The GIP’s team of experts in São Paulo offers a first decoding of the summit negotiations and the final declaration.

São Paulo, 24 April. Over 1200 participants from 97 countries, split in various stakeholders groups, participated in NETmundial's new negotiation process – an experiment. At the end, its final declaration adopted Thursday evening, Brazil time, is considered a ‘rough consensus’: understanding that not everyone would agree on all the points of a document negotiated in such a way during the two days, the text enounces non-binding guidelines for policy-making. Its strength will be defined by the support it will receive and the followers (to speak in modern social media terms) it will attract in the coming months.

Key remarks on the negotiations
The controversy over mass surveillance somewhat dominated the discussions. The United States delegation strongly opposed the intentions of civil society representatives and other actors to get a mention in the final declaration admitting that surveillance should be conducted in accordance with the ‘Necessary and Proportionate’ principles. Although part of the initial draft, this mention was removed from the second draft before NETmundial started.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) continued to get strong support from various sides, including invitations for financial support. Probably one of the most relevant outcomes is the very detailed support for the IGF, with the invitation for improvements according to the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) working group report to be completed by the end of 2015, including improved and more tangible outcomes, extension of the IGF mandate beyond five years, and ensured stable donor-based funding.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transition and the globalisation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should be conducted in an open and transparent process beyond the ICANN community. It was added that there is a need to discuss the adequate relationship between the policy and operational aspects of IANA – a provision strongly supported by the EU while opposed by ICANN.
A global Cyberspace Conference (a follow-up to those held in Budapest, London, and Seoul) will take place on 16-17 April 2015 with a focus on freedom and privacy, economic and social development, and security.

Two committees – the High Level Multistakeholder Committee and the Executive Multistakeholder Committee of NETmundial – met in a final session open to the public to listen, to negotiate the final draft. The meeting took almost three hours, but the final draft was agreed on and presented to the plenary, even though some parties were still left with the option of placing a reservation and not accepting the document.

Key points about the outcome

  • NETmundial’s final declaration had to be somewhat watered down, and exclude some of the conflicting aspects, in order for a compromise to be hopefully achieved.
  • This NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement is a non-binding set of generally agreed principles and a roadmap that all stakeholders are encouraged to follow.
  • Surveillance was mentioned in a much lighter way than expected.
  • As a result of business sector lobbying, the delicate question of net neutrality did not find its place on the final list of principles. It is nevertheless mentioned at the end of the document as an issue to be discussed in the future; another matter of dissatisfaction and frustration for representatives of civil society.
  • Copyright protection, which is one of the aspects that was not present in the document earlier, was added under the provision that distribution of information should be consistent with the rights of authors and creators: another goal scored by the private sector.
  • The Council of Europe delegation managed to get a reference to the responsibility of governments, clearly marked as being accountable for the protection of human rights online.
  • The multistakeholder process has now been somewhat amended to become ‘democratic and multistakeholder’ in a number of instances, as a compromise mainly to India’s position. The notion of respective roles and responsibilities of those stakeholders was left in – to the disappointment of many proponents of the multistakeholder model – but it was also added that these roles and responsibilities should be flexibly interpreted in accordance with the specific issues at hand.
  • Consensus-driven governance, strongly opposed by the Indian delegates, was an issue till the very end, when the proposed compromise wording was to add ‘to the extent possible’ at the end of the phrase.
  • A reference to small and developing countries, besides developing and least developed countries, was added under the paragraph about the need for participation in the IG process that reflects geographic diversity.
  • Enhanced cooperation remains in the document, with reference to the definition in the World Summit of the Information Society/Tunis Agenda, and the ongoing CSTD working group process, where it was confirmed that this process should be implemented on a priority and consensual bases.
  • Remote participation was clearly mentioned as a measure of stakeholder empowerment in the process.
  • The need for comprehensive capacity building, and the need for more financing, is emphasised several times throughout the document.

The GIP’s conclusion
The document was presented at the plenary, and supported by long-standing applause. However, what followed was a signal of a half-successful process: The Russian government, followed by Cuba, complained about the non-transparent overall process and stated that they could not adhere to the document. The Indian government went to ‘face-saving’ by putting a reservation until it consults with headquarters and the Indian community as to whether they can adhere to the document. Some civil society groups expressed great dissatisfaction with the document because it omits to clearly stand against mass surveillance, and to defend net neutrality.

As a non-binding document, NETmundial’s final declaration will now offer the outlined principles and a roadmap to various stakeholders to follow if they wish. Time will show how many ‘followers’ the NETmundial document will attract. Its greatest achievement, however, is probably the clear stand with regard to the continuation of and support for the IGF.

More importantly, the experimental model of multistakeholder negotiations of a document showed its potential and its drawbacks – it could be explored in greater detail in order to find those components that could be adjusted and implemented for the improvement of other processes, such as the IGF.

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The Geneva Internet Platform is an initative of the Swiss authorities

 

Members of the Steering Committee are FDFA, OFCOM, Canton of Geneva, ETH-Zürich, and the University of Geneva
 

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