& the GII
This note considers United Nations involvement with the
governance of cyberspace, debate about a New World Information
& Communication Order (NWICO) and the World Summit
on the Information Society (WSIS).
contents of this profile
The following pages cover -
United Nations and the net
- key statements, international agreements, major initiatives
and the activities of agencies such as the ITU, UNESCO
NWICO - debate about NWICO
and the New World Information Order, illustrating the
nature of policymaking, globalisation and spin in the
WSIS - an examination of
global summit rhetoric and reality
supplement the discussion of the Governance
and Networks & Global
Information Infrastructure guides on this site.
There is a profile regarding
the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN
agency with global telecommunications standards and policy
coordination responsibilities that is sometimes suggested
as a replacement for ICANN.
at a glance
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
is a global intergovernmental body under the umbrella
of the United Nations, with a status equivalent to the
World Intellectual Property Organisation (discussed
in the Intellectual Property Guide on this site).
Its charter states that the organisation is concerned
transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals,
writing, images and sounds or intelligence of any nature
by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems.
ITU traces its origins to international agreements under
French auspices in the 1860s that sought to harmonise
telegraph traffic across the borders of nations in Europe.
Those agreements were modelled on the October 1849 technical
standards protocol regarding telecommunications between
Prussia and Austria and the 1850 Austro-German Telegraph
It evolved from a somewhat informal body concerned with
international telegraph pricing and standards to one with
a permanent secretariat (now located in Geneva) concerned
with telecommunications per se, including satellite
and radio broadcasting, transborder cable television distribution
and other questions.
Most recently it has had a leading role in discussions
about technical standards and regulatory mechanisms for
initiatives such as ENUM.
as a replacement for ICANN?
The ITU is recurrently proposed as a body to replace ICANN
and has shown some interest in questions about ccTLD
regulation, arguable representing the interests of some
country code managers in jockeying for position against
gTLD managers within ICANN.
Such suggestions for example resurfaced in the December
2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
That gathering resulted in a Digital Solidarity Agenda
and Declaration of Principles featuring the statement
Internet has evolved into a global facility available
to the public and its governance should constitute a
core issue of the Information Society agenda. The international
management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent
and democratic, with the full involvement of governments,
the private sector, civil society and international
organizations. It should ensure an equitable distribution
of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a
stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking
into account multilingualism.
The management of the Internet encompasses both technical
and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders
and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations.
In this respect it is recognized that:
a) policy authority for Internet-related public policy
issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights
and responsibilities for international Internet-related
public policy issues;
b) the private sector has had and should continue to
have an important role in the development of the Internet,
both in the technical and economic fields;
c) civil society has also played an important role on
Internet matters, especially at community level, and
should continue to play such a role;
d) intergovernmental organizations have had and should
continue to have a facilitating role in the coordination
of Internet-related public policy issues;
e) international organizations have also had and should
continue to have an important role in the development
of Internet-related technical standards and relevant
International Internet governance issues should be addressed
in a coordinated manner. We ask the Secretary-General
of the United Nations to set up a working group on Internet
governance, in an open and inclusive process that ensures
a mechanism for the full and active participation of
governments, the private sector and civil society from
both developing and developed countries, involving relevant
intergovernmental and international organizations and
forums, to investigate and make proposals for action,
as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005.
is perhaps unsurprising that the Economist somewhat
tartly responded that
is wary of a completely intergovernmental approach,
since it might jeopardise the internet's capacity for
free speech and technical innovation. Some of the countries
that want more of a say - China and several Middle East
and African nations - have dubious records on transparency,
human rights and press freedoms. They seek more power
not to preserve the internet's character as an open
medium, but to control it better within their borders.
So although ICANN has many flaws, America is reluctant
to change things too quickly. The business delegation
also expressed its support for the status quo.
of the calls for replacement reflect perceptions that
ICANN has been dominated by commercial interests (in particular
interests from corporations in the OECD states), lacks
legitimacy and is unrepresentative of either the 'internet
community' or the broader population.
The ITU, dominated by governments (and peopled by a narrow
cadre of telecoms bureaucrats with tenure beyond the life
of most elected governments), is perceived to have greater
legitimacy and more responsive to civil society concerns.
It is questionable, however, whether the organisation
would be more transparent or effective. It faces four
key questions -
representative is the ITU
accessible is it
responsive is it
restrictive is it?
next page (the UN,
the GII and cyberspace)