Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Looking at new IG Basics and new Instruments to make IG work


Dear Friends NPOC, the ICANN Non Commercial User Constituency together with GKPF, the Global Knowledge Partnership Foundations,and other organizations involved in IG have developed a number of documents that seem to be very relevant to the discussion here. I do not want to put all the documents here, but I would like to present part of one document that addresses the new IG Basics and the need for an new Instrument to support the Internet Ecosystem as a whole: the I-Engage Institute. The Institute is currently established in The Hague and Washington and we hope it will make an important contribution to IG. we also hope that we will be able to co-operate extensively with the proposed Global Internet Policy Observatory which we see as totally complementary with the Institute. If you are interested on the further documents available or have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Klaus Stoll Internet Governance basic characteristics The Internet today concerns and affects everybody, everywhere, connected or not! How the Internet is run and governed is a topic as significant as the environment, human rights and peace. Today’s Internet Governance has to struggle with three basic characteristics: a. Public commons versus private ownership The character of the Internet as a shared human commons is unique. On the one hand it is a shared environment; on the other hand it is based on a physical infrastructure and has limited resources that have owners with their specific investments and interests. b. Sovereignty versus the geography of cyberspace The Internet Ecosystem, by its very nature, does not care too much about physical boundaries. This is the fundamental reason why countries, whose authority is based on territory and the concept of sovereignty, struggle to find their place in a digital world. The uncontrolled free flow of data, together with the ongoing speed of innovation, seems to be irreconcilable with the concepts of national territory and sovereign rights. c. New forms of sovereignty and governance Similar to nation states, many of those organizations and individuals involved in the Internet Ecosystem and its governance, commonly known as the stakeholders, claim “sole-sovereignty” or self-proclaimed sovereignty over specific issues, roles and functions. The stability and security of the DNS, telecommunication standards, security and human rights, to name just some, are well defined “subject-territories” in the Internet Ecosystem. The digital world of today requires a new understanding of sovereignty. Sovereignty in the context of Internet Governance needs to be based on the ability of a stakeholder or a group of stakeholders to: …have specific expertise that is relevant to the Internet Ecosystem …to be inclusive, i.e. to have the ability to take into account the needs, interests and abilities of all the other stakeholders in the policy making process. …to be transparent and accountable to the point of obsessiveness. …to have the ability to manage the decision-making processes and implementation processes in a timely and effective way. Knowledge and Awareness: Bridging the gap between territorial and digital sovereignty Nobody should interfere in the specific sovereignty and governance of nation states. Equally it is the sole role, responsibility and privilege of all Internet Ecosystem stakeholders to exercise their sovereignty. So how can the gap between the two understandings and practices of sovereignty be bridged? The gap between territorial and digital sovereignty can be bridged and turned into a constructive force when: both spheres recognize that their development is interdependent; suitable instruments for awareness-building, knowledge exchange and processing become available for both spheres. Development can only take place if it is based on knowledge that is available to everybody in appropriate forms, and not just to a self-elected elite. Both spheres have their own governance structures and there are attempts to create joint governance structures, but they can only be legitimate and successful if they put the awareness building and empowerment of their citizens and that of the citizens in other spheres, at the center of their thinking and doing. Joint governance structures should be citizen-centric. We also have to recognize that neither nation states, nor the Internet ecosystem stakeholders, are limitless in their abilities to do so, even if they have a strong desire and need. Their abilities are limited by, and directly proportionate to, the availability and nature of the instruments they have available. Therefore, the immediate goal has to be to create suitable instruments and tools that: Build awareness and empower the citizens of both spheres; Acquire, process and translate new knowledge and ideas into decision making processes and actions; Enable innovation. A new instrument What is really needed is the creation of an instrument that allows the two spheres to meet and act together without questioning their respective sovereignty, an instrument that provides a common ground designed to strengthen the specific expertise, inclusiveness, transparency and effectiveness of the individual stakeholders. The instrument needs to be complimentary to the existing governance structures but not part of it. In order to be able to function as a complimentary support system for the Internet Ecosystem and improved governance, the instrument should fulfill the following criteria. Open to all Internet Ecosystem and all its Stakeholders; Fully transparent in all its activities; Supports pre-existing policy-making processes but should strictly not engage in policy making itself; Respects both expressions of sovereignty and not being part of one or another; provide the Internet Ecosystem stakeholders with a strong sense of ownership and with a sense that their own interests are served; Fully dedicated to create Internet Ecosystems stakeholders dialogue and exchange; Being a Think Tank for collaboration and action. It should provide a joint workspace for Internet Ecosystem stakeholders. The instrument needs to be a platform for the development and implementation based on joint activities and projects that serve the interests of the stakeholders; Equally serves as a learning platform for stakeholders to understand and collaborate with other stakeholders; Provides a space for impartial cross-cutting research. The I-Engage Institute In order to create this vital and necessary support instrument for Internet Governance the I-Engage Institute was created. I-Engage Institute Mission and Vision: Mission: To help bridge the gap between territorial and digital sovereignty. Vision: To be an activity-based platform meant to support the stakeholders of the Internet Ecosystem, its governing processes and institutions. I-Engage Institute role and activities The I-Engage Institute fulfills his mission and vision as a think tank for all of the Internet Ecosystem through the following activities: Providing a platform for all Internet Ecosystem stakeholders to engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue and exchange that is based on the implementation of joint activities of common interest to all participants; Doing outreach and awareness building specifically targeting the biggest Internet stakeholder group of them all -the global general public -, to address relevant issues related to the Internet Ecosystem and its governance; Providing a space for impartial cross cutting research; Supporting the economic development and sustainability of the Internet Ecosystem and the DNS (Domain Name System), this underlies it. What makes the I-Engage Institute different? The Institute is different from existing IG-related institutions as: It is created, governed and maintained by the Internet Ecosystem Stakeholders themselves; It is independent and bridges the gap between territorial and digital sovereignty and is therefore a vital instrument to support the Internet Government processes and institutions; Its operations and impact is based on concrete joint action of the stakeholders and not only on dialogue; It recognizes and addresses the need for awareness-building and the inclusion of the global general public on all topics/aspects/issues related to the Internet Ecosystem and its governance as the foundation for its stability, security and overall sustainability.

