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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
The need for accountability in Internet governance
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ICANN's 38th International Meeting
Brussels, 21st June 2010
Good morning everybody.
I know many of you have been working hard over the weekend already. But it is not too late to offer you a warm welcome to Brussels.
You are the heart of the “Internet Community”!
And you have come a long way in just a few years: from the days when John Postel was running the IANA functions out of his office to today’s event, gathering hundreds of key stakeholders. When any one-person operation grows into a bigger community, it is important to keep asking if the accompanying organisations and their working methods are on the right track.
Some communities develop into closed or exclusive circles over the years. I am glad that this is not the case here. You will even meet this week as an event open to the public. I trust that by opening a dialogue with the wider public - whether you are a private or public sector stakeholder - you will find new and better ways to reinforce your structures and decision-making processes. The same applies for the Internet Governance Forum : this multi-stakeholder approach has proved successful ; it must continue and evolve to serve the purposes of the Tunis Agenda.
Indeed, we must ensure that technical changes add to the Internet's value as a common public good, rather than accidentally detract from it. From the perspective of public authorities such as my own, it is our duty to advise ICANN about where the public interest lies. But when freedom of speech and human rights on the internet are at stake, it is not just public authorities that have a role to play. Take, for instance, the Global Network Initiative and the position taken by Hilary Clinton in promoting information freedom vis-à-vis internet companies. I very much welcome these initiatives, which are also finding an echo in Europe.
For this is a collective duty for all Internet stakeholders – be they public or private.
We need rules that make the decisions accountable, transparent and efficient; and that guarantee a mutual respect for the common good.
Nowadays, how could any organisation with global responsibilities not be accountable to all of us?
In this respect, just like the EU welcomed the openings made in the Affirmation of Commitment last year, I am hopeful that the expiry of the IANA contract next year will be turned into an opportunity for more international cooperation serving the global public interest.
But don't misunderstand me: the Internet day-to-day functioning works well and I am the first to say "if it isn't broken, don’t fix it !". We all have an interest that this wonderful platform for innovation, entrepreneurship and free expression works perfectly well at the technical level. It is a great adventure, that must continue to flourish.
Yet does it mean all is well in the cyberworld?
Take the issue of security and resilience: we need to fight against spam, identity theft, phishing and other evolving types of crime on the Internet. Both the public and private sectors have a joint obligation to act. This approach has to go hand-in-hand with ensuring the Internet itself is not vulnerable to any large scale failure, whether as a result of an accident or a deliberate attack.
Another issue, that will be debated this week, is the expansion of the number of generic Top Level Domains. Such additions are probably irreversible. So these steps need to be taken carefully, taking into consideration more than just immediate commercial interests. Managing this expansion and avoiding chaos will be a big challenge. In a sense, it will be a test of ICANN's governance and I recall that the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) had already provided advice on public policy principles to the ICANN Board as early as 2007.
The IDN is another of those important subjects – for it is essential that the Internet reflects the diversity of our languages. You are certainly familiar with the success of Europe's "dot.eu" domain name. I trust that Cyrillic and Greek script versions of "dot.eu" will soon be introduced at the Top Level as well, to complete the IDN.
There are many other issues worth mentioning, but I won't take any more of your time. I hope to see some of you in person at the gala event on Wednesday. For now, you have my best wishes for your discussions this week. You can count on the positive contribution of the EU in that endeavour.