Dissenting opinion: ICANN and the JPA as “shadow of hierarchy”

[Editors note: One factor which distinguishes the Internet Governance Project from the din of voices in the Internet governance policy world is the vigorous theoretically informed debate that occurs within our Scientific Committee. The fact is, we don't always agree as IGP forms consensus opinion, represented by our submitted comments. Below is one committee member's take on the JPA and its relationship to ICANN.]

The future of the JPA has been subject to a lot of debate. Some people argue that the JPA should end in September, others think it should be extended once again. It is striking that the disagreement on the future of the JPA cuts across stakeholders and nationalities. This also true for civil society groups who have come down on both sides of the issue. They associate the JPA with the unilateral control over critical Internet resources, which they would like to see terminated rather now than any time in the future. Yet they understand the JPA also as “the shadow of hierarchy” looming over ICANN and thereby keeping it in check.

IGF: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Compared to other international and intergovernmental negotiations, which move at a snail’s pace, the Internet Governance Forum is still a highly dynamic process with a continuing openness towards change and experimentation. This year's most interesting area of experimentation concerns the outcomes of the Internet Governance Forum. The IGF is a space for policy dialogue; it is a non-binding process without any oversight functions. Even recommendations are permitted only in one specific area of “emerging issues”. But after a year of less polarized discussions in the MAG, the original antagonism inherited from WSIS had a comeback at last week's meetings.

IGF's MAG renewed, governments flex muscles?

Finally, the UN Secretary-General has renewed the mandate of the multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) for the Internet Governance Forum. Officially, the Advisory Group's mandate expired with the closure of the IGF's first meeting in Athens in November 2006. Since then, the Advisory Group's status has been in limbo. What looked like an understandable delay for some time – there was a changeover of leadership in the UN headquarters in early 2007 – became a problem in May this year. Following open consultations in Geneva, the Advisory Group was supposed to meet to discuss the agenda for the IGF's Rio meeting in November. Without a formal mandate, however, the AG could not hold a meeting. The official public consultation had to be extended into another two days of unofficial, half public meetings. Now, there is not only a new mandate including some concrete tasks, there is also a new position.