[At-Large] Multistakeholderism Explained (was Re: ICANN75: Mandatory Funded Traveler Registration for Roberto Gaetano)

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Mon Aug 1 21:21:25 UTC 2022

Hi Wolfgang,

I was at the WSIS conference in Geneva -- in fact I led a 21-person
delegation (page 155 of the list of participants
<https://www.itu.int/net/wsis/docs/geneva/summit_participants.pdf>) -- and
we were involved in some of the prepcoms.

I saw first-hand how that process SHAFTED the public interest and bestow on
it zero trust.

My community was advancing the use of open source software in
infrastructure, the benefits of which were self-evident -- especially on
projects funded by the public sector. Indeed it was exhilarating to see
governments advance this in advance. However, relentless pressure from
industry groups led to what I had learned later was called "death by the
square brackets". Original text promoting open source was  reduced to
"[promoting open source]" in later drafts, to "[use open source]", to
"[consider open source]" and eventually to the point where any references
to "open source" were COMPLETELY removed from later texts
We didn't even bother going to Tunis, we'd seen the whole process as a sham
by then.

As Antony's description describes, in-group politics worked to the benefit
of the vested interests. In our case, the Civil Society delegation screwed
-- my group dissented from its communique -- but it's not a stretch to
assert that the dysfunction was by design.

Now, here we are in 2022 and both governments and large corporations are
creating Open Source Program Offices
<https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/collection/ec-ospo>. But WSIS actually
retarded this process by nearly two decades, never even suggesting
consideration of a technology model that some now call essential.

So ... from my corner of the world ... screw WSIS. Regardless of the
rhetoric, it provided few practical steps forward and some steps back. (Our
silver lining was the adjacent ICT4D show where we gave away more than
10,000 Linux CDs to attendees regardless of what WSiS told them to ignore.)

I'll happily agree with you that the closest that MSM has ever come to
actually serving the public interest was at Netmundial -- a shining moment
of clarity and maybe even mutual goodwill. So how has THAT model progressed
or been adopted in its eight years of life? Multiple experiences have
demonstrated that the greed and entitlement of the vested interests would
never let real benefits of theoretical MSM happen, and they have been
willing to risk the entire experiment just to keep the status quo in place.

Have they bet correctly?

- Evan

On Thu, Jul 28, 2022 at 6:17 AM Wolfgang Kleinwächter via At-Large <
at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org> wrote:

