UNESCO releases new publication on advancing multistakeholder participation in Internet governance

02 November 2017

What if all interested stakeholders had a say on how the Internet is governed? And what if we – including governments, the private sector, academia, civil society groups and Internet users – could all define what values, principles and rules should apply online?

Addressing different issues related to Internet governance and multistakeholder participation practices, UNESCO’s new publication What if we all governed the Internet? unpacks assumptions on how the Internet is shaped and stresses the ongoing relevance of involving multiple actors in the development of a collaborative and sustainable Internet.

The study was elaborated in the effort to implement UNESCO’s Internet Universality framework (R.O.A.M.), which advocate for a Human-rights-based, Open and Accessible Internet, governed by Multi-stakeholder participation.  Specifically, it responds to the action recommended by the CONNECTing the Dots Outcome Document that UNESCO “support Member States in ensuring that Internet policy and regulation involves the participation of all stakeholders, and integrates international human rights and gender equality”.

As pointed out by this Study, written by independent expert Anri van der Spuy, our understanding of multistakeholder participation in Internet governance must adapt to meet new challenges as the Internet becomes more central to knowledge societies.

To strengthen UNESCO’s role in the field, this Study provides the results of a comprehensive investigation of the evolution of multistakeholder participation in Internet governance in theory and in practice.

Four good practices are assessed, covering the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), the Marco Civil da Internet, legal challenges in South Korea and the Internet Governance Forum’s “best practice forum on Gender”.

The research finds that there is no unitary “multistakeholder Internet governance” modality but different governance models that often work in relationship to other approaches. But it shows how genuine participatory processes can impact on policy-making mechanisms, legislation and norms in ways that advance human rights online, as well as the Internet’s role in sustainable development.

The study identified those values underpinning multistakeholder mechanisms to be inclusive; diverse; collaborative; transparent; flexible and relevant; private and safe; and accountable. It concludes with certain lessons and recommendations that can strengthen multistakeholder approaches in practice.

This 11th edition is part of the UNESCO publication series on Internet Freedom that started in 2009 and that addresses issues related to the Internet, privacy, encryption, human rights, media and information literacy and journalistic sources. This series aims to provide UNESCO’s Member States and other stakeholders with policy recommendations to foster freedom of expression on the net. UNESCO thanks the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for their support.

UNESCO started to launch and advocate this publication in a number of Internet governance events including at the ICANN Conference in Abu Dhabi 2017 and the forthcoming Internet Governance Forum in Geneva, December 2017.

The publication and a summary information brochure are available at: https://en.unesco.org/unesco-series-on-internet-freedom.