The Global Commission on Internet Governance was a two-year initiative launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of internet governance.
Chaired by Carl Bildt, the commission was made up of 29 members drawn from various fields and from around the world, including policy and government, academia and civil society. All commissioners are listed on the commission's website.
The commission addressed four key themes, which have been drawn out in a final report:
Why is the commission important?
The current mechanism of internet governance, colloquially called the multi-stakeholder model, is under threat. This threat to a free, open, and universal internet comes from two principal sources. First, a number of authoritarian states are waging a campaign to exert greater state control over critical internet resources. Second, revelations about the nature and extent of online surveillance have led to a loss of trust. Collectively, these circumstances have created a need to update legacy mechanisms for internet governance but deadlocks in international dialogue mean the potential exists for the fragmentation of the internet. The Global Commission on Internet Governance has contributed to this important discussion with the publication of its final report.
What is internet governance and the multi-stakeholder model?
The internet's architecture is constantly changing. The content and computing devices which end users see are only the surface of a massive underlying infrastructure of networks, services, and institutions that keep the internet operational. This architecture comprises private information intermediaries such as network operators, exchange points, search engines, hosting services, e-commerce platforms, and social media providers.
Global coordination is necessary to keep the internet operational. For example, global technical standardization ensures interoperability, cyber security governance maintains stability and authentication, and centralized coordination ensures that each internet name and number is globally unique. These, and other, tasks necessary to keep the internet operational, are collectively referred to as global internet governance.
As the internet becomes increasingly enmeshed with vital aspects of everyday life, actors that perform these various internet governance functions are also being called upon to provide expert knowledge on the governance of human behaviour online. This trend complicates an already difficult governance terrain.
For the majority of its history, the internet has been governed in an organic and piecemeal fashion by a variety of standard-setting and other technical bodies and by private companies performing key roles as network operators and information intermediaries. Multi-stakeholder governance means governance involving more than one of the four categories of participants: firms, states, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society (including technical experts acting in their individual capacities). It typically utilizes relatively non-hierarchical procedural rules. Rather than hard law and regulatory enforcement, governance is accomplished by means of voluntary compliance with technical standards, codes of conduct, and industry best practices.
How is the commission supported?
The commission was the result of an initiative between Chatham House and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), an independent, non-partisan think-tank on international governance, based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
The commission was supported by a CIGI-Chatham House secretariat, as well as by a broader steering committee comprised of the chair, the secretariat, and a small number of officials from interested governments. It was also supported by a research advisory network that provided in-depth analysis and research on identified topics.
The commission has met nine times since its launch, in Sweden, South Korea, Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ghana, India, USA and Jordan. The final report is being launched at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in Mexico on 21 June 2016.
For further information and all the publications from the commission, please visit www.ourinternet.org.