Join the technical coalition strengthening multistakeholder internet governance

10th April 2024

Continuing to foster and encourage a multistakeholder approach to internet governance is crucial to international digital policy efforts, something which Nominet raised in response to a recent consultation on the UN Global Digital Compact (GDC).  

In this blog, we explore this concept in more detail – from what a new, informal coalition within the global technical internet community might look like – to collaboration on critical internet governance processes over the next two years. This includes the GDC and 20-year review of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS+20).  

An open, free, secure and global Internet requires effective internet governance 

The Internet has transformed our world, connecting people and businesses across borders, and enabling innovation and progress. It is a powerful tool for social, economic and cultural development, and underpins all aspects of daily life for many.  

The Internet, as a network of networks, is governed through collaboration within and between a set of distributed and overlapping national, regional and global organisations and processes. This global internet governance system ensures that the Internet we have continues to exist and work effectively. 

Much of this efficacy can be attributed to the multistakeholder approach that is taken in many internet governance spaces and processes. The multistakeholder model sees governments, the private sector, academia, the technical community and civil society all participate in the governance of the Internet. They all share their interests and ideas and play a role in decision-making. 

This is a proven model for responding to the complex and dynamic policy and technical challenges that the Internet has presented. It leads to outcomes that actually work, that have considered a full range of perspectives and that have broad support. 

Internet governance is at an inflection point  

As the Internet has become more central to societies and economies, some governments have started to seek greater control over its governance, with debates increasingly influenced by geo-political power dynamics. 

Between now and the end of 2025, a number of dialogues on the future of global internet governance will take place, notably the UN’s review of the future governance of the Internet and digital technologies through the GDC and WSIS+20 processes.  Protecting the multistakeholder model is a key priority in these processes, as is securing the future mandate for the UN Internet Governance Forum beyond 2025 through the WSIS+20 process.  

Sitting alongside these UN processes are other opportunities to discuss the future of global internet governance. One of these is the NETmundial+10 which is a chance for all stakeholders to discuss the global internet governance system itself and how we can improve and evolve the multistakeholder model.   

What happens if multistakeholder internet governance is weakened? 

There is a risk that the outcomes of these UN processes could weaken the existing broad multistakeholder model of internet governance, possibly in favour of more multilateral processes. This risks not only the benefits associated with the model itself, but also the universality, openness and interoperability of the Internet that the multistakeholder model underpins.  

A move towards more multilateral – as opposed to multistakeholder – decision-making could mean a reduction in the role of non-government stakeholders, including the technical community. This risks internet related decision-making taking place without the transparency and accountability that the multistakeholder approach demands, and without the specialised insights and expertise of the technical community. This could undermine the overall open, seamless operations of the Internet. 

An informal coalition to defend and improve internet governance  

The multistakeholder model of internet governance that currently exists is not set in stone. Its foundational materials are a mixture of norms, political agreements and trust. If we want an open, free, global and interoperable Internet, we must actively defend and evolve the multistakeholder approach that underpins it. 

So far however, there has been limited coordination with, and activation by, the internet technical community (and other stakeholders) to respond to these debates and issues. To address this gap, Nominet has been working with auDA, CIRA and InternetNZ to establish an informal coalition of aligned members of the global internet technical community.  

This coalition is looking for participation from around the world. Its purpose is to support the capacity of members to engage in current internet governance dialogues and processes, with a view to defend and improve the multistakeholder model of internet governance as a critical foundation of an open, free and interoperable Internet.  

The work of the coalition has begun 

Some initial meetings with other interested parties have already taken place in multistakeholder fora, such as at ICANN79 (San Juan). Nominet, auDA, CIRA and InternetNZ also developed an aligned response to the Global Digital Compact consultation, which you can read more about here. 

This emerging coalition has set up a mailing list to share information on UN and related processes and discuss opportunities for shared engagement and messaging. We are also developing a Statement of Purpose for the coalition so that interested parties can learn about and sign onto the coalition’s objectives.  

Want to find out more?

If you’re interested in finding out more about the internet governance dialogues mentioned in this blog, or about the coalition, please contact [email protected] 

This blog post has been coauthored by auDA, CIRA, InternetNZ and Nominet.