By Puneeth Nagaraj
One of the important outcomes of the WSIS+10 review was the establishment of the CSTD (Commission on Science and Technology for Development) Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC). Subsequently, the establishment of the WGEC was announced in February with Peter Major as its chair and the nomination process to the WGEC will conclude shortly. The WGEC will be constituted by the end of the month. This affords us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning on Enhanced Cooperation (EC) and how it can be implemented.
The notion of Enhanced Cooperation can be found in paragraphs 69-71 of the Tunis Agenda. However, the term itself has been used extensively within the European Union since the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. In the EU, the term refers to a certain number of EU Member States (usually 9) that are allowed to establish advanced integration or cooperation without the involvement of other members. In the context of the WSIS, debate has raged on for the last decade over the exact meaning of the term. The reference in the Tunis Agenda to EC leaves room for a lot of ambiguity. During the WSIS+10 negotiations, many delegations debated over whether EC is already taking place or if structures need to be put in place to implement it. Below are three ideas for the implementation of Enhanced Cooperation.
First is clarifying the roles of different stakeholder groups, in various Internet Governance fora. Engaging with the WSIS+10 Review has shown us that despite the emerging consensus on multistakeholder models of governance, there can be significant barriers to the participation of stakeholder representatives. The Review, unlike the Geneva and Tunis Summits was not an open process, driven primarily by Member States. Hence, the space afforded to other stakeholders was limited. This is against the ideal of “full participation of all stakeholders” as per the Tunis Agenda (para 31). To this end, establishing clear terms of civil society engagement in the various Internet Governance institutions should be an important function of the WGEC.
Second, both the Tunis Agenda and the WSIS+10 outcome document call for innovative funding mechanisms to facilitate ICT4D programmes. With the failure of the Digital Solidarity Fund, most ICT related development programmes are predominantly funded by Official Development Assistance (ODA). An oft ignored part of the WISS process is the governance of funding mechanisms. An allied issue is the delineation of the various UN bodies involved in the SDG process as they relate to ICTs. The WSIS+10 Outcome document stressed the overlaps with the SDG process but did not describe how this synergy was to be achieved. In the absence of an explicit ICT related goal in the SDG process, identifying the roles of organizations like the ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD among others in fulfilling this dual mandate will be an important aspect of Enhanced Cooperation. The ITU has taken an important first step in identifying the overlaps between the WSIS Action lines and the SDGs. It is up to the WGEC to expand upon this effort and create synergy between the two processes.
Third, the crux of Enhanced Cooperation is in developing global public policy principles (Tunis Agenda para 70). One of the positive outcomes of the WSIS+10 review was the incorporation of a separate section on human rights. This recognition will be meaningless without embedding human rights into all global IG institutions. ICANN has recently, very encouragingly approved its human rights mandate. As the IGF also undergoes a transformation through the renewed Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum, this is an important moment to establish public policy principles as they relate to human rights. The WGEC is the best place to create principles or governance frameworks to support human rights and other public interest issues. The UN HRC and Special Rapporteurs on Free Speech and Privacy have made important strides in this area. The WGEC should attempt to synthesize these efforts to produce adaptable standards for various IG institutions.
Puneeth Nagaraj is a Project Managers at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi