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Ayden Férdeline
Ayden Férdeline

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Internet Governance Policy Monitoring Report - March 2024

Hello, all!

We are now six weeks away from NetMundial+10, and with the preparatory work now well-underway for the World Summit on the Information Society, the Summit of the Future, and the Internet Governance Forum, some global topics are reaching the finishing line. That will be the focus of today's report.

At the European level, as political parties gear up for European Parliamentary elections in June, the legislative work there is stuck if the file wasn’t wrapped up in February. More on this later in the year!



The follow-up to 2014’s NetMundial is taking place in São Paulo from April 29-30. As we have previously flagged, ten years ago the multistakeholder community convened and issued consensus-based principles and a roadmap for a free, open, safe, and more inclusive Internet. Instead of being a revival or a celebration of the first one, this new meeting will address how to improve our governance processes to cope with issues arising from the accelerating pace of digitalization and disruptive technologies. The focus of this meeting is thus on bolstering the governance architecture, bringing together key stakeholders to deliver concrete recommendations on how to strengthen the multistakeholder approach as the basis for consensus-building and democratic governance, including in existing multilateral and other relevant decisional fora. The meeting is closed-door, but if you would like to participate, you can express your interest in doing so through this form by March 18th. Participants will then be selected based on these expressions of interest. It is anticipated that a public consultation process will then begin the week of March 18th for roughly one month, welcoming written input to inform a first draft of the NetMundial outcome document. If you’re new to NetMundial, think of it like a treaty negotiation, and not like a conference with multiple streams. The goal is to agree on a common statement of principles.

As a pre-event to NetMundial, I am organizing a research symposium in São Paulo to surface Brazilian perspectives on digital financial inclusion, as well as scheduling breakfast meetings with international delegates to share with them the preliminary findings from the day 0 event and to share messages that I suggest be taken forward into the formal event.

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+20)

The upcoming United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) session in April will give us a good look at the progress being made towards the WSIS+20 review, and will move forward negotiations leading to the High Level Meeting in 2025 (which must first be approved by the UN General Assembly at the end of the year). This is a bit of a convoluted process, but in a nutshell, WSIS was a world summit broken into two parts, held in Tunis in 2003 and Geneva in 2005, and two decades later, it is time to access the progress made towards achieving the summit’s goals. In UN parlar world summits are very rare, spectacular events - one is held only every few years, and attract hundreds of heads of state. It now seems like the ‘VIP’ event will be in 2025, and that this year’s Geneva convening will be the meat and potatoes, where we discuss substance.

I will be in Geneva in May for part of WSIS, and will set up a series of bilateral meetings with relevant stakeholders to help them understand the Interledger Protocol and how it can support the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Moving forward, however, the Interledger community may wish to be more involved in WSIS by concretely supporting the different WSIS initiatives which provide resourcing and mentoring to Global South projects that hope to achieve a positive social impact.

Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

The IGF has always been a controversial forum, because it was so novel and disruptive. It was the first UN space to be explicitly multistakeholder (versus multilateral), which means that non-state voices count. Civil society and industry can speak on a level playing field. In that sense, the IGF subsequently inspired other UN spaces to welcome non-state and non-market input as well, but it also has left some countries without a strong civil society concerned that their voice has been weakened. Competing initiatives in authoritarian countries have tried unsuccessfully to displace the IGF, and now different countries have decided that they would like to host the IGF instead, and arguably to impart some of their values on the forum. This year, the IGF is being held in Saudi Arabia, and next year, the host is the Russian Federation. (Previously, the hosts were Japan, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Mexico.) Hosts have a lot of power, because they fund the event and thus put constraints on the project. It can be a little sensitive to discuss this, but the IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group has been laying out a framework on a new strategy and focus on action for how the IGF could evolve over time. My personal perspective is that the UN does not have the authority, nor should it have, to decide whether a country’s values are compatible or not with the IGF. All countries are sovereign and value judgements risk a splintering of the Internet and the creation of multiple IGF-like initiatives. We need global cooperation, not fragmentation. Nonetheless, I think it is reasonable to evaluate specific proposals that provide people with choice and options on how the IGF can address long-term challenges. One of the options I like is stressing the importance of the IGF as a year-round institution, building on its intersessional activities, many of which are extremely outcome-oriented. At the moment the IGF is an annual conference with a small mix of overlooked or misunderstood intersessional activities. The IGF needs to move towards a year-round activity by either incubating policy options, forming policy recommendations, or engaging in strategic planning around capacity building and development. We can, by all means, start small here.

The second MAG meeting of the year will be held in Geneva from 26-28 June. There is a question about whether a High-Level Leadership Panel will be held alongside this, and my suspicion (not confirmed) is that this will not take place. By late June, however, we should know the theme of this year’s IGF and have a good feel for the meeting agenda.

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