> Hi,
> good discussion. The concept of "Multistakeholderism" has many dimensions,
> different sources and can be seen primarily as a political experiment in
> new social territories to promote the concept of "sharing" in policy
> development and decision making which goes beyond the concept of the
> "representative democarcy" (and far beyond the concept of "autocracy").
> One practical (political) source for the multistakeholder approach in the
> governance of the Internet was the UN World Summit on the Information
> Society (WSIS), 2002 - 2005. During the first WSIS phase (2002 - 2003)
> there was a political US-China conflict around Internet Governance. The US
> wanted to have "private sector leadership", China "governmental
> leadership". China argued, that "self-regulation (and private sector
> leadership) was good for one million Internet user. But for one billion
> users governments have to step in. US argued, if it isn´t broken, don´t fix
> it. There was no agreement among the two governments, Kofi Annan
> established the (multistakeholder) UN Working Group of Internet Governance
> (WGIG) and the WGIG concluded (after two years of intensive discussions)
> that the Internet doesn´t need a leader, but the collaboration of all
> stakeholders, which included "sharing of decision making procedures". The
> WGIG-definition included, that stakeholders has to be involved "in their
> respective roles", but the idea, to add "on equal footing" did not get
> enough support among the WGIG members. The proposed "WGIG Definition" made
> its way into the Tunis Agenda (November 2005). Governments in Tunis didn´t
> have any better idea. But it was a compromise, embedded into other
> paragraphs of the Tunis Agenda, including the recognition of "national
> sovereignty" for ccTLDs and the leading role of governments with regard to
> "Internet related public policy issues". Technical community got the lead
> in the "day-to-day-operations", but it was unclear, what the borderline
> between "Internet related public policy issues" and "day-to-day operations"
> was. The WGIG-definition differentiated also between the "development" and
> the "use" of the Internet. This differentiation produced the concept of
> "governance OF the Internet" and "governance ON the Internet". It was
> expected that the IGF will help to deepen the understanding about the
> multistakeholder approach. The IGF was helpful indeed, but it is neither a
> decision making body nor a think tank. Also the related process of
> "enhanced cooperation", which was aimed to clarify some of the open issues,
> didn´t produce anything, regardless of the work of two UNCTD Working Groups
> (WGEC I & II) in the 2010s. The best description of what the
> multistakeholder approach is (or should be) can be found in the "Net
> Mundial Declaration" from Sao Paulo (April 2014), which "defines" clear
> criteria as bottom up policy development, inclusivity, equality, access,
> transparency, accountability, openess, agility, decentralization etc. This
> is a good list of you want to "measure" the temparature of a
> multistakeholder process,
> Theoretically, the multistakeholder approach was interpreted as an
> advanced model for a "participatory democracy" (or "liquid democracy"),
> where the "people themselves", that is the concerned and affected groups,
> participate on equal footing in policy development and decision making.
> This was inspired to a high degree by the RFC processes, established by the
> IETF already in the 1980s and 1990s, long before ICANN was established.
> Remember David Clark (1992): “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We
> believe in: *rough consensus* and *running code."* It was "rough
> conesnsus", not conseus. The ability to compromise and the will to share
> ressorces and decision making - based on trusted relationships among
> stakeholders - was the basis of such a concept. "Participatory Democracy"
> in this understanding was not aimed to substitute the "Representative
> Democracy". It was seen as an enhancement of the established procedures to
> solve problems in areas, where the "representative democracy" has its
> limits and restrictions. MultistakehoIderism was seen also as different
> from "public-private partnership", which excludes to a high degree civil
> society (and the technical community) from policy development and decision
> making. The argument was, if "big government" and "big business" will go
> together, this will lead to "tyranny" of the powerful". Civil society is
> needed to balance the conflicting interests and to block the misuse of
> political and economic power against citizens and users.  With other words,
> the multistakeholder approach does only work with a strong civil society.
> This was the theory. Illusion? Utopia? What we see today is, that the
> concept is used/misused intentionally by groups (including governments) to
> promote their own interests."Balancing" or "Sharing" is not the main
> driving force, if new legislation or new services are introduced. The
> Chinese government supports the multistakehooder approach, but it is
> "multistakehoderism" under the leadership of the Communist Party. The EU
> supports multistakeholderism, but it is MS under the leadership of the EU
> Commission. Even in the US there is a lot of lip service. The "Declaration
> of the Future of the Internet" (April 2022) supports the Multistakeholder
> approach to Internet Governance, but the text was produced by the "White
> House" in consultation with some (mainly European) governments alone. No
> multistakeholder discussioon and no public comment period. Civil society
> was sidelined.
> With other words, the 2020s see the "back-swinging of the pendelum". Is
> the US "Council of Foreign Rerlations" right, if it states that "the era of
> the global Internet is over" (July 2022)? What next? Do we have "re-invent"
> the wheel for the "Post Internet Era"? Do we need MS for AI Governance,
> Blockchain Governance, W3 Governance?
> I would recommend to be prepared for WSIS+20.It will start soon. Be
> engaged in the drafting of the Global Digital Compact (GDC). Comments are
> welcome by the UN until September 30, 2022.
> Wolfgang
> Barry Shein via At-Large <at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org> hat am
> 28.07.2022 08:02 CEST geschrieben:
> The Criticism section for the wikipedia page on
> Multistakeholder_governance:
> https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Multistakeholder_governance
> Was removed on 5 March 2017 due to lack of sources and other complaints.
> What it said was (from the 22 November 2016 version):
> Criticism
> Criticism of multistakeholderism comes from Paul R. Lehto,
> J.D.[citation needed], who fears that in multistakeholderism, those
> who would be lobbyists become legislators, and nobody else has a
> vote. Lehto states that "In a democracy, it is a scandal when
> lobbyists have so much influence that they write the drafts of
> laws. But in multistakeholder situations they take that scandal to a
> whole new level: those who would be lobbyists in a democracy
> (corporations, experts, civil society) become the legislators
> themselves, and dispense with all public elections and not only
> write the laws but pass them, enforce them, and in some cases even
> set up courts of arbitration that are usually conditioned on waiving
> the right to go to the court system set up by democracies. A vote is
> just a minimum requirement of justice. Without a vote, law is just
> force inflicted by the wealthy and powerful. Multistakeholderism is
> a coup d’etat against democracy by those who would merely be
> lobbyists in a democratic system.
> The important thought can be summed up (by me) as:
> In a multistakeholder system you dispense with legislators as
> targets for influence by interested lobbyists and just let the
> lobbyists be the legislators.
> I think there are uses for multistakeholderism*.
> I'm not convinced it was a good idea for ICANN.
> My impression is it was a popular buzzword at the time and it
> afforded, as above, governance primarily by interested parties.
> That said, I am not an expert in governance models.
> I've chatted about this with people who are and have come to respect
> that it's an area of expertise.
> It would be interesting to hear from such experts vis a vis ICANN.
> It's not that interesting to hear from people who aren't experts other
> than their subsequent reaction to the advice of such experts which
> would be important since they would become the governed.
> How might this change?
> The problem, if it is a problem, is that those with the power to force
> change (e.g., govts or similar) are probably pretty happy that someone
> else (i.e., ICANN) worries about this remit.
> The net runs pretty well even if there are complaints, scandals have
> been relatively minor and have been handled internally, so why upend
> their system? The devil you know versus the devil you don't.
> Put another way I think one needs something more than "it doesn't seem
> fair or democratic" or "some decisions I would have done differently".
> * Perhaps for example some public relations council for the dairy
> industry so interested parties can decide how the budget is spent. Or
> a medical licensing organization where decisions to remove a doctor's
> license can only be fairly made by a group of MDs who understand the
> issues.
> --
> -Barry Shein
> Software Tool & Die | bzs at TheWorld.com | http://www.TheWorld.com
> Purveyors to the Trade | Voice: +1 617-STD-WRLD | 800-THE-WRLD
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