Transparency and Diversity in the 2017 MAG Renewal

Two days before the ongoing MAG meeting, the 2017 MAG renewal was announced. The CSCG protested the lack of civil society representatives among the new MAG members. This brought back focus on the need for MAG reform. Our report on multistakeholderism had identified the lack of transparency and geographic diversity in MAG selections. These issues remain relevant as another set of MAG meetings kick off in Geneva.

The Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was renewed for 2017 on Monday. The renewal has attracted controversy as no civil society members were added to this year’s MAG. The announcement has brought into focus a persistent criticism on the lack of transparency in the MAG nomination process. The lack of transparency and geographic diversity in the MAG was discussed in our report on multistakeholderism. Some of its findings are relevant to the 2017 MAG renewal.

Created on the recommendation of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), the MAG is responsible for organising the annual IGF. The MAG is not a decision-making body by design. But  Jeremy Malcolm  (pp. 420-422) points out  that the MAG effectively chooses issues that are debated on a global stage in the course of organising the IGF. In this respect, he argues that the MAG plays an important agenda setting role in internet governance.

MAG Nomination Process and Transparency

The make-up of the MAG is similar to the WGIG in that consists of representatives of all stakeholder groups (government, private sector, civil society and technical community). The selection of MAG members is made by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) under the authority of the UN Secretary General. Nominations to the UN DESA are made through focal points from different stakeholder groups, but applicants can also apply to the UN DESA directly.

As noted in our report (pp. 70-72), once nominations are sent to the UN DESA, there is no clarity on how members are selected to the MAG. The only available information on DESA’s selection criteria are the five criteria listed on the IGF website. These criteria include achieving a geographic and gender balance and that representatives should have strong linkages to their stakeholder groups.

The controversy in this year’s MAG renewal arose out of the lack of new civil society representation on the MAG. The Civil Society Coordination Group (CSCG), which is the focal point for civil society nominations wrote to the IGF secretariat asking it to reconsider its decision. They pointed out that no civil society members were added to the MAG this year despite two civil society members retiring from the MAG (members are selected for 3 year terms and a third of the MAG retires each year). The letter also called on the IGF secretariat to select an additional civil society member to the MAG.

This is not the first time that MAG nominations have been controversial. In 2016, the CSCG wrote to the IGF secretariat asking for greater transparency and inclusiveness in selections to the MAG. Similarly, as discussed in our report (p. 73), an Indian civil society member nominated by the CSCG was not selected to the MAG in 2014. In the above cases, the CSCG had contacted IGF secretariat asking for greater clarity on how selections were made.

Geographic Diversity

One of the findings of our report with respect to the MAG was on the geographic diversity of the group. As mentioned above, geographic diversity is one of the stated criteria based on which the UN DESA selects members to the MAG. Our report found that on average, 8-10% of MAG members were from the United States (based on their affiliation mentioned on the IGF website). As shown in the chart below, this was the highest percentage representation from any country between 2011 and 2015.

Membership by country as a percentage of total MAG Membership (2011-15)


Source: Multistakeholderism in Action

This trend has continued in the 2017 MAG renewal with 4 members or 7% of the MAG being from the United States. No other country has more than 2 members in the current MAG. The FAQ section on MAG renewals acknowledges this disparity. It stated that the MAG currently has an excess of members from Western Europe and Others Group. It also states that a new selection process will attempt to make the MAG more regionally balanced. It remains to be seen if this imbalance will be addressed in the next MAG renewal cycle.

The MAG nomination process raises questions on the transparency of the process and the diversity within the MAG. However, there is very little publicly available information or communication from the UN DESA beyond the criteria listed on the IGF website. The 2017 announcement was made one day before the IGF Open Consultations and MAG meeting were to begin in Geneva (1st March). A CSCG representative who circulated the letter believed that the issue of non-selection of a civil society member might be taken up at the meeting.


India and Internet Governance: The Challenge of Multistakeholderism

The recent signing of the US-India Cyber framework capped off a landmark year in India’s digital diplomacy. In addition to bilateral agreements, India played an important role in negotiations at international fora like the Ten Year Review of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS+10 Review) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). India’s increasing interest in internet governance suggests that it is a priority area for the government. However, as our report on multistakeholderism suggests, there is a need for a domestic multistakeholder setup that supports India’s international engagements on internet governance.

