WGIG (Working Group on Internet Governance) was a multi-stakeholder working group established by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan who was mandated by the Declaration of Principles and Action Plan as a result of the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on Internet Governance, which was held in Geneva from December 10th through 12th, 2003. WGIG had 40 members from different governments, private sector and civil society. Nitin Desai, Special Advisor to the Secretary General served as Chairman of WGIG.
Role of WGIG
Based on the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action, WGIG's role is to “investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of the Internet by 2005.” It is also expected to:
- Develop a working definition of Internet governance
- Identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance
- Develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, existing international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries
WGIG Report on Internet Governance
The WGIG conducted four meetings in Geneva on November 23-25, 2004 and February 14-18, April 18-20 and on June 14-17, 2005 respectively. The working group received proposals and comments from all governments and stakeholders through open consultations, web casting, video conferencing, emails,discussion forums etc. to ensure active participation from all sectors. The Working Group maintained a transparent and open communication in its working method to complete and submit its report to the UN Secretary General.
Based on the WGIG Report on Internet Governance, four key public issues needs discussion and investigation. These issues include:
- Infrastructure and management of critical internet resources such as Domain Name System, IP Addresses administration, root server system, technical standards etc.
- Internet security issues (spam, network security, cyber crime)
- Intellectual Property Rights issues
- Capacity building and Internet governance in developing countries
WGIG Proposals on Internet Governance
- Create a UN body known as the Global Internet Council to take over the United States' oversight role over ICANN which shall be composed of membes from different governments and other stakeholders.
- Strengthen ICANN's governmental advisory committee to become a forum for official debate on Internet issues.
- Relegate ICANN to a narrow technical role and create an international internet council that sits outside the UN to remove the US oversight of ICANN
- Create three new organizations which will handle the following roles:
- Take over ICANN's role in Internet Addressing
- Act as a debating platform for government, businesses and the public on issues regarding internet future and policies
- Coordinate the work on internet-related public policy issues
Internet Community Response to WGIG Report
The WSIS Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus expressed that some of the WGIG's proposals on the issue of Internet governance are not workable; particularly Model 1, which calls for the creation of a Global Internet Council to take over the functions performed by the United States Department of Commerce and ICANN. On the other hand, the Caucus emphasized that it supports the recommendation of WGIG to enhance ICANN's [GAC|Governmental Advisory Committee]] (GAC) to be able to address the concerns of governments regarding specific issues and the the creation of a forum with full and equal participation of all Internet stakeholders.
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) commented that the recommendations of the WGIG Report regarding Internet governance that call for a drastic change in Internet governance structure are troubling. According to the CDT, the three models recommended by WGIG to create a UN based intergovernmental body to replace ICANN or to assume an oversight control over ICANN will lead to negative results. CDT explained that a United Nations Agency that will assume the responsibilities currently held by ICANN may not be able to make timely decisions to address important issues such as introducing competitiveness or creating new domain names. Instead of months, a UN Agency may decide after years or even decades. According to the CDT, the creation of Internet governance forum to provide the global internet community an avenue to voice their concerns regarding Internet governance-related issues and to provide analyses and recommendations to ICANN is more feasible.
Meanwhile,the ISOC, which has more than 20,000 members, expressed its strong opposition to the four proposals of the WGIG Report regarding increased global public policy and oversight. Instead, the organizations' members recommended that ISOC and the UN should work together to reduce government influence over the Internet.