Operationalizing the role of governments in Internet Governance

wtpf-13-blogThe World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF-2013) provided a unique opportunity to put Internet-related public policy issues firmly on the international agenda, particularly the very present issue of the participation of governments as relevant stakeholders in Internet Governance.

Brazil is a country that fully embraces the multistakeholder approach to Internet Governance. Our National Internet Steering Committee is a vibrant organization, as indeed highlighted in the Secretary-General’s Report to the WTPF, which includes a reference to Brazil’s ten “Principles for the Governance and Use of the Internet”.  Nonetheless, at the international level, our view is that we still need to achieve full engagement of governments in the decision making process on Internet Governance.

The fact is that governments so far have only had a limited advisory role in international Internet Governance, and no actual involvement in the decision making process. Recent events have indicated that even long standing advice provided by governments on certain issues has had little impact on the actual decisions relating to matters of their direct interest. Regretfully, attempts to deal with this fact have suffered from the low level of participation of the majority of governments in existing international Internet Governance fora.

In this regard Brazil presented at the WTPF an opinion that points to the fact that we must together address two key issues: operationalizing the role of government in the multistakeholder framework for Internet Governance, and the need for capacity building on these issues in developing countries, particularly in the least developed countries, with the support of the ITU.

Brazil´s draft opinion entitled “Operationalizing the role of government in the multistakeholder framework for Internet Governance” stems from one previously discussed at the Informal Experts Group (IEG), which had resulted from the joint work of the drafting group led by Brazil, with the participation of a diverse group of experts from several countries.

During the course of the WTPF, Brazil conducted further extensive consultations with all interested parties, including Member States, sector members and civil society entities present at the event. As a result of a genuine effort to reflect the inputs received, a revised version of the draft opinion was presented, which we expected could have been endorsed.

The draft opinion received widespread support, including statements from Member States in all ITU regions, as seen during the plenary sessions. Despite this fact, in the end the opinion did not achieve consensus at the WTPF. Nonetheless, we did receive very positive feedback as to the importance of the issues that were raised, and a willingness to engage in further discussions, having Brazil as the focal point.

The final report by the Chairman of the WTPF indicates, as a way forward, that these discussions could take place at the ITU Council Working Group on Internet-related public policy issues. Subsequently the output of deliberations would be forwarded to the ITU Council for further consideration. Hopefully this would lead to the inclusion of the issues in the preparatory process for the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) and the Plenipotentiary Conference of 2014 (PP-14).

Brazil also welcomes the broadening of the discussion on these issues to forums such as the GAC, the CSTD, ECOSOC and the IGF. Interestingly, as the WTPF drew to a close with a clear message from the ITU membership and a way forward proposed by the leadership of the Union, there were indications that in the near future these very same issues will also be on the agendas of those other forums. Ensuring a meaningful role for governments and engaging them in the decision making process is in the interest of all those who aspire to a truly multistakeholder international Internet Governance.

cavalcantiBy Daniel B. Cavalcanti

Daniel B. Cavalcanti is an Engineer and career professional with the Brazilian Government, currently a senior Policy Advisor at the National Telecommunications Agency – Anatel. Over the last decade his work has focused on broadband policy and Internet related issues.

Interview with Daniel B. Cavalcanti


  1. If you check your “facts”, I think you will find that the statement: “The fact is that governments so far have only had a limited advisory role in international Internet Governance, and no actual involvement in the decision making process.” is not entirely accurate.

    Governments have sovereignty, and therefore make laws governing the Internet inside their borders, This often has an impact internationally.

    In addition governments have the only votes in various intergovernmental fora that are working on Internet Governance (IG) issues. The ITU, UNCTAD, OECD and other fora are all trying to address IG, but they are not truly multistakeholder in that they all rely on governments only for decision making.

    In terms of ICANN, governments have a special role where they are “more equal” than others in that the ICANN Board has to give their advice special consideration, which some have equated to a veto. In terms of standards (IETF) and numbering policies (RIRs), governments participate on an equal footing and therefore already do have “actual involvement in the decision making process”.

    IG should be multi-equal stakeholderism, your article seems to assume that governments should have a predominant role.

  2. Of course, I forgot to mention that nation states claim sovereignty over their ccTLD as well, so while some ccTLDs are run by multistakeholder groups, private organisations, etc, many others are run by governments. In one African country where I lived until recently, the government decided that 2nd level domains under the ccTLD would need to be licensed by the gov’t, and not by the multistakeholder body nominally in charge.

  3. Daniel Cavalcanti · ·

    The facts that have come to light over the last few weeks clearly indicate that the issue here is really about effective mechanisms for all stakeholders – including governments – to collectively participate in international Internet Governance.

    The point raised in the article is precisely that long standing and clearly stated advice by governments on very specific issues must be given adequate consideration. Furthermore, through capacity building on these issues for developing countries and LDCs, we can achieve truly multilateral and multistakeholder international Internet Governance.

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