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Hanne Melin Olbe's picture

Hi Klaus, this is a very interesting initiative. I believe the paper I have uploaded to CoP would make a valuable contribution to your process. It touches on the main things you mention and provides 'point of departure' solutions.
The document is entitled "Manifesto for Smarter Intervention in Complex Systems", it can be found here:
Happy to send it to you

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's picture

Hi Klaus,
Thank you for your extensive contribution. Indeed, the tensions between territorial & digital sovereignty easily slide into a discussion on the fundamentals of democracy. You wrote that "Both spheres have their own governance structures ..., but they can only be legitimate and successful if they put the awareness building and empowerment of their citizens and that of the citizens in other spheres, at the center of their thinking and doing. Joint governance structures should be citizen-centric."
That is one of the colossal challenges facing modern democracy today even outside the context of Internet Governance. It's enough to go through Robert Dahl's 5 requisites for a democratic polity (from "Democracy & its critics, 1989) to remind ourselves how abysmal the gap is:
1) effective participation where all citizens are equally empowered to take part in the political process;
2) enlightened understanding where citizens have access to appropriate information that allows them to contribute;
3) agenda-setting where citizens are empowered to decide which issues should figure on the public agenda;
4) voting equality at decisive stages so that all citizens should have a vote of equal weight at every point a decision is made;
5) inclusiveness where the civic rights are available to all.

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Group managers
Cristina MARTINEZ GONZALEZ European Commission DG CONNECT/02 Head of Sector 'Integration of Regulation, Policy and Research"
Vessela KARLOUKOVSKA European Commission, DG CONNECT Stakeholders Unit Policy officer
Prabhat AGARWAL European Commission DG CONNECT Policy Officer
Group Participants