The global internet governance regime has for long been the site of a contentious debate between multilateral and multistakeholder forms of governance. In their simplest form, multilateralism privileges the role of governments while the multistakeholderism accords an equal role to all stakeholders in the governance of the internet. In the last year, India has reiterated its support for the multistakeholder model of governance at ICANN, the WSIS+10 Review and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). As a key swing state in these debates, India’s position has been instrumental in moving the debate in favour of multistakeholderism.

Across fora, multistakeholderism is emerging as the de facto model of governance. However, our report has found that there has been limited participation from Indian stakeholders at three internet governance institutions over the last 5 years. To have greater impact at these institutions, there needs to be greater engagement of Indian stakeholders from across stakeholder groups. This is only possible if there is a domestic multistakeholder environment that encourages greater participation of Indian stakeholders while also serving as a discursive space for policy discussions. The India Internet Governance Forum, conceived in 2013 is a multistakeholder body that was supposed to fill this gap. Three years on, it is yet to take shape and it is unclear as to why this is the case.

Multistakeholderism and India

There is some debate on the meaning of multistakeholderism, as the various internet governance institutions follow different models of multistakeholder governance. From ICANN, which is now administered by a ‘global multistakeholder community’, to a largely multilateral process like the WSIS, the divide between multistakeholderism and multilateralism is best described as a spectrum. At the heart of the multilateralism versus multistakeholderism debate is the role played by governments in the global governance of the internet.

In line with its policy in other issue areas, India had for long supported multilateralism in internet governance as well. However, at the IGF in Baku in 2012, the then Minister for Communication and Information Technology, Mr. Kapil Sibal came out in favour of multistakeholderism. Ever since, India’s external stance has warmed towards multistakeholderism. The critical juncture, as many observers note came at the ICANN52 meeting in Buenos Aires last year when Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister for Communications and Information Technology declared India’s unequivocal support for multistakeholderism.

Almost all respondents interviewed for our report believed that there is a need for consistent engagement with domestic stakeholders that could translate into greater Indian engagement on global internet governance. In the absence of strong interest from the private sector, they also believed that the government had a central role to play in creating such a domestic multistakeholder environment. This would also be in line with many countries around the world which have set up domestic and regional IGFs. Such initiatives help create a space for domestic conversations on internet related issues in a multistakeholder setting that could better inform policy making. In the last few months, countries in the neighbourhood like Pakistan and Bangladesh have announced domestic initiatives similar to the IGF. However, as the experience of the IIGF suggests, this may be a non-starter in India.

India Internet Governance Forum

Following the establishment of the IGF in 2006, many national and regional IGFs have been established around the world. Domestic IGFs have served as discursive spaces which feed into international policy making bodies. These initiatives have also contributed to knowledge dissemination and help increasing the interest of stakeholders in internet governance.

The US-India Cyber Framework, the IANA Transition and the upcoming ICANN57 meeting in Hyderabad have generated a lot of buzz around internet governance in India. ICANN57 in particular offers an opportunity to restart the conversation around domestic multistakeholder engagement and possibly the IIGF. It remains to be seen if this will be a temporary spike in interest or if it can be sustained in the coming months to create a tangible framework for domestic stakeholder engagement.

BRICS and Cybersecurity Policy: Studying the UN GGE

By Shilpa Rao

When the security advisors of BRICS countries met in New Delhi on September 15, 2016, they emphasised the need to improve cooperation in cybersecurity to combat cybercrime. They also agreed to enhance cybersecurity efforts through information sharing and improving cooperation between technical and law enforcement agencies. This follows from steady and increasingly successful measures to promote co-operation in cyberspace over recent years.

BRICS nations have contributed to agreements relating to cyberspace at bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. In pursuing their interest in internet communication technologies (“ICTs”), These nations have actively engaged with international processes targeted at norm development in cyberspace, such as the UN Group of Governmental Experts (“UN GGE”).The first meeting of the 5th UN GGE recently concluded on September 2, 2016 in New York, with a final report to be published in 2017. This post attempts to track the positions and contributions of BRICS nations to this process, including points of convergence and differences.

The BRICS at the UN GGE

The beginning of BRICS countries’ engagement with questions of information security at the UN can be traced to Russia’s draft resolution on “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”. This was introduced before the First Committee of the UN General Assembly in 1998, and the resolution was adopted without a vote.

Later, in 2001, Russia proposed the establishment of a GGE on information security in a report to the UN Secretary General. The group was to review potential and existing threats to information security, examine possible measures of cooperation between member States, and conduct a study of international information security issues. In this context, the US emphasised on the need to concentrate on the nature of cybersecurity attacks- with special focus on non-state actors such as individual hackers, terrorists, and organised criminals.

