Regional Debates on Internet Governance: An Opportunity for Multi-Sectoral Approaches

by Digital Rights LAC on October 18, 2023

By, Valeria Betancourt*

In comparison with the level of participation of civil society organizations, the participation of governments and the private sector is still quite limited. However, the perspectives offered by these actors would permit a more nuanced and comprehensive discussion.

The Latin America and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has become the primary platform for regional, multi-stakeholder dialogue on the issue of Internet governance.

The forum has grown, and its sixth meeting (in Córdoba, Argentina) last August brought together more than two hundred experts from the region and around two thousand remote attendees from governments, civil society organizations, technical community agencies, universities and private companies.
However, it is noteworthy that, in comparison with the level of participation of civil society organizations, the participation of governments and the private sector are quite limited. The perspectives offered by these actors with regards to access, privacy, security, enhanced cooperation, among other issues, would permit a more nuanced and comprehensive debate.

The program’s agenda, structured off of the themes of the global IGF and regional input, took a renewed look at the traditional themes of IGF in light of the current regional situation.

The discussion on access reaffirmed the importance of adopting IPv6 in a timely manner, not only because of the running out of IPv4, but also because of the impact a delayed adoption would have on costs and traffic restrictions. It also emphasized the need to both ensure a competitive environment in the provision of fixed and mobile access and advance access solutions and public service. In terms of content, the issue of how to appropriately address the relationship between content, access, and interconnection was raised. The distinction between hosting and generating content in the region was also discussed and it was stressed that the promotion and adoption of open and free models of software and infrastructure would contribute to the production and protection of online content.

Human rights on the Internet have gained increasing weight in regional discussions. In Córdoba, discussions addressed the defense of freedom of expression and the impact of mass surveillance practices of communications on privacy and security. The discussion reached its peak with the presentation of Frank la Rue, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, who argued that freedom of expression enables the possibility of defending and exercising other human rights. La Rue said that ensuring the full exercise and application of freedom of expression on the Internet constitutes a core element of democracy and respect for human rights.
A LACNIC report collects the most important statements of La Rue’s intervention. International principles on the application of human rights in communications surveillance were also presented as “a framework for assessing whether laws and surveillance practices, current or proposed, are consistent with human rights.”

The discussion on enhanced cooperation and multi-stakeholder cooperation was approached from a number of different positions. “While some participants sought a discussion on the practical mechanisms and spaces for the realization of multi-stakeholder participations, others expressed concern about prescribing a specific model of involvement”[1] in Internet governance. In any case, the discussion stressed the need to create more instances of national multi-stakeholder involvement in which various actors, including civil society, could interact on equal terms about public policy and Internet governance.
In terms of principles for Internet governance, the discussion was organized around two central concepts. The first central concept entails issues related to process (such as modalities of participation, issues of representation, challenges of the multi-stakeholder model, etc.). The second central concept addresses the substantive elements that guide policy development and Internet regulation in a way that responds to broader public interest and guides the evolution of Internet governance in the direction of reaffirming and preserving it as a global public space that is open, free, and affordable.
A special GenderIT edition in the Córdoba forum approached Internet governance from a feminist perspective, advancing gender analyses in the regional discussion.

Participants adopted a collaborative mechanism for registering their discussions around specific agenda areas. While the regional meeting does not produce recommendations or statements, the idea that efforts should be made to produce more tangible results (in the form of messages, for example) is gaining ground. This is compounded by the need to establish concrete and effective ways to integrate significant regional discussions into the global agenda of the IGF. In the case of the regional meeting, as usual, a summary will be written that indicates discussion highlights and guides the inclusion of regional perspectives in the distinct thematic areas of FGI.

The sixth regional preparatory meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean was organized by a program committee composed of delegates from various interest groups. The diversity of the program committee is a concrete example of a multi-stakeholder model that allows the participation of all stakeholders that seek to expand the possibilities of sustainability and legitimacy in the construction and consolidation of regional dialogue on Internet governance.

[1]Shawna Finnegan. What is at stake? Working for pluralism in internet governance at the 6th LAC IGF. APC, August 2013.

* Director of the Communications and Information Policy Program at the Association for Progressive Communications (Asociación para el Progreso de las Comunicaciones, APC).

The English version was translated by Deena Tumeh.