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Home  > International Relations  > News  > Meeting of the High Level Group on Internet Governance (May 2009)

Meeting of the High Level Group on Internet Governance (May 2009)

 - 07/05/2009

Internet Governance logo, High Level Group (HLIG) The High Level Group on Internet Governance (HLIG), an informal group of experts who advise the European Commission, met in Brussels on 7th May 2009.

The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the European Union (EU) and European Commission positions on the development of the ICANN – Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, the HLIG contribution to the Notice of Inquiry by the US Department of Commerce entitled “The Continued Transition of the Technical Coordination and Management of the Internet's Domain Name and Addressing System: Midterm Review of the Joint Project Agreement”, the developments addressed at the last meeting of the GAC – ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee which took place at the time of the 34th Meeting of the ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Presidency report on the IGF – Internet Governance Forum, preparation for the IGF 2009 Public Multi-stakeholder Consultations which will be held in May 2009 and the European Commission report on the adoption of DNSSec.

Portugal was represented at the meeting by Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), in the person of its President, Luis Magalhães, and by the Head of International Relations, Ana Cristina Neves.

The background context for the meeting was the contributions from the Hearing on Internet Governance Arrangements, which took place the previous day, 6th May 2009.

A significant part of the meeting was given over to criticisms of the weekly video message from the European Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, on Internet Governance which was released on 4th May 2009.

Several participants indicated that the opinions the Commissioner voiced damage the EU as they put across a detrimental perception of the European position on Internet governance issues. In actual fact, these opinions were even disseminated in the US press as proof of a clash between the EU position and that of the USA in this subject, which unfortunately came at a time of major controversy in this country regarding control of the Internet and in a context that may render the desired evolution in its governance more difficult.

The Portuguese delegation contributed to the debate with the following points in particular:

  • Internet governance is a multidimensional activity requiring differing organisational forms and cannot be restricted to just one organisational model. It involves diverse aspects such as general Internet governance policies, security and stability, privacy, content, DNS management, standards, regulation, spectrum management, and others.

    Given this backdrop, it is erroneous to consider ICANN as the main player in Internet governance decision making, seeing as how its activities are restricted to DNS management, a limited component in the context of Internet governance.
  • In many of its activities, Internet governance requires open multi-stakeholder participation mechanisms in a global context as organisational forms that are adapted to the nature of global reach open communication networks as is the case with the Internet itself, in contrast to the Weberian hierarchical organisational structure of conventional multi-governmental organisations.

    In terms of living examples of organisations that operate with open multi-stakeholder participation mechanisms, we have the ICANN and the IGF, both of which have achieved noteworthy successes with this innovative organisational form.

    It is essential the unique contributions and successes of the IGF and the ICANN are recognised. As with any other innovative activity, there is still considerable room for improvement, yet they are clearly on the right track and have the best setup available when compared to other existing organisations, meaning that these organisations need to evolve rather than undergo the disruptive creation of new organisational frameworks.

    In particular, there is no need for a new forum for governments to discuss general Internet governance issues, as the best idea would be to bolster the IGF for this purpose and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process in general.
  • The ICANN framework will probably be significantly altered in September of this year with the termination of the JPA Joint Project Agreement between the US government’s Department of Commerce and the ICANN. This development is a positive one as it concludes a singular relationship between one country and the ICANN, yet it should remain clear that this should not be replaced in the future framework by a special relationship with another country, group of countries or multi-governmental organisation. Additionally, the ICANN should be shored up as an international organisation dedicated to DNS management by strengthening its operational bodies and representation of the different multi-stakeholders.

    It would be desirable to set up a framework for as broad as possible straightforward participation of government representatives in the ICANN itself. The EU should advocate the fact that Internet governance requires a solid global multi-stakeholder participation base that is broadly inclusive in terms of developed and developing countries, and should not focus on the involvement of a limited group of countries (especially of the G12 ilk as Commissioner Reding suggested in her weekly video message), or any other restrictive/or elitist grouping.  
Last updated ( 16/07/2010 )