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Is UN SG Guterres Driving the Bus That Macron Threw UN IGF & Multistakeholderism Under at IGF Paris?

Khaled Fattal

A fresh & transparent, community-led, bottom-up, public debate has now become unavoidable and undeferrable. "....we need limited and smart regulation" were the clear and unambiguous words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the launch of the final report of his UN Panel on Digital Cooperation last week in New York. Last November, I wrote about President Macron throwing down the gauntlet at UN IGF Paris challenging IGF and Multistakeholderism to become more relevant. And last week, I wrote the post Can ICANN Survive Today's Global Geo-Political Challenges under its existing narrow mandate?

So what's the risk of all this to the single internet root being broken and how is all this tied together you might ask?

Macron called for the UN IGF' and Multistakeholderism to be reinvented. He called for factoring multilateralism into IGF's non-decision-making body. Macron called for IGF to move beyond the mere talk-shop lip service it has been for the last 13 years since its birth, and the reason why it was allowed to be born.

Now, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling with unambiguous clarity that "...We need limited and smart regulation".

So after Macron threw Multistakeholderism under the Bus at IGF Paris, here comes UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres driving this bus. Conclusion. To quote UN High-Level Panelist Vint Cerf's infamous words "adapt or die" — IGF will either be adapted or it will die.

This only means that the days of IGF being a mere talk-shop are numbered. Somehow decisions will need to be taken, and regulation by governments and treaties by international bodies will follow to make the internet, cyberspace, and the world safer.

So where does the role of ICANN fit in all this, such as:

  • Its current narrow mandate on only names and number,
  • Legitimate future mandates, if any,
  • ICANN continued championing and financial support of talk-shop IGF & Multistakeholderism, if IGF remains unchanged,
  • ICANN continued championing and financial support of decision making IGF & Multistakeholderism, if IGF gets adapted to be infused with "Multilateralism" ,
  • How will the ICANN community transparently address, debate and discuss to guide the board on how to move forward in its continue to support of old and/or new IGF?

The singularity of the internet root itself may be at risk, so it is time for all these questions above and perhaps many others to become publicly and transparently discussed and debated asap at all possible fora, starting at ICANN 65 Marrakesh.

I have already brought this directly to the ICANN leadership's attention and am doing so here by calling for a special extraordinary public session to be scheduled during next week's ICANN Marrakesh meeting, inviting them and the ICANN board to join me along with the ICANN community as well as global stakeholders via live streaming to discuss and debate all these critical issues openly and transparently.

Let's showcase how the ICANN bottom-up model and its community can manifest the necessary leadership to inspire the much-needed change to happen transparently, democratically with open, un-doctored debates and discussions for the world to see and emulate.

By Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, MLi Group & Producer "Era of the Unprecedented
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