When the first GGE convened in 2004, Russia, China and Brazil had called for state sovereignty over information security. The US had opposed such calls for state control of information, considering the move to be politically, culturally and socially disruptive. In addition to a lack of consensus on the issue of state control over information security, the group could not agree on the threats caused by the military use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) either. The first GGE, therefore, failed to arrive at a consensus.

After major cyber-attacks on Estonia, Georgia and Lithuania between 2007 and 2008, the second GGE successfully released a report in 2009. While the report was relatively vague, it endorsed dialogues on norms for States’ use of ICTs to reduce risk and protect critical infrastructure.  It also recommended risk reduction methods, including the use of ICTs during conflict. It is at this time that other countries (notably, China) became increasing aligned with Russia, under the Shanghai Co-operation Association. This led to the discussion on information security becoming increasingly polarised, with the US on one side and Russia and China on the other.

This is not to suggest, however, that there are no divides between BRICS countries over questions of cybersecurity. The contrast in the political systems of the BRICS nations have been most amply reflected in how they define the key concepts of cybersecurity and information security. China and Russia sought to define information security as the absence of threats to a state’s sovereignty caused by the distribution of information. India, Brazil and South Africa, however, defined information security as preserving an individual’s freedom of expression.

In September 2011, India, Brazil and South Africa (“IBSA”) called for the creation of a new global body within the UN system that would develop and establish international public policies for the Internet. The countries stressed on internet governance as a key strategic area and called for cooperation. They also recommended the establishment of an IBSA Internet Governance and Development Observatory, the proposal for which was not accepted.

In parallel, China and Russia had introduced the ‘International Code of Conduct for Information Security’ which proposed that the UN Secretary General should regulate cyber norms and governance. It highlighted China’s broader strategy of increasing its participation in internet policy. As the Code raised important concerns with regards to human rights, serious efforts to generate a consensus around it are still underway.

The third GGE came together in 2013, and, despite deep differences between countries, agreed on some defining aspects in their report. This was a landmark report– as GGE member countries agreed to the application of international law to cyberspace and the use of ICTs. Russia and the US reached a compromise allowing for the negotiation of new legal norms for cyberspace while acknowledging the capacities of existing legal frameworks.

The report encouraged bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives on cyber issues. It supported the participation of civil society, businesses and other private participants in cyber-related discussions. Additionally, the report also recommended capacity building measures to combat the use of ICTs for criminal or terrorist purposes. This was especially relevant to developing countries which have been reported to be most vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The Snowden effect

In October 2013, India and Brazil came together and expressed concerns over the surveillance programme of the US’ National Security Agency. The two countries were concerned over the unauthorised interception of communications and data, by the US, from citizens, businesses and members of governments, which could compromise both national sovereignty as well as individual rights. In November 2015, India and Brazil issued a statement highlighting the importance of strengthening joint efforts on combating cybercrime, and improving cooperation between States’ technical, law enforcement, cyber R&D, and capacity building institutions.

The UN GGE was constituted for a fourth time in August 2015. The 2015 report was considered a breakthrough by the US government, as the Group adopted a series of norms proposed by the US. The norms required that States could not knowingly damage each other’s critical infrastructure with cyber attacks. They were not to target each other’s cyber emergency responders. The norms also required that in the case of a cyber attack launched from one’s soil, the host nation would have to provide the targeted nation with investigation assistance.

The report also marked a significant shift in China and Russia’s stance. The two countries had previously blocked all attempts to tie the applicability of humanitarian law to activities in cyberspace. But this was accepted as part of the 2015 report.

Going forward: Multistakeholderism and BRICS

Ahead of the fifth UN GGE to be held over 2016-2017, BRICS leaders came together in Ufa, Russia, in 2015. The 2015 Ufa Declaration, released subsequent to the Seventh BRICS summit, acknowledged the instrumental role of internet communication technologies (“ICTs”) in the transition to a global knowledge society, as well as a developmental tool. Recent meetings between BRICs countries have spurred a lot of discussion on the question of multistakeholderism. Our recent report on multistakeholderism looks at the way Indian stakeholders have engaged with global internet governance institutions over the last 5 years.

The Ufa declaration was notable as it signaled support to the multilateral governance of the internet. Our post on the Ufa Declaration discusses this in greater detail. Russia and China reinforced this stance on Internet governance during the World Internet Conference in December 2015. China reiterated its proposal to give every government veto rights over technical protocols that unite the global Internet. Our previous post on the Wuzhen initiative discusses China’s competing vision of the Internet.

