twitter: https://twitter.com/pranesh_prakash
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