Report from the Field: Brazil’s Successful NETmundial Experiment

Maria Medrano photo

São Paulo - Brazil’s NETmundial global multistakeholder Internet governance conference has just wrapped up with consensus among participants on the non-binding NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement of São Paulo which includes Internet governance principles and a roadmap on the future of Internet governance. This was no easy feat.

First of all, parabens to the Brazilian government and Brazil’s Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) for their work to organize NETmundial. With little time to do so, they successfully pulled together a widely attended and comprehensive event.  Twelve countries hosted NETmundial, with more than 900 participants from 97 countries representing civil society, academia, private sector, technical community, and governments.  As part of the über democratic process of NETmundial, there was equal opportunity at the microphone for all stakeholders and a variety of opportunities to participate and contribute: from open comments online, to remote hubs, and live webcast options in different languages.

President Dilma Rousseff opened the conference by signing Brazil’s Marco Civil da Internet into law on stage and presenting it as a model bill of rights for Internet users. Great news: The law did not include the data localization provisions.  (More on that in a future post.)  In her remarks, President Rousseff called for additional work on the protection of privacy, strengthening the Internet Governance Forum, and congratulated the U.S. government’s announcement of the transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions. She also emphasized that NETmundial is not intended to replace existing Internet governance fora, but rather, to lend momentum to the ongoing discussions under two key premises: the preservation of an open, democratic Internet, and the desire to incorporate an increasingly broader audience into the process.

President Rousseff was followed by more than 30 speeches from government officials and leaders from business, civil society, and academia.  An impressive range of participants from countries as diverse as Ghana, Russia, Paraguay, and South Korea gave their perspectives and visions for the future of Internet governance.  Leaders called for more concrete deliverables; less talk and more action; and maintaining an unfragmented, open Internet regardless of recent surveillance revelations.  Unsurprisingly, others insisted on the creation of an Internet governance body under the auspices of the United Nations or International Telecommunications Union, but such voices were clearly in the minority at NETmundial.

As President Rousseff clearly stated, Netmundial was not part of traditional or formal Internet governance fora. It was a political event born of political developments.  And as was said by several stakeholders, NETmundial has been an experiment. While the resulting principles and roadmap documents may not please everyone, by any measure, NETmundial was a successful experiment, raising awareness about the topic of Internet governance and the importance of the multistakeholder process.  We welcome these developments, and look forward to future robust discussions in the months and years to come.

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