This week an important resolution for the future of online communications came before a United Nations body. Hotly contested and politicised, the fate of the resolution remained on a knife-edge until the last minute. Now that it's all over, the reverberations from this diplomatic battle may affect the future of the Internet for many years to come.
I'm talking about the UN General Assembly's resolution on Information and communications technologies for development (A/C.2/67/L.61). (Why, what did you think I meant?)
The resolution provides that the UN:
20. Invites the Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to establish a working group on enhanced cooperation to examine the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society regarding enhanced cooperation as contained in the Tunis Agenda, through seeking, compiling and reviewing inputs from all Member States and all other stakeholders, and to make recommendations on how to fully implement this mandate; advises the Chair, when convening the working group, to take into consideration the meetings already scheduled on the calendar of the Commission; and also advises that the working group should report to the Commission at its seventeenth session, in 2014, as part of the overall review of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society;
21. Requests the Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to ensure that the working group on enhanced cooperation has balanced representation between Governments from the five regional groups of the Commission, and invitees from all other stakeholders, namely, the private sector, civil society, technical and academic communities, and intergovernmental and international organizations, drawn equally from developing and developed countries;
So this means that for those left struggling for a positive agenda for Internet governance after the battle to keep it out of the grasp of the ITU at WCIT, you now have one: helping the CSTD to craft a participatory, multi-stakeholder model for enhanced cooperation on Internet-related global public policy issues, that will satisfy governments and civil society stakeholders for whom the status quo is not working, without attempting to unseat the powerful private sector and technical community stakeholders (supported by the US government) for whom it is working very nicely thankyou.
Whilst this has been simmering on the agenda for almost a decade, the position that the United States and its supporters took at WCIT, pimping the role of multi-stakeholder governance institutions to deal with Internet-related public policy issues in place of the ITU, makes it more difficult for them to continue to deny the need for an enhanced cooperation process, closely connected with the existing IGF, to address global public policy issues that lie outside the ITU's remit and that do not otherwise have a suitable multi-stakeholder home.
So I see this General Assembly resolution as much more significant, in the long-term, than the frankly rather uninteresting new ITR text over which such a storm was raised at WCIT. Will those who have expended such energies on that battle now embrace the opportunity that the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation offers to put forward a positive agenda for Internet governance?