Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

Did NETmundial Advance the Internet Debate?

TEC ESTROMBERG-FLICKR / CC BY 2.0

Q: Nearly 1,000 representatives convened in Brazil April 23 for NETmundial, a conference that President Dilma Rousseff initiated with ambitions to reconsider how the Internet functions and is governed. With an agenda addressing debates over sovereignty, privacy, net neutrality, human rights and open commerce, the conference generated high-level political attention. In what ways did the conference meet expectations and where did it fall short? How well did the event position Brazil and other emerging economies in the global Internet debates? What were the sharpest divisions that came to light, and where has consensus emerged? What would you like to have seen happen at NETmundial that did not?

A: Pedro Less-Andrade, director of public policy at Google: “I was pleased to participate in NETmundial, an inclusive multistakeholder meeting that brought together participants from across the globe, and from all sectors of society, to discuss Internet governance questions. While the participants at NETmundial did not always agree (for example, on questions of how to address government surveillance or network neutrality), the meeting was remarkable for several reasons. (1) The global community affirmed key principles that enable a free and open Internet, including respect for human rights and a recognition that limitations on intermediary liability protect free expression; (2) The meeting included unprecedented participation from stakeholders in remote locations: Through the power of technology and the efforts of the organizers, Internet users from Chennai and Tunis, for example, had their voices heard in São Paulo; (3) In both its process and its outcome document, the meeting affirmed the multistakeholder model—a consensus-based model that recognizes contributions from all parties, including governments, industry, civil society, academia and the technical community, to the development of the Internet itself and to its global governance. Of course, NETmundial was only one meeting. More progress must be made in ensuring that all stakeholders—in developed and developing economies—have a voice in these discussions. We look forward to working toward this goal, starting at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul later this year. Working together, we can ensure that tomorrow’s Internet reflects our shared values and continues to serve as a tremendous platform for economic growth, information exchange and innovation for years to come.”

A: Richard Hill, president of the Association for Proper Internet Governance (APIG): “I welcome the emphasis in the NETmundial outcome document on managing the Internet in the public interest. However, I am deeply concerned about the inclusion and phrasing of certain clauses (such as those on intellectual property and private policing on the Internet), the omission of key issues including cyberpeace, the lack of progress on net neutrality, the weak language on mass surveillance, and above all about how the concept of new types of multistakeholder processes with new kinds of outputs, lacking any clear definition, might be construed by different actors in the future. NETmundial was clearly an attempt at institutionalizing multistakeholderism at the global level. It can be seen (optimistically) as a somewhat halting step toward the delineation of a multistakeholder policy formulation process in an appropriately inclusive and ultimately democratic manner, or alternatively as providing evidence of fundamental flaws in how multistakeholderism becomes operationalized. In this regard, I see the reference to ‘democratic multistakeholder processes’ in the document as a clear and compelling corrective. We now need to spell out what would constitute ‘democratic multistakeholder processes.’ This of course includes the NETmundial call for further discussions on ‘different roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in Internet governance’ and its two references to ‘respective roles and responsibilities.’ This call should be taken as seeking an elaboration of what is a ‘democratic multistakeholder process’ where, of course, corporations are not given equal status with citizens in decisions regarding public policy issues.”

A: Maria Medrano, director of global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council: “Parabéns to the Brazilian government and Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) for their work to organize NETmundial. The process of NETmundial has to be celebrated. In spite of the short amount of time to pull together such a widely attended and comprehensive event, NETmundial brought together more than 900 participants from 97 countries representing civil society, academia, the private sector, technical community and governments. As part of the über democratic process, there was equal opportunity at the microphone for all stakeholders and a variety of opportunities to participate and contribute to the resulting NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement of São Paulo: from open comments online, to remote hubs and live webcast options in various languages. President Rousseff opened the conference by signing Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet into law (which, by the way, did not include data localization requirements) and presenting it as a global model bill of rights for Internet users. In her remarks, she emphasized that NETmundial is not intended to replace existing Internet governance forums, but rather, to lend momentum to the ongoing discussions under two key premises: the preservation of an open, democratic Internet, and the desire to incorporate an increasingly broader audience into the process. Her remarks were followed by an intense two days of global multistakeholder discussion on principles and a roadmap for the future of Internet governance. As President Rousseff clearly stated, NETmundial was not part of traditional or formal Internet governance forums. It was a political event born of political developments. And as said by several stakeholders, NETmundial was an experiment. While the resulting principles and roadmap documents may not please everyone, by any measure, NETmundial was a successful experiment, raising awareness about the topic of Internet governance and the importance of the multistakeholder process.”

This Q&A was published in a special technology edition of the Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor. The complete edition is available for download below.

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