The World Conference on International Telecommunications wrapped up today. And guess what? Just as I predicted the UN is not taking over the Internet. In fact the word “Internet” never even made into the final text–only in an appendix.
Those warning of a UN internet takeover and malfeasant new rules on Internet never quite understood that treaty negotiations require consensus….and that in order for consensus to be reached radical proposals must be tossed aside. So, Russian and Chinese proposals for greater surveillance would never make it into the final document.
The preamble to the International Telecommunications Regulations enshrines human rights as a guiding principal; Article 1 specifically excludes “content” from the scope of the treaty (obviating concerns about censorship) and inferences to “cyber-security” (which some read as state monitoring) were squashed. Still, it would appear that the mere mention of governments’ role in international Internet governance was a red line for the United States and other western countries which have so far refused to sign text.
This is likely one offending part of the text:
Judging from the statement of the lead US negotiator, it would seem the USA was never prepared to bargain on the idea that the Internet be included in the ITRs in any way, shape or form.
Mr. Chairman, as Head of the U.S. Delegation, I wanted to start out and thank you for your tireless work and leadership. Your personal commitment to a successful outcome here is very impressive. However, I do need to say that it is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it is not able to sign the agreement in the current form.
The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefits during these past 24 years – all without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU treaty that is inconsistent with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. As the ITU has stated, this conference was never meant to focus on internet issues; however, today we are in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on internet governance. These past two weeks, we have of course made good progress and shown a willingness to negotiate on a variety of telecommunications policy issues, such as roaming and settlement rates, but the United States continues to believe that internet policy must be multi-stakeholder driven. Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here.
We live in an interconnected world which is becoming more interconnected with every passing day. We came to this conference with a hope for finding ways to advance our cooperation in the telecommunications arena and continue to believe that’s an important goal. We are disappointed that this conference did not fully provide that opportunity, but remain committed to finding other ways to advance on our shared common goals.
My Chairman I would like to ask that this intervention be entered into the record of the plenary and thank you for your time.
In the end what we have is a document that many Western states are so far refusing to sign. This is reflection of how UN treaty negotiations work. If some countries find part of the text unacceptable, they will not sign on. And because it does not impose external enforcement mechanisms, a treaty that does not have broad global support is by definition a weak treaty.