Oral Remarks to Un Desa Consultations on Enhanced Cooperation Thumbnail
Internet Governance 3 December 2011

Oral Remarks to Un Desa Consultations on Enhanced Cooperation


Speaker: Bill Graham

Honourable Chairman, distinguished delegates:

On November 15, the Internet Society tabled a written contribution to these consultations, and at the outset I would like to refer those present to that document, now posted to the United Nations web site.

The Internet Society contribution stressed that multi-stakeholder cooperation is essential to the growth of the Information Society. It is not an option. The paper outlined progress that has been made since the WSIS, and calls for governments and the United Nations system to reach out to all relevant stakeholders – on one hand to ensure there are genuine opportunities to contribute to developing appropriate public policy on Internet issues, and on the other to take up the Internet institutions’ invitation to participate in the organizations of the Internet ecosystem.

For purposes of this oral statement, I have been asked specifically to speak for both the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Society. In that context, I would like to make the following points.

The mission of the IETF is to make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet.

The IETFʼs work has resulted in a remarkable track record over the last 40 years.

The Internet is engineered for innovation around certain architectural fundamentals, including keeping the intelligence of the network at the edges rather than in the core. That, in turn, lets individual users choose what applications best suit their requirements and/or circumstances and the permission-free development or deployment of those applications. These architectural fundamentals have produced an unprecedented flowering of technical, economic and social innovation, bringing benefits to all.

Today, as we discuss the way forward with enhanced cooperation, it is worth thinking about how the IETF works, through an open standards development process, to create these global open standards. The IETF is open in many respects (and this word is not used lightly):

  • The IETF is open to inputs – most of the work takes place on mailing lists, to reduce the barriers to global participation, including by developing country experts
  • All working sessions are open, minuted and increasingly they are webcast
  • Documents are made available ahead of time to encourage preparation and to make it easier to participate knowledgeably, and
  • Anyone anywhere can have access to all IETF documents, without
  • membership or fees
  • Finally, the Internet Society provides funding through a fellowship program to bring new participants into the IETF.

The combination of these mechanisms result in making the IETF and the work of

the IETF open and transparent.

The IETF is the guardian of the architectural principles of the Internet, and it is dedicated to ensuring that the fundamental openness remains, consistent with the principles of permission-less innovation and distribution of management, applications and services.

The proof of the success of the open approach is that the Internet continues to thrive based on voluntary implementation of IETF standards, even after 40 years.

In practice, the IETF process is designed around a clear and logical work flow. Key to that way of working is people working cooperatively on a clearly defined task. All IETF work starts as an idea, discussed among any and all interested parties to determine if it is worth further exploration. If so, it evolves through further open discussions until it takes the shape of a problem statement. When a good formal problem statement is arrived at, a decision is taken whether or not to work on it, based on whether it fits within the mission of the IETF and available resources. If the answer is “yes”, a work plan is developed and approved, a process that usually involves creation of a Working Group specific to that problem. Eventually, if the work concludes successfully, it will progress to publication of an IETF standards-track document.

Many people cooperate to make Internet standards. Each person brings a unique perspective of the Internet, and this diversity sometimes makes it difficult to reach consensus. Yet, when consensus is achieved, the outcome is better, clearer, and more strongly supported than the initial position of any participant.

It is also worth noting that the IETF recognizes and respects the expertise of other expert players in the ecosystem. In fact it has been part of their Mission Statement since before many organizations took significant interest in the Internet.”

The IETF and ISOC believe the processes followed by the IETF and other organizations in the so-called Internet community are something governments should recognize, support, and even participate in. Governments and intergovernmental institutions concerned with Internet matters are always welcome to join, and many do because they recognize the importance of the fundamental work done in the IETF, and appreciate their ability to help determine the future of the Internet.

The point we want to bring to todayʼs consultation is that we believe this method of working has particular relevance to discussions of enhanced cooperation. If we want to make progress together toward enhanced cooperation, perhaps we should start by rigorously clarifying what is the problem enhanced cooperation is attempting to address, and then deciding the best working methods to find a solution.

When speaking about Internet governance, it is vital that we cooperate in an open and reciprocal way. Enhanced cooperation should not mean just that governments and intergovernmental organizations reach out and invite stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and the academic and technical community to come to their meetings. It is equally important for governments and intergovernmental organizations to recognize that many of the relevant stakeholder groups have existing expert organizations with well established and open processes already dealing with Internet issues, which welcome all who want to participate. Of course, some governments and intergovernmental organizations already do take part – the issue is one of enhancing the cooperation by learning to work together in the most appropriate venues, in partnership.

Thank you.

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