ISOC slams the WEF ‘UN Security Council’ plan, declines permanent seat offer

Two organizations whose voices hold considerable sway on Internet governance issues–which appeared up until just last weekend to be speaking in harmony–now find themselves at odds.

The Internet Society has blasted efforts from some quarters to create a “UN Security Council” for the internet – which would rule over the online world.

The society (ISoc) is a non-profit organization that, among other things, runs the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which develops and publishes crucial internet’s standards.

“Based on the information that we have to date, the Internet Society cannot agree to participate in or endorse the Coordination Council for the NETmundial Initiative,” the organization’s Board said in a statement on Monday, adding:

We are concerned that the way in which the NETmundial Initiative is being formed does not appear to be consistent with the Internet Society’s longstanding principles.

Revised plans for the NETmundial Initiative were announced earlier this month but baffled many in the internet governance community when, despite the claim that it would be an open platform, the only organizational efforts were put into the creation of a “Coordination Council” that would contain five “permanent seats” and another 20 members, selected by the organizers themselves.

Aside from the decision to include permanent members – made by the organizers themselves – many questioned why there needed to be a council at all. Lead organizer ICANN was also asked why it should have a seat on a body that identifies its role as being non-technical when domain-system overseer ICANN is specifically a technical body.

It seems the whole approach did not sit well with ISoc either.

“This announcement has resulted in considerable discussion and concern amongst various stakeholders regarding the purpose, scope, and nature of the proposed activity or organization,” its statement read.

The very notion of the initiative was also questioned:

The Internet Society Board reiterates that the Internet Society’s longstanding position is that there is no single, global platform that can serve to coordinate, organize or govern all the Internet issues that may arise.

The motives of the organizers were also indirectly questioned by noting that the proposal was lacking in transparency, openness and accountability.

The ISoc board comprises well-respected members of the technical side of internet and broadly serves as the political arm of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). ISoc is also one of the so-called “I-star” organizations that the organizers – ICANN, the World Economic Forum (WEF), and Brazilian government-led – offered one of the permanent seats. Read more from the register

What appears to be at issue here is the increased involvement of ICANN in the NETmundial process, which now includes being credited as one of the Initiative’s three key partners, along with and the WEF. In a statement issued last November 6, in advance of the Initiative’s most recent meeting, ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade referred to two ideal governance structures: A “distributed Internet governance ecosystem” and a “polycentric solution formation”–both creating mental images of de-centralized power-sharing structures.

But a glimpse of such a structure from a higher perspective may reveal something resembling more of a singular, if huge, organism. That perspective was provided by ICANN board member Wolfgang Kleinwächter, in a statement published on NETmundial’s Web site:  “The NETmundial Initiative has now the great opportunity to further enhance this multi-stakeholder approach by translating the São Paulo Principles into actions via projects that will bring solutions to the broad range of Internet related policy problems, make the innovative multi-stakeholder Internet governance model more sustainable and strengthen the IGF as the main annual discussion platform for the global Internet community.”

It’s that “main platform” image that resembles most every effort by certain technology providers to form an “open” coalition cent around their own products, services, or agendas.

As writes below,

The most recent view we have into ISOC’s current opinion of ICANN comes from one of its most outspoken members, itinerant research consultant Dr. Avri Doria–who actually received an award from ICANN, where she formerly served, in June of this year. Despite this, Dr. Doria wrote the following on Tumblr just three months later:

“In terms of ICANN processes, the various policy development processes (PDP) define the manner in which decisions will be made.  Anyone who is paying even the slightest attention to ICANN these days know that the PDP no longer holds sway in an environment where ad-hoc processes, invented by the Board and the Staff, sometime known as the Adhoceracy, replace the PDP anytime it is convenient.  And while sometimes there is a need that an existing process does not meet, when that happens, they do not work with the members of the community to craft a new, albeit interim, process.  Instead they just invent something, sometimes even something clever like the current Accountability process, and then try to bluster their way through any opposition, only stopping when the people rise up and embarrass them with letters of non-support.  The point is that the process of ICANN has become unpredictable, something that no one could possibly trust.”

Dr. Doria’s words inspire this paraphrase of Pete Townshend: Meet the new bottom, same as the old bottom.

For more:
– read the Internet Society statement
– check out Dr. Avri Doria’s Tumblr page

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