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U.N. Conference Slyly Introduces Resolution to Gain Control of Internet—in Middle of Night

10:48 PM, Dec 12, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In the middle of the night at a U.N. conference in Dubai, the presiding chairman of the International Telecommunication Union conference surveyed the assembled countries to see whether there was interest in having greater involvement in the U.N. governing the Internet. A majority of countries gave their approval.

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With a sufficient majority supporting the U.N. becoming more active in controlling the Internet, the chairman put forth a resolution. The chairman, though, insisted the survey "was not a vote."

The resolution was supported by Cuba, Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia; the United States opposed it.

The proposed resolution resolves that the secretary general of the U.N. "continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet," according to a draft of the text. 

"While it is our understanding that the resolutions made at the WCIT are non-binding, the Secretary-General might treat them as binding, which effectively creates a dangerous mandate for the ITU to continue to hold discussions about internet policy into the future," accessnow.org writes, responding to this proposed text. 

The pro-digital freedom blog writes, "Further, although minor in scale compared to the impact that defining internet in the ITRs and giving control of it to member states, as Russia proposed, this resolution problematically opens the door to further debate over internet policymaking within ITU fora, and away from multi-stakeholder bodies. As Access has made clear, the ITU is government-centric, lacks transparency, excludes key stakeholders including civil society, and fails to promote a multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance that was embraced by the world's governments at the 2005 World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). And in a similar vain as this resolution’s recognition of the WSIS Outcome Documents and Tunis Agenda before it, future ITU documents will undoubtedly cite to this resolution as approving the ITU as a forum for discussing internet governance and justifying a further expansion of its role."

The preliminary draft resolution also states, "To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet ... that, as stated in the WSIS outcomes, all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the existing Internet and its future development and of the future internet, and that the need for development of public policy by governments I consultation with all stakeholders is also recognized."

Accessnow.org explains the concern with this article:

it gives governments primacy in the development of internet-related public policy, which is contrary to Paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda – a provision cited twice in this resolution. Provision e’s wording could also be read to give preference to discussing internet policy in UN fora, because these are the only institutions that explicitly give “all governments... an equal role and responsibility...”

Provision a of the resolution further invites Member States to discuss internet policy issues in other ITU fora. While this provision is caveated to only refer to internet-related issues that are within the ITU’s mandate, which lessens the impact somewhat, Access does not believe that the ITU is an appropriate institution to discuss internet policy.

Given the shady nature of the middle-of-the-night introduction of the resolution, it's unclear how ITU conference will proceed. 

Nevertheless, they are expected to meet again early Thursday morning (local time), and will need to have the resolution finalized, if they decide to go further, before the conference concludes on Friday.

Here's the full text of the proposed resolution:

PRELIMINARY DRAFT NEW RESOLUTION
To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet

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