Nigel Hickson nigel.hickson at icann.org
Sun Feb 4 23:17:43 UTC 2018

Dear Colleagues 


Good evening 


The below is a note I penned of the proceedings last week in Geneva.  There are already quite a few postings about this meeting on various sites.  There were others in the CCWG at the meeting, such as Marilyn Cade, and thus this is only a personal contribution; there will no doubt be more authorative accounts. 


In due course the transcripts of each day will be on http://unctad.org/en/pages/MeetingDetails.aspx?meetingid=1613


The different contributions for the work of the Group; including proposals for a UN mechanism from Russia Saudi Arabia are also at 




The twitter feed from meeting was at #WGEC.  















This multistakeholder working group (see below for composition) was established by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 (during the WSIS+10 Review discussions) to come forward with Recommendations on Enhanced Cooperation by the CSTD Plenary in May 2018.  The Working Group met five times, starting in September 2016 and concluding its deliberations early on 1st February 2018.  The Working Group was unable, due to lack of consensus, to adopt a Report and thus the Chair will provide his own summary of proceedings to the CSTD Plenary which meets in the middle of May.   ICANN, were a member of the Technical Community membership of the Working Group.


The failure to produce a consensus Report (which was not a surprise given the failure of the previous WG on the same issue in 2014) was essentially down to how the Report should reflect the keen desire of a number of Governments, and some in civil society, for a new UN mechanism, essentially a UN Committee, to develop Internet governance policies. Such a Recommendation was opposed by many other countries, as well as businesses and the Technical Community, and, despite best endeavours, the Working Group was unable to find a way of dealing with this fundamental difference of view on the face of the Report.  Both “sides” showed flexibility but in the end, despite numerous drafts from the Chair, and a good deal of compromising, the ask from two or three governments was just too much for the rest of the Working Group.


The outcome is clearly a disappointment, especially as we were so near at one point last night to an agreement, but the members remained cordial and courteous to each other, with many heartfelt statements of thanks for the hard work of all, and especially for Ambassador Benidicto from Brazil.  ICANN, along with a number of governments and with Business members (including Marilyn Cade) and some in civil society played a positive role in trying to identify solutions.  In addition, ICANN were thanked at the end of the session for providing transcription services for all the WG meetings.  


Looking ahead, the failure to agree a Report may have a number of ramifications.  It will, for example make the annual WSIS Resolution for UN ECOSOC that is negotiated at the CSTD Plenary (taking place in Geneva from 15-18 May) difficult, with some governments no doubt pushing for it to call directly for a UNGA debate on Enhanced Cooperation.  It may also lead to a more fractured debate at the ITU Plenipotentiary in November on the need for multilateral treatment of Internet public policy issues (including the DNS). While having an agreed Report would not have prevented such dialogue (in all likelihood), it would have allowed the “allies” to argue that this debate had been, to an extent, concluded in the Working Group. Finally, the failure will, no doubt, be used by some to argue (despite the IANA Transition etc.) that multistakeholder processes are incapable of resolving high level policy issues.





1.  Background


The notion of Enhanced Cooperation is a throwback, so to speak, from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the resultant Tunis Agenda (https://www.itu.int/net/wsis/outcome/booklet/tunis-agenda_C.html); where paragraphs 69 and 71 envisaged some sort of process under which governments could better carry out their role (also delineated under Tunis) with respect to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet. Since the adoption of the Agenda in 2015 some governments (led consistently by Saudi Arabia) have been pushing the UN to “operationalize” Enhanced Cooperation through a mechanism at the UN.  Others (including US and Europe) argue that Enhanced Cooperation is a process that is, already, underway, for example at ICANN, an argument not accepted by Saudi.  


In response to the pressure the UN in 2012 established a Working Group (under CSTD and with Peter Major from Hungary in the Chair) to make Recommendations concerning Enhanced Cooperation and how it might be taken forward.  This multistakeholder Group (on which ICANN were also members), again - despite best efforts of all involved - failed to reach any agreements or a Report. Seehttp://unctad.org/en/Pages/CSTD/WGEC-2013-to-2014.aspx for further details.



