Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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My thoughts on NETmundial and the Future of Internet Governance

As the European Commission clearly stated in its Communication on Internet Policy and Governance of 12 February 2014, conflicting visions on the future of the Internet and on how to strengthen its multistakeholder governance in a sustainable manner have intensified recently. The next two years will be critical in redrawing the global map of Internet governance. Europe must contribute to finding a credible way forward for global internet governance; it must play a strong role in defining how the internet is run and ensuring it remains a single, un-fragmented network.

In less than two weeks, I will be travelling to Sao Paulo to attend NETmundial, the Multi-stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance. The purpose of NETmundial is to develop principles of Internet governance and a roadmap for the future development of this ecosystem. This international conference comes at a very timely moment in the debates on Internet governance and I commend the Brazilian government, and in particular President Dilma Rousseff, for taking this important initiative.

I was very pleased that the Brazilian Government asked me to join the High-Level Multi-stakeholder Committee of NETmundial, which oversees the overall strategy of the meeting and fosters the involvement of the international community.

The members of the High-Level Multi-stakeholder Committee recently received a "draft outcome document", prepared on the basis of the more than 180 comments and submissions (including two submissions by the European Commission) to the conference. A public consultation on the outcome document is going to be launched by the conference organisers very shortly.

In the meantime, I shared my observations on this draft document with my colleagues in the High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Committee, the co-chairs of the drafting team and with the secretariat of the conference; in a spirit of transparency, I would like to also share them with the broader Internet community.

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From: KROES Neelie (CAB-KROES)
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 7:26 PM
To: 'hlmc@netmundial.br'
Subject: RE: [HLMC] NETmundial draft outcome document

 

Dear colleagues,

I read with great interest the "draft outcome document" for NETmundial prepared by the Executive Meeting Committee (EMC). I would like to thank the members of the EMC and the colleagues who supported them for the hard work that went into drafting the document in such a short amount of time.

On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to share with you a number of observations and considerations, which I trust will be useful as we move forward towards meeting each other in Sao Paulo in two weeks' time.

It is in my view absolutely essential that we make a collective effort to ensure that the final outcomes of NETmundial are concrete and actionable, with clear milestones and with a realistic but ambitious timeline. As I had the occasion to underline throughout my tenure as EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and responsible for EU Internet governance policies - and as the European Commission clearly asserted in our recent Communication on Internet Policy and Governance - I strongly believe that we need to put on the table an evolutionary but concrete agenda for addressing the limitations – whether real or perceived – of the current multi-stakeholder model for the governance of the Internet.

In this sense, I regret to say that I find the draft outcome document too abstract and vague when it comes to the proposed roadmap. I understand the challenges that the EMC had to face in summarising the many contributions that were submitted, and I trust my remarks will be taken as a constructive contribution; but I am convinced this outcome document, as it stands, will be interpreted as putting off necessary discussions – in particular by those who have different opinion as to the value and effectiveness of the multi-stakeholder model.

To be clear, I am not arguing that all substantive issues should be "solved" in Sao Paulo. This is neither the purpose of the meeting nor a realistic achievement to plan for, and indeed we need to have a targeted number of issues to address over the two days. However, NETmundial should definitively mark a significant "change of pace" in the discussions and deliberations that have taken place so far. My own experience in public service suggests that a necessary condition to achieve such objective is to start from a substantially more ambitious point of departure than is currently the case.

There are a few other observations on the draft outcome document that I would like to make at this point in time.

First of all, I found some of the language related to human rights unnecessarily weak. I refer in particular to the passage "Internet governance should be open, participatory, Multistakeholder, technology-neutral, sensitive to human rights". We have an obligation to respect and promote human rights, not merely be "sensitive" to them, and this should be clearly reflected throughout the outcome document. This includes, among a number of important issues, the protection of privacy and personal data protection, which should have a prominent role in the outcome document.

Secondly, self-regulation and self-organisation of different stakeholders are certainly to be preserved and promoted. However, this cannot be to the detriment of basic democratic principles. It is not sufficient that the mechanisms through which "different stakeholder groups […] self-manage their processes [are] based on publicly known mechanisms", if this results in the explicit or implicit exclusion of persons in a manner that would contradict democratic processes.

Thirdly, I am glad that the draft outcome document recognises the importance of distributed institutional models for Internet governance, avoiding centralised solutions as a default. This is very much in line with the position of the European Commission that stronger interactions between stakeholders involved in Internet governance should be fostered via cross-cutting, issue-based dialogues, instead of through new bodies. This would allow relevant stakeholders to address specific challenges across structural and organisational boundaries. Such arrangements should be inspired by the distributed architecture of the Internet which should serve as a model for better interactions between all parties.

In this light, let me underline that in order for such distributed models to truly work, especially for people, organisations and countries with fewer resources to devote to this policy area, it is absolutely essential that the right ICT tools are globally available. The draft outcome document does refer to this, in particular in regard to remote participation in meetings and discussions. I believe we should be more ambitious and look more carefully at the role that ICTs, including Big Data technologies, can play in this context. The European Commission is addressing this challenge via the Global Internet Policy Observatory (GIPO) initiative. I would be glad to share further details and explore how we could join forces in this endeavour, possibly as a concrete deliverable of NETmundial.

Fourthly, I cannot stress enough how important it is that we keep the momentum towards a real and effective globalisation of core Internet functions and decisions. This is perhaps one of the most essential conditions to satisfy if we want the multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance to be seen as truly legitimate across the world. I have already had the occasion to congratulate the United States Government for its announcement of 14 March 2014, concerning the globalisation of certain IANA functions; I am therefore pleased that the draft outcome document specifically mentions the globalisation of both IANA and ICANN. I want nonetheless to underline that any such movement towards further globalisation of Internet processes should firmly and explicitly keep the public interest as a primary condition.

I appreciate that the EMC in its proposal has tried to take maximum account of the contributions received. However, I think that the conference should not overextend the areas it wants to cover meaningfully.

I am not convinced, for example, that the outcome document should or indeed needs to touch upon issues such as "network neutrality" and the liability of Internet intermediaries. Both are certainly very important issues in the overall debate on an open Internet, but are the subject of detailed discussions elsewhere.

On Net Neutrality for example, legislators of the European Union are at this very moment engaged in a democratic debate on the "Connected Continent" proposal by the European Commission. I understand a similar debate is taking place in Brazil, on the "Marco Civil". We should not be seen as prejudging the outcome of a democratic procedure on such sensitive topics.

As regards the topic of the liability of intermediaries, I believe there is no added value in referring, via potentially contentious language, to an issue which has extensively been debated in many different settings and democratic fora and has in some cases been enshrined in legislation, as is the case of the European Union.

I trust the above observations will be taken with the same constructive spirit with which I wrote them. I am looking forward to meeting all of you in Sao Paulo.

 

Yours sincerely,

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission"

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