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Speaking up for the Internet

Gregory Francis

For most of this year governments from outside the G8 have not wavered from their essential themes on the Internet: they regard it as a shared resource that works in part as a result of their own investment in infrastructure, they want to be included in its governance through a decision-making process that is transparent, accessible and, in broad character, multilateral, and they want to be able to trust it and know that as much as it is a tool of growth for others, it can also be for them. Perhaps unfairly, these governments also nurture a sense that the multi-stakeholder idiom remains code for an only marginally-expanded status quo, one which still involves a disproportionate role for the private sector and for the United States.

Bad Bearers of Good Tidings

Those governments that declined to sign the Treaty on International Telecommunications Regulations last December have mostly relied on a simple message in reply: enhanced cooperation and the multi-stakeholder model must be given a better chance to work. But even if this does not go very far in answering developing-country demands for more — more participation, more say — those who decide to answer these demands need to consider whether they really want the unenviable role of spokesperson: any approach can be rendered ineffective (at best) or malign (at worst) by virtue of the character of the messenger. Three questions to consider in this regard:

  1. Do developing country governments see you as a credible, unbiased defender of the multi-stakeholder model?
  2. Do you raise suspicions among stakeholders who are more at ease with government — or multilateral — oversight of resources and policy than they are with the private sector?
  3. How direct is your link to the private sector's presumed shepherds (the United States government or its allies)?

Better Messengers

Efforts to restore collaboration and comity to the Internet governance dialogue have not alleviated a sense that developing countries seek a role they are finding it hard to audition for. As feelings of powerlessness grow out of this, the acts of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden compound suspicion about the role of the United States in matters pertaining to control and routing of information communicated over the Internet. In this environment, the most effective means of grounding the international discussion around Internet governance in the values of enhanced cooperation and the multi-stakeholder model, and of ensuring that the many forums in which it may be picked apart do not succeed in that purpose, is to have the concept championed from within the ranks of those countries that traditionally deride it. Question 4: Can you help with that?

By Gregory Francis, Managing Director at Access Partnership
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The response to this pertinent note seems JFC Morfin  –  Oct 09, 2013 8:47 AM PST

The response to this pertinent note seems to be that there is only one kind of credible spokeperson that can be accepted: the technically competent civil society doer. http://iucg.org/wiki/Translating_Civil_Society_preocupations.

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