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Turning Talk Into Action After NETmundial

1 May 2014
By Fadi Chehadé


NETmundial was an exhilarating and unique experience, with its spirited and passionate discussions about principles for how together we should govern the Internet in the future. Many people remarked on how refreshing it was to see governments lining up at microphones to speak alongside members of civil society and the technical and business communities. And we went beyond discussion to produce a bottom-up outcome document with equal participation by all stakeholders. Everyone’s willingness to participate in this process demonstrated to me and my fellow co-chairs, as well as most of the attendees, that the stakeholders from different sectors are indeed able to collaborate and produce real-world results.

So the next question is, how do we turn all of those words into action? How do we operationalize the hard-fought roadmap and principles we collaboratively developed?

First, we should recognize that the roadmap and principles form a starting point from which we can work together. I encourage all of us to shed the labels that confine us into different interest groups and models. Instead, let us focus on the mechanisms and processes we need to strengthen or create to manage this valuable resource for the greater good, and on how we can be even more inclusive. We do this – not for one country or one organization – but for the Internet end-user. And we are all the Internet end-user.

With the publication of the historic Multistakeholder Statement of São Paulo, we must now breathe life into these words. I understand that not everyone agrees with every word or concept in the statement. Consensus building and the NETmundial collaborative approach are processes that require enormous effort. But I urge everyone to continue with us on this journey and help us build an Internet for everyone. Let us work in the spirit of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”

One discussion that arose at NETmundial was the community process for transitioning the stewardship of the IANA functions from the U.S. government to the global multistakeholder community. Although the purpose of NETmundial was to focus more broadly on the principles and roadmap for governing the Internet in the future, it was natural that many stakeholders had questions about how this transition would be managed and what the next phase would look like.

ICANN is currently proceeding with two inter-related dialogues. The first is a public dialogue on what the mechanism for replacing the U.S. government’s stewardship should look like. This will be a public dialogue held in various venues across the global Internet community with a goal of developing the transition proposal requested by the U.S. government. Our first dialogue was held during ICANN 49 in Singapore; our second was during NETmundial. These are just the beginning of dialogues that will take place not just at ICANN meetings, but across the world and beyond ICANN.

The second open dialogue is related to ICANN’s overall accountability to the global ICANN community, and this dialogue will mainly occur in the ICANN community while open to all. It will look at strengthening existing accountability mechanisms like the Affirmation of Commitments, and ICANN’s redress mechanisms, as well as exploring new accountability mechanisms where necessary.

Back to the broader Internet governance agenda….there is a lot of work to do. As many participants pointed out, two-thirds of the world’s population are not even online yet! With so many big issues like access to tackle, each of us must look into our hearts and determine where we must focus our efforts. And then, we must focus on turning our words into action, and not just identify issues but map those issues to solutions. A next step will occur in Dubai in early May, when the High-Level Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms, chaired by the President Toomas Ilves of Estonia and vice-chaired by Vint Cerf, will meet for the third and last time to finalize their document. The document is scheduled for publication by the end of May. Further down the road will be ICANN’s 50th public meeting in London, and the Internet Governance Forum meeting in Istanbul in September. Both will tackle many of the questions raised at NETmundial.

I am personally ready to work tirelessly on coalescing governments, private sector and civil society to operationalize the NETmundial roadmap. An alliance or a coalition, fueled by the unforgettable spirit of NETmundial, and united by its principles, should without delay focus on the practical implementation of the NETmundial roadmap elements, specifically:

  • Enable innovative and practical mechanisms to map Internet Governance issues to existing solutions. Where no solution is available, the mechanisms should dynamically fuse institutions and experts to address the issue effectively with participation from all stakeholders.
  • Support the establishment of national Internet governance structures, enabling collaboration between government, private sector, and civil society members to produce local policy models/recommendations and best practices.
  • Empower participants from governments, private sector and civil society -especially in developing regions – to actively engage in the distributed Internet governance ecosystem. The empowerment should come in the form of effective training, tools, and ready access to expertise.

As I commented during one of the sessions at NETmundial, there is something in the Brazilian or Latin American wind that energized our discussions here over two days. Participants talked about the pervasive spirit of cooperation and collaboration – a willingness to listen to one another’s points of views and to try to find common ground. I hope that spirit continues in the months to come as we continue on this journey to evolved Internet governance together.


Fadi Chehadé

Former President & CEO