In 2015 the UN General Assembly undertook a comprehensive review of the 10-year implementation of the WSIS.  In the outcome document of that review, General Assembly resolution 70/125 of 16 December 2015 requested the Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) to establish anew Working Group to develop recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation as envisioned in the Tunis Agenda, taking into consideration the work that had been done on the matter thus far. Pursuant to this request, the Chair established the Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation on 2 May 2016.


2. Meetings and Process


The Working Group, after consultation by CSTD during 2016, was established and held its first meeting in September 2016.  Ambassador Fonseca (Brazil) was invited to Chair the group along with member States (who were currently serving as members of CSTD) and 20 stakeholders proposed by their constituency groups. A full list of the participants is at



The Group met on five occasions (In Geneva) to pursue its mandate, namely to articulate and agree Recommendations in a Report to CSTD in May 2018. The Chairman invited contributions from members (and the wider public) and in total some 50 or so contributions were made.  These were all discussed and those parts receiving most support were framed into the draft Report which was circulated to members (and published on the CSTD website) towards the end of last year. The Report is at http://unctad.org/meetings/en/SessionalDocuments/WGEC2016-18_m5_DraftReport_InitialProposal.pdf.  While the Report does not, as such touch on the DNS, there were several proposals made relating to ICANN, the work of the GAC and on cc TLDs.  These were all from Richard Hill (civil society).   ICANN’s own contribution related to the characteristics of cooperation processes, under which public policy is developed, and thus informed, to an extent, the drafting of paragraph 1 and 2 of the Recommendation.


The meeting last week concentrated on the draft Report taking into account further proposals and edits.  While it was a closed meeting there was a twitter feed (at #WGEC) and the transcripts (of each day) will be made public in du course.  


3.  Substantive Differences at Meeting


As alluded to above, while the Chair’s Report only listed in the Recommendations issues on which, in the main, there had been general agreement, it was not surprising that those wanting a new UN mechanism wanted the Report to record their views.  Some governments were initially opposed to this but did, during the three days, agree to a section of the Report that, in some detail, articulated the arguments for and against a new UN mechanism. In turn a Recommendation, which many of us had opposed concerning a mandate to the UNGA for an annual discussion on Enhanced Cooperation, was dropped.  This formulation had some traction during the last evening but was then scuppered by one government demanding a culling of at least half the Recommendations, including those endorsing the need for full participation of stakeholders in public policy processes. A compromise was crafted to reflect the desire for a continued dialogue on Enhanced Cooperation (including the use of CSTD to monitor the implementation of the Recommendations) and again just before midnight it appeared an agreement was in site, only to be dashed again by more demands for new text from a couple of governments   



4. Wider implications and Next Steps


While it may be somewhat premature to speculate on the wider implications for the failure of the Working Group, it would be surprising if this failure was the end of the matter……The hook in the Tunis Agenda (paragraph 71) to text which talks about new processes in the UN will, one would have thought, continue to be used by those that advocate a primarily multilateral forum for Internet policy issues.  It is likely, as noted above, that we will see the same arguments made at the ITU PP-18 in July for perhaps UN frameworks on Cybersecurity and privacy.  There are also upcoming discussions in the UN Committees in New York, for example on Cybersecuirty (as Veni Markovski has highlighted) where some governments may argue that a failure to agree a Report in a multistakeholder environment is further evidence on the need for multilateral solutions. 


While some of these possible deliberations (whether at UN or ITU) may not affect ICANN and the DNS itself they could have longer term implications for the role of governments within multistakeholder environments. One government made it clear, during one of the long debates, that while they fully respect paragraph 69 of the Tunis Agenda, concerning technical operations on the Internet, this does not extend to governments deliberating on public policy issues (such as say on GDPR) in ICANN or elsewhere.  




ICANN; 4/2




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