Bali IGF: Surveillance, Human Rights, Governance Of Internet Resources, “Multistakeholderism”

The revelations of mass surveillance by the US and other intelligence services are expected to considerably influence the 8th Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia this week.

There is a fear, said Robert Guerra from the Canadian Citizen Lab, that the surveillance topic will drive other issues and outcomes of the meetings, too. With “Surveillance and Snowden,” the Association for Progressive Communication and Giganet during their Joint Fora on Security, Surveillance and the Militarization of Cyberspace provide for a first showdown on day zero in Bali.

The next meeting of the IGF – which arose from the 2003-2005 UN-led World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) – is being held from 22-25 October.

Many more panels will address the surveillance issue as many are human rights-related. It is not possible to know how much the surveillance topic will displace other topics.

For instance, cyber espionage is a pressing issue, Aaron Shull, counsel and corporate secretary of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), wrote to Intellectual Property Watch. Yet cyber espionage has been one of the most pressing challenges in contemporary international affairs that “continues to fray certain diplomatic relations while holding out the possibility of fragmenting the internet for future users”, Shull said.

Another post-Snowden development is expected to shape the Bali discussion. After the Montevideo declaration by the so-called “I*” organizations (ICANN, IETF, ISOC and the regional internet registries) and an announcement by Brazil and ICANN’s leadership that Brazil will hold an Internet Governance Summit next April, the debate about how to organise the governance of internet core resources is hot again.

The Internet Governance Forum plainly declared “the USG [US government] has lost its chance to lead the transition away from its unilateral oversight of ICANN.“ At the same time, the topic of how multi-stakeholder works – or doesn’t work so well – will be the subject of a considerable number of panels and workshops in Bali.

The wealth of other topics including privacy, open data, net neutrality, better access, access for the disabled, and copyright and intellectual property could take a back seat in this situation. Fair trade and tax issues in the digital sphere are on the IGF agenda for the first time, and has been proposed by participants of the Asia-Pacific IGF. The trade panel can be expected to address “the practical matters of solving legal licensing of ‘intangibles’, intellectual property”, Pindar Wong, chairman of Verifi, a Hong Kong payment applications company wrote to Intellectual Property Watch.

After more than 100 workshops, there will again be the question of tangible results. One of the main focus sessions in fact looks at existing and emerging attempts to codify internet governance principles. The purpose, according to the description, is to discuss the various concepts. The list includes: previous and new initiatives of the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) countries, Principles for Internet Governance by the Council of Europe, the proposal of the dynamic coalition on internet rights and principles, and a Cyber Security Convention, promoted by China.

In the end, the IGF also has to discuss its own future and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) follow-up.