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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
What next for Internet Governance after NETmundial?
ICANN High Level Group meeting
London, 23 June 2014
I want to congratulate the Brazilian government, and particularly State Secretary Almeida, for their hard work and dedication in organising the NETmundial meeting.
Let me get straight to the point: I believe that NETmundial was a success.
It was the demonstration that the multi-stakeholder model works, and that it can produce concrete outcomes.
The result can make the multi-stakeholder model more inclusive, transparent and sustainable in the long term. As well as moving us towards a clear definition of the principles that must guide global Internet governance.
NETmundial put us on the right track, but this does not mean that the work is over.
We now have to achieve the goals that were so well outlined in Sao Paulo. To implement those concrete actions.
Let's remember what the Internet is. What makes it so special.
And let's give it the governance fit to match.
First - the internet is available to everyone, and belongs to everyone. And we need everyone to have their say. That is why the multi-stakeholder model is the right one – one we should champion and defend. A model based purely on government control would be very dangerous.
Second, the Internet is global. And it is right that we move IANA towards a more global basis. Without putting stability and security in jeopardy, of course – we cannot afford that.
But this transition is a historic and welcome step towards globalisation of a key Internet resource.
This transition has to follow some key criteria: Inclusiveness, legitimacy, accountability, global public interest, rule of law and separation of policy and technical functions.
It has been a long time coming, and in some quarters patience would wear thin if there is further unnecessary delay. I listened carefully to what Larry Strickling had to say earlier, and I know the US administration gets it.
Let us also not forget that today's Internet is unified.
To keep it that way we need to keep people engaged – global governance for a global internet.
That is why we need to strengthen the Internet Governance Forum and give it financial and political sustainability; we need to make its discussions more accessible for all people in the world; we need to strengthen the links between national, regional and the global IGF, because only by doing so we can make sure the discussions at the IGF are relevant and useful.
We have to make sure that the technologists and the policy-makers talk more, and better. Nowhere as in ICANN is it crystal clear that apparently "technical" decisions can have deep public policy implications.
You have to recognise the rights and responsibilities of governments to care about those issues. You cannot ignore their role.
The debate over dot-wine is damaging, for example. It's damaging to ICANN's credibility. But – more significantly, more worryingly — it could damage the whole multi-stakeholder model on which it is based.
And it is one example that demonstrates how essential it is that ICANN continues its efforts to become more accountable to the global community.
ICANN is not only a machine to coordinate naming and numbering resources of the Internet, although this is an essential part of its mandate.
ICANN, whether people realise it or not, is also a symbol. It is a symbol of what multi-stakeholder governance means. Its successes, and its failures, will always and unavoidably be interpreted in a much larger context than ICANN itself.
I have one final thing to mention today, and I want to speak directly to those who disagreed with the results coming out of NETmundial – either because of procedural or substantive issues.
My message to you: let us not focus on what divides us.
Differences of opinion are natural and inevitable. Diverse views add value. Let's share those opinions, be honest about them, be constructive about finding a solution.
I accept that there will always be different views on how much openness is acceptable on the Internet.
But the Internet is a global, common resource. Its benefits stem from its global nature. While governments' ability to apply local laws should be preserved, of course, we all have too much to lose if we allow the Internet to become fragmented and nationalised.
In conclusion, therefore, let us respect our differences. Let us voice them; let us discuss them; let us try to find compromises.
Just as Brazil did in its courageous leadership in Sao Paulo, and in its willingness to move out of its comfort zone to find a compromise.
As a result, NETmundial has given us a strong boost in the right direction: it is now our responsibility to turn words into practice and realise the potential that the Internet has for each and every one of us.
And let's make sure it works.