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ITU and the Internet
Right from inception, the Internet has had no central ruling authority. But this December, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet.
Countries such as Russia which are advocating the ITU have regulatory authority over the Internet have advocated restrictions over the Internet "where it is used to interfere in the internal affairs of a state". This represents a dramatic threat to the openness of the Internet, where countries could regulate content not just within their own borders, but over the entire Internet.
Geographically isolated nations such as New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations have a significant economic and social interest in an open and well functioning internet. Accordingly, such changes to the ITU may harm our social and economic well being more than other nations.
The ITU has been a closed organisation for nearly 150 years - they represent the antithesis of the Internet community’s open and inclusive approach. Civil society, private sector, technical experts, and Internet users will only have limited input in the process. This would be a significant departure from the open, participatory, multistakeholder model that has made the internet a successful driver of social and economic growth.
If you support the continuing evolution of the multistakeholder internet, you are invited to read and sign this statement of principles.
Statement by New Zealand Civil Society on Internet Freedom and the ITU
Whereas, the Internet has become a major force globally for economic and social progress, opening up opportunities for consumers, educators, innovators, creators, artists and commerce.
Whereas, geographically isolated nations such as New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations have much to gain socially and economically from an open and well functioning internet.
Whereas, the benefits of the Internet have been created in the absence of any single central regulating authority or single standard-setting organization. Instead, it has been governed by a combination of groups in a multi-stakeholder model, which have evolved over time, and will continue to evolve. These organisations have included:
the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) coordinates identifiers, such as domain names and Internet Protocol addresses, across the Internet
the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is an open organisation that develops and promotes technical standards for the Internet
the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where members, and the public work together to develop Web standards.
the Internet Governance Forum (or IGF) was established in 2006 under a mandate from the United Nations to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet
Whereas, the definition of "Internet governance" has been captured succinctly by a 2005 Report of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Working Group on Internet Governance to mean "the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet."
Whereas, the characteristics of the multistakeholder actor in Internet governance may vary from organisation to organisation and from country to country; however all institutions should share certain attributes of openness, participation and representation of the Internet community as declared herein.
We declare our shared interest in and determination to keep the Internet open as a vital, global platform for access to information and communication, and an enabler of economic and social opportunity in New Zealand, across our region and around the world, while working to protect privacy, security and to keep children safe online.
We ask that all Internet governance organizations must share certain qualities: that they have a specific purpose; they have defined, limited powers; that their roles are narrowly tailored to specific objectives; and they provide open, transparent and participatory processes for stakeholder involvement.
We acknowledge that today’s multi-stakeholder institutions are not frozen in place. As the Internet evolves, so will its institutions. By the same token, any institution’s legitimacy to govern is not fixed for all time, but should be anchored in the aforementioned WSIS definition of Internet governance.
We ask that any institution engaging in Internet governance should articulate to Internet users the institution’s scope, purpose, and processes in clear, transparent ways.
We demand that any institution engaging in Internet governance provide for participation by all of the Internet’s stakeholders in meaningful ways before any decision.
We expect such institutions to engage in an ongoing dialogue with all affected stakeholders, including Internet users themselves. An institution’s legitimacy to govern must be derived from a shared understanding of its role in the ecosystem, addressing issues such as the following questions:
Why? Why is the institution acting and does it compete with another institution?
Who? Who are the decision makers, and how are they appointed or elected?
How? What is the process for decision making and what is the process for appealing any decision?
What? What are the institution’s powers? How are they narrowly tailored to the institution’s stated purpose?
Where? Where are meetings held and is there a mechanism for open involvement and engagement by stakeholders by distance?