The Tunis Agenda is a remarkable document with at least one fatal flaw: Paragraph 35.
Paragraph 35 outlines the Governments’ ideas of the respective roles and responsibilities of a few stakeholders
i) Policy authority for Internet related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet related public policy issues;
ii) The Private Sector has had, and should continue to have, an important role in the development of the Internet, both in the technical and economic fields;
iii) Civil Society has also played an important role on Internet matters, especially at community level, and should continue to play such a role;
iv) Intergovernmental organizations have had, and should continue to have, a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet related public policy issues; and
v) International organizations have also had, and should continue to have, an important role in the development of Internet related technical standards and relevant policies.
The governments, while attempting to find some role in the administration of Internet policy, a field that most States had not been involved in or been interested in up until that time, presumed to involve themselves by putting themselves in charge. They did not consult the other stakeholders when they made this decision. They did not include the other stakeholders in the discussions when they developed this list of roles and responsibilities. Rather they unilaterally relegated all other stakeholders to subordinate roles.
To this day, including at the recent ITU World Telecommuications Policy Forum (WTPF), some governments were still attempting to force the stakeholders into policy roles that are inappropriate given their actual roles in Internet governance and in society in general. By using a definition of the “Roles and Responsibilities” as outlined in Tunis Agenda paragraph 35, Governments and Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGO), such as the ITU, deprecate the participation of partners in a dialogue that must be a dialogue among equals. ”This is counterproductive and will not lead to the enhanced cooperation that is one of the ultimate goals of the Tunis Agenda. The definitions of “Roles and Responsibilities in Tunis Agenda paragraph 35 will instead, lead to a continuing impasse and prevent progress in multistakeholder Internet governance.”
Having mentioned the M-word, I should mention that the true controversial nature of this word is finally coming out. As more and more organizations claim to be multistakeholder, it is becoming obvious that we have many different definitions for this word. While some may be using the word cynically and just trying to jump on a popular bandwagon, I beleive that many, like the ITU and ICANN, are using the word genuinely. Without getting into an extended analysis of the M-word, a task I will save for a future entry, it has become clear that there are at least two basic categories of definition:
- Those that uphold the belief in a structure with equivalent stakeholders who participate on an equal footing.
- Those that uphold the belief that one stakeholder is more equal than the other stakeholders and that the primary stakeholder discharges their duty by consulting the other stakeholders before making decisions.
It is obvious that that the ITU has a definition of the second type in mind when they refer to themselves as multistakeholder. It is also obvious that this was also true of those who originally designed ICANN. In one case the Governments were seen as the ones who ran the show. In the other, it was the private sector that was designated as the leaders. Over the last decade ICANN has been evolving away from the single stakeholder in leadership notion. Unfortunately ITU has not yet taken any steps toward doing so.
On the other hand the “Roles and Responsibilities” defined in paragraph 35 stand in contradiction to the notions of multi-stakeholder implicit in paragraphs 67-72. The Internet Governance Forum is defined as the place where all stakeholders can consult with each other on an equal footing with regards to Internet policy, a definition corresponding to the first type outlined above. This was the formula given for achieving enhanced cooperation, the Holy Grail of the Tunis Agenda.
It should be noted that the government centric view of paragragh 35 was established before the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) - though it was carried over into that work though an unfortunate set of circumstances. Paragraphs 67-72, however, were the product of the multi-stakeholder work done in the WGIG and eventually adopted by the Tunis Agenda. The two views were defined at different points in the timeline of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process; though they both ended up in the same final document creating the ambiguity that fuels the current impasse.
The contradiction introduced between paragraph 35 and paragraph 67-72 has been one major cause for the lack or progress toward Enhanced Cooperation. Many governments and IGOs insist on the principles of Government primacy as defined in paragraph 35, while some other governments and most of the other stakeholders tend toward the views as expressed in paragraphs 67-72.
We need to remove the contraction created by Tunis Agenda’s paragraph 35 “Roles and Responsibilities” that subordinates other stakeholders to government control. We need for all stakeholders to accept that Internet governance only works when it is a situation where equivalent stakeholders all contribute on an equal footing based on their capabilities. The notion of “Roles and Responsibilities” as defined in paragraph 35 is an anachronism and a flaw in the Tunis Agenda that should be removed, or at least repudiated in work going forward.