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Internet Governance 21 October 2015

Internet Society Statement At UN WSIS+10 Consultation on 19 October 2015

By Constance Bommelaer de LeusseFormer Vice President, Institutional Relations and Empowerment
NOTE: On 19 October 2015, Constance Bommelaer delivered the following statement on behalf of the Internet Society before the UN General Assembly as part of the WSIS+10 Second Informal Interactive Consultations.
In listening to today’s panelists, it strikes me that the discussions of Internet Governance (IG) start with the issue of its definition, which reflects different interests and perspectives: engineers will focus on the development of technical standards and applications, Human Rights activists may look at it from the perspective of its impact on free speech, and diplomats may concentrate on institutions. 
The Internet Society finds its roots in the technical community of the Internet. We were founded in 1992 by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, known as the fathers of the Internet. So when the WSIS started a decade ago, why did the Internet Society and its community of members and hundreds of chapters engage in the IG debate? 
The reason is simple: as policy makers and technical experts work to connect the world’s population, there is no doubt that the WAY in which the Internet is governed will have an impact on how we use it, and how it evolves. Indeed, Internet governance is not an abstract concept: it reflects the ways and processes by which all stakeholders contribute to make the Internet work, on a technical, economic and social level. And it has always been at the heart of our organization’s mission to empower individuals on all these levels. 
With regards to the WSIS “zero draft”, as it stands, the text shows an effort from the negotiators to collect multiple perspectives on IG, and set the stage beyond 2015. 
From our perspective, the zero draft offers some encouraging signs:
  • the mandate of the IGF is renewed and its multistakeholder governance structure is not altered;
  • the working definition of IG agreed upon in Tunis, including the respective roles and responsibilities of the Internet ecosystem is recognized; 
  • there’s a strong and timely link to the Sustainable Development Agenda;
  • finally, the text also reaffirms the importance of Human Rights – without which we could not conceive building a people-centered Information Society. 
This is a good basis. At the same time there are still pending questions that call for further discussion. For instance, there is a need to articulate governments’ sovereignty rights with the preservation of the Internet as a common space where information can flow freelyregardless of frontiers. The Internet being a network of networks, flows of information can be border-less. And this is where most of its value lies – for free speech, innovation and education, commerce and many other abilities. 
The Internet Society’s full comments on the zero draft are available online. I would simply like to conclude with a word on the follow-up modalities. Coming from an organization that’s focus is on technology and practical impact on people’s lives, it may not be surprising. From our perspective, the urgency is not to prepare for a new Summit but rather to direct our resources and attention to implementing further the WSIS goals. 
Just a few weeks ago, leaders gathered here in NY for the Sustainable Development Summit and reminded us how important the Internet community’s task is. As a result, we now have a shared responsibility: “strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020“.

We at the Internet Society are looking forward to working with you.


NOTE: For more information about the World Summit on the Information Society 10-year Review (WSIS+10), please see

Image credit: ITU pictures on Flickr. Please note that this is a photo of Constance speaking at the WSIS Forum earlier this year. No photos are yet available from this week.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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