Internet Governance: “Certain Topics are of Particular Interest to the Region”

09/07/2013


With the aim of consolidating the Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development, our region is getting ready to debate the more pressing Internet Governance issues, adopting the unique approaches required by the new realities affecting Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to Fatima Cambronero, member of the United Nations Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and the NGO AGEIA DENSI, global issues and those which “concern the region the most” will be analyzed at a meeting that will take place in late August in the city of Cordoba – the Sixth Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum – hosted by AGEIA DENSI.

Interviewed by LACNIC News, Cambronero noted that this space for debate, one where all stakeholders can share their ideas, opinions and concerns based on their particular points of view, will allow discussing new approaches to Internet Governance issues that concern the particular needs of our region.

 

What are the central topics that will be discussed at the Sixth Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum that will take place in Cordoba?

We are not yet able to confirm exactly what the central topics to be discussed at the next LACIGF meeting will be, as the topics to be debated at this Regional Preparatory Meeting will be defined through open consultation with the entire Latin American and Caribbean community.

What we do know is that the discussion will be structured around certain central topics, which in turn are also the key topics for the global IGF.

These major central topics are access and diversity; security, privacy and openness; critical internet resources; internet governance for development; and emerging issues.

It’s important to mention that this year the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), the body in charge of advising the Secretary General of the United Nations on issues relating to the Internet Governance Forum, has revised and slightly modified these topics. The MAG issued a resolution establishing the following topics for 2013:

– Access and diversity – The Internet as an engine for sustainable growth and development.

– Openness and privacy – Human rights and the Internet.

– Security – Legal and other frameworks: spam, hacking and cybercrime.

– Critical Internet resource management – Principles of multistakeholder cooperation and enhanced cooperation.

– Internet Governance principles.

In addition, this year a public consultation will allow the regional community to propose topics that are not necessarily part of the global IGF agenda.

Within the major IGF topics, certain sub-topics are of particular importance to our region and will probably be identified as issues to be discussed during the upcoming meeting. Issues relating to security and cyber-security, the fight against spam, cybercrime, illegal behavior on online media and international cooperation among States aimed at fighting against these problems continue to be on our region’s agenda.

Issues having to do with privacy in online media and the protection of personal data, particularly in the case of social network users, are also a source of concern in our region. In this sense, new concerns include how personal data is protected and preserved when the State itself is in  charge of these tasks. The community wonders what the State does with this data, if it is able to cross-reference other databases without the fact being known to the owner of the data and, obviously, without the owner having provided consent for this purpose. New concerns also include biometric data controls which several countries of our region have recently started using.

In a way, this has to do with the goals that many global and regional organizations are trying to reach in order to preserve an open, global, interoperable, democratic, and accessible Internet. Several issues that could potentially affect this principle, including net neutrality, freedom of expression on the Internet and human rights, will surely be brought up for debate, as they are a source of concern in our region.

I also believe that IPv6 adoption will continue to be discussed as, although there has been progress in our region, there is still room for debate. LACNIC has been doing a great job in terms of creating awareness on the need to transition from IPv4 to the new version of the protocol and collaborating with its implementation, reasons for which this topic will surely be part of the agenda.

Topics such as bridging the digital divide, multilingualism on the Internet, online respect for all diversities, the development of local content, the creation of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), mobile Internet, intellectual property rights, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in which several countries of our region are involved are also more than likely to appear on the upcoming meeting’s final agenda.

Are some issues more pressing than others ?

I’m not sure I’d refer to them as more pressing, but certain issues are particularly worrisome for our region and differentiate us from other regions, other national initiatives and other regional IGF initiatives. This is why I think it’s very important to have this space for debate where stakeholders can share their ideas, their opinions, their concerns, their best practices, in relation to the issues included on the agenda.

It’s also worth noting that LACIGF is consistent with the spirit of the global IGF, which is why no decisions are made, no recommendations are issued, and no regulatory framework is drafted. LACIGF is mainly a discussion forum where issues are discussed that not usually dealt with at other forums or spaces. Although considered by some a weakness, in our opinion this represents the forum’s main strength.

During last year’s LACIGF meeting, the regional community identified the following emerging issues:

– WCIT ITRs: Their impact on regional and global Internet Governance.

– Internet Governance principles (mechanisms for pluralist internet governance at global level; transparency and accountability in Internet Governance; multistakeholder participation).

– Promotion, respect and defense of human rights and freedoms on the Internet (online freedom of expression standards; censorship and surveillance; online freedom of peaceful assembly and association, privacy).

– Mobile Internet (regulation, costs and quality of service; content for mobile devices).

– Net neutrality (risks and threats from the private sector and governments).

– The Internet as a common good.

– The impact of ICTs on the environment and climate change and their relation to Internet Governance.

Many of these topics will likely resurface after consulting with the community and will be included in the meeting’s agenda.

Is our region sufficiently involved in Internet Governance issues or is greater participation of the various stakeholders still needed?

Generally speaking, we can say that the region is indeed involved in Internet Governance issues. Individually, there are people from our region who are considered points of reference for several of these topics and are currently playing major roles within the Internet ecosystem.

However, if you ask whether there is a lack of participation on the part of some of our stakeholders, then the answer is also yes. Precisely because LACIGF is a space for debate and not a decision-making body, some stakeholders do not find it very attractive. And since LACIGF follows the principles of the global IGF in terms of how the various stakeholders must participate on an equal footing, governments, for example, have not had an easy time adapting to the new meeting format. Governments were used to meetings being held within the framework of the United Nations, which is why in the early days they questioned the place their representatives would occupy in these forums. Luckily, this is now simply an anecdote and governments are increasingly understanding why it is important to participate not only in UN meetings but also in these other spaces.

Government participation in LACIGF is still low, as is private sector participation. This is something we need to continue to address. The fact that this is the sixth time this regional meeting will take place is a way of showing the importance the community assigns to this type of forums. It should also help governments understand the need to participate and not be left out of the discussions.

What is your opinion on government participation in Internet Governance?

Government participation is important. But is just as important as the participation of civil society, the technical community, academia, and the private sector. Not more, not less, just as important. Internet Governance is often compared to an ecosystem. For this ecosystem to remain healthy, all the components that make up the mechanism must operate in a way such that proper balance is maintained.

Each stakeholder contributes knowledge, experience, tools, and best practices that other actors do not have. This makes for an extremely rich debate on Internet Governance related issues.

If governments were to have more power within this structure, the ecosystem’s balance would be altered and then things such as Internet “switch-offs” for entire countries or attacks against freedom of expression could occur, something many of us are working hard to avoid.

In this sense, in your opinion, which model should Internet Governance follow?

I’m absolutely convinced that Internet Governance should follow the multistakeholder model, i.e., a model that allows the participation of multiple actors and sectors interested in these issues. And the participation of these actors in decision-making processes (which is not the case of the IGF or LACIGF, both simply discussion spaces) should be on an equal footing (or as close to an equal footing as possible), avoiding the use of some of these actors simply as a means to legitimize the model.

We are all responsible for preserving this model and for working towards an open, democratic and increasingly accessible Internet, as we are the ones it benefits the most.

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