The same idea was also discussed during the trilateral meet between India, Russia and China. The trilateral meet also agreed to ensure transparency with multi-stakeholders. While this is still far from completely accepting the participation of non-governmental stakeholders in Internet governance and cybersecurity policy, it a step forward towards global co-operation.


According to a study by McAfee Security in 2014, BRICS economies were found to be amongst the largest victims of cybercrime. This was mainly attributed to relatively high connectivity but low awareness of cybercrime and cybersecurity. Moreover, the countries’ weak laws for cybercrime, sophisticated hacker communities and poor intellectual property protection make them easy targets for cybercrime.

Additionally, BRICS nations have historically been concerned by the US’ monopolistic hold over the Internet, and have often suggested that the United Nations should play a larger role in the development of the norms of cyberspace. The necessity of state control over the internet has also often been reiterated.

As long as deep divides persist between the countries on questions of information security may be problematic to consider the BRICS a viable negotiating bloc with regard to cyberspace. However, given the increasing dialogue between BRICS countries in the recent past on these issues, it seems plausible that grounds for deeper co-operation may be found, and the BRICS nations may be able to affect the tenor of the cyberspace debate.


Implications of the US-India Cyber Relationship Framework

By Lily Xiao

On 7 June 2016, ongoing discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama culminated in the US-India Cyber Relationship Framework, expected to be signed within 60 days. As part of a deepening strategic partnership between the US and India, the Framework establishes a bilateral commitment to an open, interoperable, secure and reliable cyberspace environment, and bilateral measures to combat cybercrime. As India’s interests find commonality with those of the US, this post considers what implications the Framework has for India’s foreign policy on Internet governance.

Cybersecurity measures and the Budapest Convention

The Framework instructs on the implementation of a range of bilateral and cooperative cybersecurity measures. They include information sharing, on a real or near real time basis regarding malicious cybersecurity threats; developing joint mechanisms for practical cooperation to mitigate cybersecurity threats; cooperation in research and development; and improving the capacity of law enforcement agencies through joint training programs.

These measures bear some resemblance to Article 23 of the Convention on Cybercrime or Budapest Convention, which was drafted by the Council of Europe in 2001. Article 23 stipulates that signatories ‘shall cooperate with each other… to the widest extent possible for the purposes of investigations or proceedings concerning criminal offences related to computer systems and data, or for the collection of evidence in electronic form of a criminal offence’. The US has suggested that India should join the Budapest Convention, and reiterates this bid in the Framework to ‘[promote] the applicability of international law to state conduct in cyberspace and further exploring how it applies to state conduct in cyberspace’.

However up until now, India has refused to sign the Budapest Convention because they were not involved or consulted in its drafting. While the insistence of the US may be a political factor India considers, this does not change the crucial problem India has with the Budapest Convention; namely that it does not sufficiently reflect India’s priorities regarding cybersecurity. In order to prevent cyber attacks, most notably from China, India’s priority is to establish an equitable and inclusive multilateral instrument, which is created with active participation from all signatories, not just those in Europe.Multilateral cooperative agreements are the most viable solution to combat cybercrimes, because the Internet, by is nature, is unconstrained by state borders, making cybercrimes difficult to attribute to a single country of origin. Thus, bilateral agreements, like the one initiated by this Framework with the US, can only go so far in combatting cybercrime.

India’s recommitment to multi-stakeholderism

In August 2015, India came out in favour of multi-stakeholderism, the model of Internet governance in which all stakeholders have an equal role to play. The Framework indicates the apparent convergence of the US and India’s approaches to Internet governance, citing bilateral support for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance that is ‘transparent and accountable to its stakeholders including governments, civil society and the private sector, and promotes cooperation among them’. Questions over India’s commitment to multi-stakeholderism were raised following the joint statement released in April 2016 with Russia and China. Understandably, the US had concerns following the release of this joint statement, which may have led them to ensure the language of the Framework was clearly in support of multi-stakeholderism. The consequences of this Framework for India’s relationship with Russia and China will be considered later.

