Q1/2019 - ITU
The 33rd meeting of the CWG WSIS & SDG focused on the continued close interconnection of the WSIS goals of the Tunis Agenda of 2005 and the goals of the Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG) up to the year 2030.
The most important platform of ITU for this interconnection is the WSIS Forum, which has been organised by ITU already since 2010 and supervises the implementation of the so-called WSIS action lines. The WSIS Forum 2019 will take place from 8 to 12 April in Geneva. In recent years, the WSIS Forum has become increasingly similar in form and content to the UN's Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Whereas in the first years the intergovernmental UN organisations ITU, UNESCO and UNDP had quasi imposed the program "from above", for some years now, the WSIS Forum has applied the preparation process of the IGF. With "Public Calls" and "Open Consultations", the WSIS Forum now presents itself more as a bottom-up multi-stakeholder event. The topics are also no longer limited to the WSIS action lines, but cover the broad spectrum of Internet governance topics, too. The 2019 Forum will be held under the heading "Information and Communication Technologies for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals". In 2020, the WSIS Forum shall be linked to a high-level political event (possibly a ministerial conference). This conference will take stock of the WSIS Tunis Agenda 15 years after its adoption (WSIS+15).
Other instruments to strengthen the connection between WSIS and SDG include
- the “WSIS Stocktaking Process” organised by ITU; here, examples are collected of a successful implementation of the Tunis Agenda in individual countries;
- the “WSIS Prize”, an award that is granted to outstanding projects for implementing the Tunis Agenda, and
- the “World Telecommunication and Information Society Day”, which will take place in 2019 under the headline “Bridging the Standardization Gap”.
Additionally, the discussion about the role of UNGIS (United Nations Group on the Information Society), a platform of 31 UN organisations that wants to contribute to the achievement of the Tunis Agenda objectives, was continued. At present, UNGIS is chaired by ITU. Up to now, the Group has generated little effective results. UNGIS and the CWG-WSIS&SDG shall prepare a joint statement to be submitted to the UN High Political Forum (HLPF), an annual event dealing with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2019 Forum will consist of two meetings: The five-day regular meeting will take place in July; an additional summit of heads of states and governments is scheduled for September, on the eve of the 73th session of the UN General Assembly.
Worth to be mentioned is also the fact that the CWG session recommends the secretariat to intensify the cooperation with ICANN, e.g. in relation with the new gTLD program, the use of geographic names in TLDs and the use of names of international organisations in Top Level Domains. For years, the CWG had avoided talking about ICANN. Now it expressly thanks ICANN for supporting the WSIS Forum. The détente between ITU and ICANN, that was already evident at the ITU General Assembly in Dubai in November 2018, obviously continues. This new cooperative spirit is further underpinned by ICANN’s application to become a member of the ITU Development Sector (ITU-D).
The 33rd session of the CWG-WSIS&SDG was chaired by the Russian ITU expert Prof. Vladimir Minkin. The 34th session is scheduled for September 2019 in Geneva.
The 12th session of the CWG-Internet was largely without result.
The CWG-Internet accepted a report by the ITU Secretariat on the activities related to the ITU-PP resolutions 101, 102, 133 and 180 adopted by the recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference of October 2018 in Dubai. These four resolutions deal with various aspects of Internet governance, for instance domain names and IP addresses. However, since only a few months had passed since the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, the report did not contain anything new.
Some member states, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Greta Britain had submitted some proposals for the future work of the CWG Internet, but all of them were rejected.
Particularly disputed was the proposal submitted by the Russian Federation, suggesting that the CWG-Internet should discuss the regulation of OTT services. Russia argues that the lack of international OTT regulation might lead to Internet fragmentation. The majority of the members of the CWG-Internet rejected the proposal. They pointed out that OTT was already being discussed in ITU-T Study Groups (SGs), so that there was no need to open up an additional discussion. Such discussion would only result in redundancies. Nevertheless, the chair of the CWG-Internet invited all ITU members to feed experiences they had made with OTT regulation at the national level into the database “Repository of Experiences and Best Practices in International Internet related Public Policy Issues”, which was managed by ITU.
The CWG-Internet also rejected the second proposal from Russia, “Capacity Building for Internet Governance in Developing Countries”, with the argument that this was outside its sphere of responsibility. Training programs to foster development should be discussed in the ITU-D sector.
Great Britain’s proposal to deal with the by now more than 100 national and regional IGFs was referred to the CWG-WSIS&SDG. The idea of some members to put the controversial issue of “enhanced cooperation”, which had already failed in the UNCSTD, on the agenda of the CWG-Internet was not approved either.
Canada’s proposal to deal with Community Networks in order to improve Internet coverage in underserved areas was also postponed. The issue could not be discussed, so the reasoning, until there was a generally accepted definition for “Community Network”.
Saudi Arabia’s proposal to discuss Artificial Intelligence was rejected on similar grounds as other proposals above: The Study Group 20 of the ITU-T and the AI summit held by ITU since 2017 already deal with the topic.
The members of the CWG-Internet could not reach agreement about the topic for the next Open Consultations, which are scheduled for the eve of the 13th session of the CWG-Internet in October. Now the ITU Council shall decide on this at its next session in May 2019 in Geneva.