Inclusive process

Inclusive process

Although the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (NETmundial) at Sao Paulo in Brazil concluded without concrete progress to show, it provides reason for satisfaction as it marks the beginning of constructive and inclusive conversations on questions of internet governance, right to privacy, surveillance, etc.

Coming a year after shocking revelations of the US National Security Agency’s large-scale surveillance of internet activity worldwide, many were hoping that NETmundial would be more assertive in its denunciation of net surveillance by governments in general and the US in particular.

Sadly, it did not.

It also did not produce an agreement.

What emerged was an outcome document that is not only non-binding but its contents are a diluted version of what many champions of internet democracy and right to privacy were aspiring for.

Besides, the document is silent on the question of net neutrality, leaving this issue for discussion at future meetings.

Still, the Sao Paulo meet was not without gains.

It represented a step towards recognising the internet as a global resource to be managed in the public interest.

The outcome document provides a useful starting point for future dialogue.

It called for internet governance to be underpinned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes rights to freedom of expression, association, access to information and privacy among other things.

A global campaign to democratise internet governance is gathering steam. Last week, the US announced plans rather reluctantly to relax control over ICANN, a US-based non-profit organisation that assigns internet addresses.

The Sao Paulo meet is another step towards democratising the internet.

The Sao Paulo meet provided voice for the multiple stakeholders and thus displayed audacity and hope.

That such a diverse group sat together and exchanged views is a major accomplishment in itself.

The meeting underscored the importance of inclusiveness, collaboration, equity and accountability in finding solutions, without which those with power and resources will continue to call the shots.

The Sao Paulo meet must be seen not as a one-off event but as the start of a process and a new way of doing things.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox