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For over a decade, the Internet Society, along with many in the Internet community, have been strong advocates of using multistakeholder approaches to make decisions in a globally distributed network environment. We are encouraged that, within the Internet ecosystem, the multistakeholder model has grown in understanding and acceptance over the past several years. But we also know that the open, global Internet faces enormous challenges and that it is crucial that we not take this progress for granted.

While the IANA transition was, indeed, a pivotal moment that demonstrated how this model could work in practice, the Internet Society believes that we cannot simply “declare success” and turn our attention elsewhere. This is a crucial moment for the Internet’s growth and development and we believe that we must continue to work hard to expand and enhance uses of the multistakeholder model to address these inherently cross border challenges. 

As an organization committed to taking on the most challenging issues facing the Internet and doing so on a global level, the Internet Society, along with our network of chapters, is deeply committed to growing the multistakeholder model. We would like to see multistakeholder approaches adopted across the globe and used to address a broad range of Internet-related issues.

Thus, we have asked Larry Strickling and Grace Abuhamad, who many of us know well, to study the feasibility of building a resource to expand and enhance the use of the model and report back to us by September 2017. In the last few weeks, they have already started to meet with experts and stakeholders from around the world to get their views as to how best to expand the use of the model. 

Specifically, we think any such resource could have three components or work streams:

  • Demonstrating the efficacy of the model: provide a neutral place and expertise where parties could come to work through Internet related issues in a multistakeholder fashion.
  • Capacity building: provide training to equip stakeholders with the skills to participate actively and effectively in multistakeholder processes.
  • Research: sponsor academic research and analysis on multistakeholder models and processes.

From the start, we have made it clear that any Internet governance activity of this sort must have a global focus and community support. We have also specified that this should not duplicate the important efforts of existing multistakeholder processes such as ICANN, IETF, and the IGF. We are also mindful that a number of multistakeholder initiatives and training programs already exist in the ecosystem and are doing important work. The goal of this effort would not be to duplicate, replace or centralize those efforts but rather to work collaboratively to advance our mutual goals.

We want to emphasize that we are at a very early stage and that the Internet Society has not made any decision to proceed. But we hope the feasibility study will provide a concrete set of ideas and recommendations for what might be an effective way forward for the community to discuss later this year.

In the meantime, if you have initial thoughts or reactions to how we might approach this issue, we encourage you to submit your ideas to multistakeholder@isoc.org. We will make sure that they are taken into account during the feasibility study. We also commit to our community that we will share the final report of the feasibility study before taking any action on it later this year. 

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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