Cracks appear in Fortress Internet
Taking the floor half-way through Wednesday evening’s meeting of Sub-Committee A, the UK delegate’s placid delivery belied the ground-shaking import of the proposal, which represented a clear departure from the “status quo” camp led by the US.
As proposed, the new model would foster development of public policy principles, and include provision for equitable global IP number block allocation, procedures for changing the root zone file system to provide for insertion of new top-level domains and for changes of ccTLD managers. It also includes open support for a new public policy forum that would work with existing institutions and organizations to address multi-dimensional and interrelated public policy issues without trying to “dominate issues already dealt with elsewhere” or performing oversight functions.
In an attempt to quell the buzz generated by the intervention, the US delegation moved quickly to clarify its own position: any model must ensure stability and security, be founded on a competitive market-based approach, recognize private sector leadership, and support local innovation at the edges of the network. “Under no circumstances”, the US delegate said, would his country “take any action that would adversely impact the security and stability of the Domain Name System, and will maintain its historic role in authorizing changes to the root zone file.”
Two other proposals were made, one by Argentina supported by the US and the other by the African Group.
Drafting groups strive for consensus
Norway presented a proposed new paragraph 52 for document DT/10, but was asked to reconvene to finalize paragraphs 53 and 55, following suggested new text from Nicaragua.
Consensus-building meetings led by Canada had come close to finalizing paragraphs 49, 49bis, 50, 50bis and 51, with clean text expected shortly. When the group led by Ghana reported that it was still struggling with the text of the so-called “development cluster”, New Zealand accepted the role of moderator, and the countries involved continued to meet to work towards clean text.
Egypt had also made good progress on multilingualism (para. 60), but was still working with Saudi Arabia and the US to broker agreement on paragraph 61.
Chairman Khan also praised the efforts of El Salvador, which had achieved clean text for paragraphs 39, 39b and 39c.
In addition to negotiations on text, several civil society organizations took the floor to make statements. The Disability Caucus stressed the need for accessibility guidelines that promote disabled access to ICTs. The Cultural Diversity/Indigenous Peoples Caucus advocated the inclusion of much more language on cultural diversity and the needs of indigenous communities. “Cultural diversity,” noted the speaker, is about much more than just multilingualism.”
Face-off over implementation
At the regional and national levels, agreement was easily reached on strengthening the role of regional commissions, with governments tasked with organizing regional WSIS follow-up conferences. Delegates also reaffirmed the importance of participation from civil society, business and other stakeholders. However, follow-up at the international level came under intense discussion.
Citing UN General Assembly Resolution 57/270B of July 2003 on the implementation of UN summits, the UK, on behalf of the European Union, opted for a WSIS implementation mechanism in the tradition of other UN summits.
While no new agency would be envisaged under the EU plan, the UN Secretary-General would act as the focal point for the coordination of implementation efforts conducted by existing UN agencies. The USA, Norway and others supported this proposal, while New Zealand called for the UN Secretary-General to present an annual report on the WSIS follow-up to ECOSOC or the General Assembly.
Key role for ITU?
“If we don’t have a clearly defined body or person for coordination, we would have failed,” said the delegate from Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Arab group. “ITU is the entity best equipped to be a coordinator.” Switzerland, host of the first phase of the Summit, suggested that such a coordination body should be in place and working by 2006.
The Nigerian delegate made an appeal for an effective and well-coordinated implementation process to help alleviate hardships in developing countries, while Ghana, speaking for the African group, suggested a link to the follow-up of the Millennium Development Goals.
Chairman Shope-Mafole noted the UN system’s responsibility to provide a
specific follow-up mechanism. The question now, she said, would be “to find a
balance in the context of this resolution (A/RES/57/270B)”, which contains a
somewhat vague reference to “relevant follow-up mechanisms”. Ms Shope-Mafole
proposed taking the issue to an ad hoc working group, as this is “probably the
most important point of the WSIS outcome. Let’s take some time,” she said, “so
that the result is a good one.”
Attempting to come to grips with some of these, panelists looked at what oversight really means, whether ICANN could really become a global organization, and which approach represents the best way forward. The importance of involving all stakeholders on an equal footing, and of encouraging cooperation, was emphasized.
Communication Rights and a Rights-Based Approach
During the session, members of LWF shared their experiences in implementing a
rights-based approach to promote the participation of civil society in
policy-making processes in El Salvador and to support children rights to
education and health in rural communities in India.
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