However, India’s implementation of multi-stakeholderism is not without limitations.The Minister for Communications and IT has stated thatIndia’s approach to multi-stakeholderism is qualified by national security matters, as the government’s role should be given primacy over other stakeholders in this regard.Additionally, India has yet to develop consistent and wide-ranging domestic mechanisms for implementing multi-stakeholderism, which would allow India to increase its participation in Internet governance at the international level.By including a bilateral commitment to multi-stakeholderism and continued dialogue and engagement in the Internet governance fora, the Framework can be interpreted as the US addressing India’s hesitations regarding the multi-stakeholder model. However, whether the approaches of India and the US towards Internet governance truly converge outside of this Framework remains to be seen.

Conflicting interests of Russia and China, and India as a swing state

The Framework comes after the aforementioned joint statement issued by Russia, China and India earlier this year. Paragraph 12 of this joint statement emphasised the need for a ‘broader international universal regulatory binding instrument under the UN’to tackle cybercrime, suggesting a preference for a multilateral governance model with entrenched state sovereignty. In the same paragraph, the Ministers emphasised the need to ensure Internet governance will be based on ‘multilateralism, democracy, transparency with multi-stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities’. This language is nearly identical to that used in the outcome document from WSIS +10 High Level Meeting, which stipulates ‘the management of the Internet as a global facility includes multilateral, transparent, democratic and multi-stakeholder processes’. The only qualifying phrase in the joint statement that indicates the reluctance of Russia and China to embrace multi-stakeholderism is that multi-stakeholders ought to be considered ‘in their respective roles and responsibilities’.

Therefore, while the debate over Internet governance is framed as one between the increasing acceptance of multi-stakeholderism, and those who hold out for a state-centric governance model, the language used in diplomacy between the two sides is remarkably similar. As a ‘swing state’ in this diplomatic arena, India holds power as being politically valuable to both sides of the debate. If India can continue to take advantage of the flexibility in discourse of multi-stakeholderism by appealing to both the US, and Russia and China, it can act successfully as a ‘swing state’. However, if, and when India and the US commit to the agreement this Framework pertains to, India should ensure that its bilateral relationship with the US does not impede its relationship to Russia and China.


This Framework is part of a wider arrangement for the US-India relations to deepen ties and to look to each other as ‘priority partners’ in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region.It remains to be seen whether all these provisions regarding cybersecurity will be included in the final signed agreement, but if they are included, it may contribute to the further acceptance of multi-stakeholderism on a global scale, and be an indication of cybersecurity norms to be taken up by other governments.

Right to Criticise: Urdu writers and the Curious Case of the ‘Loyalty form’

By Aishwarya Ayushmaan

Recently, reports emerged in the media regarding the requirement of a ‘loyalty form’ from Urdu authors and editors whose works were acquired for bulk purchase by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). The NCPUL, which operates under the Ministry of Human Resource Development and is chaired by Central HRD Minister Smriti Irani, purchases books in bulk orders from select Urdu authors as part of its monetary assistance scheme. However, for the past few months, the authors have claimed that they have been asked to sign a form declaring that the content of their book is not against the government or its policies. The nature of the declaration raises concerns regarding its implications on the freedom of speech and expression. Moreover, this controversial requirement is unique to Urdu authors and editors, which makes it questionable in the context of right to equality and equal treatment under law.

Right to Criticise

The right to criticise the government or its policies is an integral aspect of the right to free speech and expression. In Express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India[1],   the court reiterated that, “Central to the concept of a free press is freedom of political opinion and at the core of that freedom lies the right to criticise the Government, because it is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that Government remains representation to the will of the people and orderly change is effected.” Such a conception of the right to criticise has been further sustained in Sakal newspapers[2].

The contentious declaratory form states that:

”I, son/daughter of __________ do hereby declare that my book/journal/booklet _______________ , which has been accepted by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language’s scheme for financial assistance for bulk purchase, does not contain anything which goes against the policies of the Indian government, or anything that is against national interest, or anything which promotes disharmony between the various communities.”

Clearly, the declaration is worded in very general terms and is open to a liberal interpretation. The authors have to certify that the content of their books does not contain anything which goes against the policies of the Indian government, against national interest or promotes disharmony between different communities. Moreover, this declaration is backed by a warning that legal action may be pursued against the writers if they do not abide by the declaration. In such cases, monetary assistance might have to be returned.

This precludes any form of critique of the government or its policies, and in effect quells the right to criticise, recognised as an integral part of the right to the freedom of speech and expression by the Indian judiciary.

Executive Overreach

Safeguards against the misuse of freedom of speech and expression are embedded within the Constitution, in the form of Article 19(2). These grounds are comprehensive and include protecting the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. The current declaration extends beyond these restrictions, and appears to be a case of executive overreach.

