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The Evolution of the ITU's Views on Internet Governance (2006-2012)

Veni Markovski

Someone was talking the other day about the ITU and what they think about the issue of Internet Governance. I know what the ITU Secretariat wrote in a paper some years ago (Bulgaria was one of the governments heavily criticizing the errors and flaws in the ITU paper), but also decided it might be interesting to show how this question has evolved in the words of the ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure, by finding out how his positions on that issue, and on the role of the ITU have changed through the years.
Here are some statements, which will make it easier for you to reach your own conclusions.

1. In 2006:

"I wouldn't want to see the I.T.U. trying to take over Internet governance.", he said at his first news conference.


Mr. Toure, who has served since 1998 as director of the agency's Telecommunication Development Bureau, stressed that he was intent on protecting the agency from the political football Internet governance had become. "We are not talking about the I.T.U. taking over governance here," he said. "We're talking about the I.T.U. continuing the mandate that it has been doing in contributing to the growth of the Internet over all of these years."

2. In 2011 Mr. Toure's put openly to Russia's then Prime Minister Putin the idea for establishing international control over the Internet by the ITU (yes, it was Mr. Toure's idea, not Mr. Putin's, as western media presented it, and the ITU press message tried to completely ignore it). But see for your self in the transcript of the meeting at the Russian government site.

V. Putin, in talking to Mr. Toure: "We are thankful to you for the ideas that you have proposed for discussion. One of them is establishing international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

3. In 2012, Mr. Toure's gave an interview for BNA Bloomberg, in which he stated:

"Touré told BNA, "Internet Governance as we know it today" is about "Domain Names and addresses."

The conclusions of the Working Group on Internet Governance (in the establishment of which I personally took part) are published in the WGIG report, which clearly states, that:

10… "Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet."


"12. It should be made clear, however, that Internet governance includes more than Internet names and addresses, issues dealt with by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN): it also includes other significant public policy issues, such as critical Internet resources, the security and safety of the Internet, and developmental aspects and issues pertaining to the use of the Internet."

If you know of other statements, which show the evolution, please, leave a comment. We'll find out more about it at the coming conferences — WTSA, WCIT and WTPF. So, by June 2013, the ITU will perhaps have crystal clear views.

By Veni Markovski. More blog posts from Veni Markovski can also be read here.

Related topics: Internet Governance


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Call me a cynic, but... The Famous Brett Watson  –  Oct 04, 2012 8:20 AM PDT

It seems to me that the difference between the definitions of "Internet governance" offered by Touré and the WGIG is that his is realistic, and theirs is idealistic.

Brett, it only seems like that... Veni Markovski  –  Oct 04, 2012 11:23 AM PDT

Brett, it only seems like that…

So correct me. The Famous Brett Watson  –  Oct 05, 2012 3:23 AM PDT

I stand by my remark. Governance is primarily about the wielding of power, and the main power that people are coveting in this political game is the control over the DNS root, along with the associated perks such as the ability to unilaterally remove names from generic domains like ".com". This power is currently the sole privilege of the USA, and is now quite routinely exercised in service to the ruling corporate interests of that country under the aegis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I quite expect hell to freeze over before they cede that extraordinary power willingly. That is the reality to which Touré alludes.

The WGIG definition is idealistic in the sense that it identifies governance in the more palatable terms of what many people want it to be, rather than what it is. Declarations of such ideals are noble enough, but they do not mould reality in and of themselves.

If you really think that the WGIG definition is a closer approximation of the way that things are, I'd be interested to hear your argument.

I am more worried about what it will end up being Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Oct 08, 2012 9:23 PM PDT

The WGIG definition is idealistic - and heavily civil society driven so that idealism (tending towards utopia, at times) is probably to be expected.

I wouldn't go the other extreme to support what Mr.Toure defintes it as though.

why correct you? Veni Markovski  –  Oct 09, 2012 4:24 AM PDT

Let's wait, and see what life will tell us in a few months. There's no need for me to correct you. After all, patience is key to finding out what will happen :)
I am surprised you give as an example what ICE does, and don't give as an example what the prosecution office of Volgograd did last year, using the ITU Constitution as a reference. And, of course, there are many more examples of taking down content, sites, pages - without the need to ask for the US Government interference :)

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