Q4/2018 - BRICS

BRICS Informal Summit in the margins of the G20 Meeting

In the margins of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, the Heads of State and Government of the five BRICS countries held a separate informal meeting on 30 November 2018. In the media statement published afterwards, the five countries support a strengthened multilateralism. The 13 items listed in the document deal primarily with economic issues. The paper requests a “rules-based multilateral trading system” and underlines the importance of the WTO, also for settling trade disputes. It further supports the Paris Agreement on climate change, stabilisation of the international financial system and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN (SDGs). The issue of cyber security, which was discussed at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018, was not followed up on. However, digitalisation was covered by acknowledging the efforts South Africa had made to establish the “BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution” (PARTNIR) as decided in Johannesburg in July 2018. 

BRICS Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution

In July 2018, the Heads of State and Government of the BRICS countries had resolved to found a “BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution” (PARTNIR) that was to deal with the impacts of digitalisation on society, the private and the political sector. The founding event was held on 6 December 2018 in Johannesburg. Ilse Karg, Chief Director at the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa, said in her keynote address that the initiative was particularly aimed at young people and at enabling them to cope with the consequences of the information revolution as well as on shaping the future with due account to the interests of the developing countries. It remains to be seen, what will be the mandate of PARTNIR and which resources will be made available to the initiative, if and how it will extend beyond Africa and if all five BRICS countries will pull in the same direction. The Chinese enterprise Huawei has already announced that is going to take a leading role. The concept behind the initiative is compatible with the goals of the “Digital Silk Road” project that has been launched by the Chinese government. US national security advisor John Bolton also appreciated the establishment of PARTNIR at the founding event. The US government under President Trump has adopted a “Prosper Africa“ program in October 2018, which is designed to foster investments of the US in the digital economy of Africa.

World Internet Conference

The Wuzhen World Internet Conference (WIC) organised by the Chinese government was held already for the fifth time from 7 to 9 November. The conference is arranged by the Cyber Administration of China (CAC). CAC is an organisation superordinate to the individual ministries of the Chinese government. As a coordination body, it reports directly to the President of China and the Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party.

  1. The conference was attended by 1,500 industry experts from 76 countries. In contrast to recent years, only a few high-ranking foreign personalities from politics and business visited the WIC 2018, which presented itself more as a showcase of the latest developments in the Chinese Internet economy than as a forum for discussing international political Internet issues.
  2. CAC has compiled two documents: a report on the evolution of the Internet in China and a report on the evolution of the Internet worldwide. The World Internet Development Report was submitted to the High Level Advisory Committee (HAC), which was established three years ago and is composed of more than 30 renowned representatives from about 20 countries. The HAC principally agreed to the CAC report (rough consensus), but the amendments suggested by its members were only marginal. The proposal by Paul Wilson, HAC member and CEO of APNIC, the RIR of Asia Pacific, to initially discuss the report at the conference and to then revise it on the basis of the discussion results was rejected. The HAC does not really have an operational function but serves primarily to legitimise the decisions of the CAC on the international stage. The positions of co-chairs at HAC are still held by Jack Ma of Alibaba and Fadi Chehadé as a representative of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
  3. The World Internet Development Report is composed of five units containing rather insignificant and undisputed statements on the development of the Internet. Critical terms, such as censorship, human rights or references to ICANN are avoided. Some wordings, however, in particular the section on “innovation” in the current global Internet ecosystem, can be interpreted in different ways and conceal existing conflicts when it comes to a global Internet policy.
    1. The report finds that the Internet world is approaching a new transformation phase that is triggered primarily by new technological developments, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. It requests to make all efforts to overcome the digital divide and presents the digital economy as the key to global growth, which must not be impeded by protectionist measures. The report postulates a “positive cultural environment in cyberspace for Internet users and the young generation”.
    2. Internet technology may be misused for terrorist action and endanger peace. The cyber sovereignty of states must be strengthened. Cooperation between states should take place primarily within the framework of the United Nations. Time was ripe “for new global rules and norms for cyberspace, while respecting nations’ sovereignty”.
    3. The WSIS Tunis Agenda and the IGF are praised to be – like the Wuzhen Conference – a “global platform for communication on bridging the digital divide, pooling wisdom, promoting mutual trust and improving the Internet Governance system shared and governed by all.” However, “anti-globalisation trends” undermined the current Internet governance system’s trustworthiness, and it was now necessary “to promote Innovation in the international cyberspace governance domain to improve the global Internet governance process to reach a new stage.

Russian Law on Governance of Infrastructure in Cyberspace

In December 2018, new bills on Internet development were introduced at the Russian parliament. The bills, which were submitted by Andrei Klishas, Lyudmila Bokova and Andrey Lugovoy, propose precautions that could be taken in case Russia was cut off from the global Internet and the Domain Name System (DNS) governed by ICAAN due to sanctions of the West.

  1. In autumn 2017, Russian President Putin had requested the national Security Council of Russia to develop an alternative solution for an Internet independent of the USA and ICANN and an alternative root server system for the BRICS countries. The new bill is a step in this direction; many concrete technical questions remain, however, unsolved. The new bill was said to be a reaction to the “National Cyber Strategy” approved by the USA in September 2018, which is perceived as a threat in Russia.
  2. The law is designed to create an infrastructure that will ensure secure Internet communication in Russia in case Russia is disconnected from the global Internet. A so-called “Center for Monitoring and Managing Public Communication Networks” is planned to be established. The new institution will be part of Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media that reports to the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation. Many details of the new law are not yet clearly defined, such as the impact it is going to have on the way the Russian ccTLDs and gTLDs (.ru and .moscow and their Cyrillic equivalents) are currently managed.
  3. Representatives of the Russian government play down the significance of the law and present it to the public as a kind of emergency law for a situation that will probably never occur. Russia’s Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communication and Mass Communication, Oleg Ivanov, said for instance: “It definitely cannot be done within a year, it would take several. We need to look into it in detail, when such a system is engineered. Then we can talk about a realistic timeframe.” Andrey Lugovoy declared: “We're not creating our own internet. We're just setting up a backup infrastructure. We’re duplicating it locally, so that our citizens would have access to the internet in case of any emergency”. And Alexander Pankov, Deputy Head of Roskomnadzor, said according to TASS: "The network is intertwined; this is not a trivial task to cut us from the whole world. As far as I understand, the point is that our communication network and the Russian internet should remain operable in case of certain purposeful impacts of negative nature on networks”. But some commentators suspect that the new law is targeted rather to economical than political aims and to getting control over resources that are assumed to be highly profitable in the future.
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