Moreover, the motivations for such a requirement seems unclear. As reported, the NCPUL has clarified that the move was brought about because of a book which was found to contain incorrect information about Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. However, in such case a simple declaration regarding the veracity of content might be enough, and is usually part of the process in the publishing business.

The NCPUL has defended this requirement on the grounds as that the government provides financial assistance to these authors, therefore the content of their books cannot be against the government.  However, the fundamental right to freedom and speech and expression cannot be curtailed in lieu of government aid, in the absence of a specific provision to that effect in the Constitution of India. Additionally, there is no evidence of a similar requirement from authors of other languages, to which the government provides aid.

The ambiguity surrounding the nature and exact purpose of this declaration, indicates that it may not be sustainable if challenged on constitutional grounds. But, in its present form, the declaration clearly inhibits an integral aspect of the right to free speech, the right to criticise.

[1] Express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India , AIR 1986 SC 872

[2] Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. and Ors. vs. The Union of India (UOI).

Implementing Enhanced Cooperation

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.

Stakeholder Participation

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.

Funding Mechanisms

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.

Human Rights

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.

Three Questions on Digital Trade

The inclusion of an e-commerce chapter in the recently concluded TPP Agreement has sparked off a debate around the world on internet issues being a part of trade agreements. In my last post I had looked at the efforts of civil society groups trying to engage with various trade negotiation processes through the EFF Meeting in Brussels. In this piece, I identify three issue areas that borrow from both trade and internet governance worlds to form some of the foundational concerns in this emerging area.

  1. Incorporating Internet Governance norms

One of the criticisms of the inclusion of internet related provisions in trade agreements has been the way it is framed. As provisions that govern e-commerce, TPP and similar new generations trade agreements adopt a commoditized approach to internet regulation. This may not be a problem in and of itself. But, in the absence of hard law rules internationally on many internet-related issues, there is a danger that the trade law rules could become the default international rules on many of these issues. The TPP for instance contains provisions that could potentially impact privacy, the disclosure of source codes and network neutrality.

However, these issues are being resolved at either the national or regional levels through public consultations, guidelines and even legislations. One such example is the recent debate in India over network neutrality. To create a regulatory environment that gives states enough space to make rules on such issues, such domestic or regional rules as standards should be incorporated in future agreements. This will ensure that laws that are enacted from an internet governance standpoint are not superseded by commercial rules.

  1. Human Rights and Social Obligations

The problem with trade rules that often take a commoditized approach to privacy and network neutrality is that they are either human rights or have human rights implications. Privacy has over the last few years been recognised internationally as a human right. Network neutrality on the other hand has significant free speech implications and can also affect the right to access which is also being seen as a right. There has been discussion in the past for an “Internet Bill of Rights”. While this is yet to take any tangible form at the international level, there are a group of human rights -like free speech, privacy and the right to, access to name a few- that have taken on greater importance in the context of the internet.

The recognition or mention of these rights in trade agreements will, 1) ensure that these rights aren’t eroded and 2) encourage the diffusion of human rights through trading partners. This is not without precedent. The EU has for long incorporated human rights provisions in its engagement with third parties. On environment and labour issues, both the EU and US trade agreements over the last decade have included “Social Standards” that must be enforced domestically by the trading partner. Extending this treatment to internet rights will only be a continuation of existing trade policy.

  1. Excluding Developing Countries from Rule Making

The biggest impact of these agreements is the shift of the trade regime away from a multilateral setting like the WTO. By negotiating plurilateral and mega-regional agreements between a small group of countries, the TPP, TISA and TTIP (to name a few) are making new rules on trade and creating higher standards. But this also means that a large majority of countries are excluded from these rules which are likely to become the new standards for trade and also potentially affect development goals.

E-commerce chapters in the TPP and TISA (proposed) are the best examples of this phenomena. The internet over the last decade has been an engine of growth across the world and especially in developing countries. A significant part of this has been through the exchange of goods and services online. In the absence of rules to govern the internet internationally, all countries are at a relatively equal footing to benefit from the digital economy. However, as these new generation agreements create new rules and standards for participation in the digital economy, it could also potentially create barriers for developing countries to participate in it. While there is no obvious solution to this issue, keeping the internet open and accessible should go some way in resolving it.

Resolving the above three questions should bring coherence to policy debates around e-commerce rules in trade agreements. The debate is complicated as it involves the overlap of two competing global regimes. But there are policy gaps that can be filled by engaging on the above issues in a meaningful way.