Reflections on Geneva

by Nigel Hickson on May 24, 2013

I had the privilege to attend the ITU’s World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) last week in Geneva alongside Fadi, Tarek Kamel, Steve Crocker and other Board members. Apart from the rain, it was a very good week!

As followers of the Internet Governance agenda can appreciate, there was some trepidation in the lead up to this meeting given the issues that arose at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) last December in Dubai and the fact that this event, unlike the WCIT, was actually supposed to be discussing IG issues! Would the WTPF, as some speculated, opine that governance of the Internet was the sole preserve of governments or that IP addressing should be in the hands of the ITU?

In fact, the outcome for those of us dedicated to, and passionate about, the multi-stakeholder approach was very reassuring. The six official Opinions adopted on such issues as Broadband, Internet Connectivity, Ipv6 transition and Enhanced Cooperation were very positive and really do acknowledge the fact that all parts of the community have a contribution to make to the development and governance of the Internet. You can read the WTPF results here.

Just as important as the outcome of the WTPF was the process that led up to it and how business was conducted in Geneva.

For the former, we had, in contrast to many multilateral meetings, a true multi-stakeholder process with governments, businesses, civil society and the technical community sitting alongside each other and contributing equally to the process of drafting these Opinions. As with ICANN, a sometimes messy process but one that secures real buy-in.

For the latter, the atmosphere in Geneva was excellent; set in tone by eloquent opening addresses by Fadi recalling, not least, how ICANN is evolving to meet global challenges, and Hamoudin Touré, the ITU Secretary General who, in emphasizing the need for us all to work peacefully, donned a blue helmet! But the tone also was set through a process where we all had a chance to contribute. True, we do not all agree with each other. That would be unnatural and rather boring. But we did show how through cooperation we could secure progress in ensuring global recognition of this social and economic transforming phenomenon.

And that was just the WTPF! It would not surprise anyone to learn that Fadi, Steve and others from the Board and Staff conducted over 20 bilateral meetings; took part in a briefing session with the WTO, had an excellent dialogue with Hamadoun Touré, and still had time to pose for a few photos.

What next? No rest for the wicked with further dialogue on Internet Governance issues coming up in the context of a UN Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation – basically how governments can properly engage in the context of their public policy role – and then the ITU Developmental Conference and the WSIS Review Sessions early in 2014.

There is plenty of work for the whole Community to do.

Left to right: Tarek Kamel, Fadi Chehadé, ITU Secretary
General Hamadoun Touré, Steve Crocker, Nigel Hickson

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