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What happened at WCIT-12?


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The World Conference on Information Technologies (WCIT-12) was organised by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and took place 3-15 December 2012 in Dubai. Its goal was to revise the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), a global treaty that facilitates international interconnection and communication services (e.g. roaming, radio frequencies, satellite communications), that have not been revised since its adoption in 1988. The main unofficial goal was to include the Internet in the scope of regulations, an issue which many feared could lead to serous consequences for the content and communication flows of the Internet.

Julia Velkova, a PhD student at MKV at Södertörn University had the opportunity to participate during the last days of the conference as an observer, and witness both the concluding discussions, as well as the process of decision making. Despite that the conference did not succeed in its aim to build a consensus among all 191 nation states, with the West ultimately refusing to sign the final document, it nevertheless concluded with the inclusion of a number of texts that cover directly or indirectly the Internet, opening up more instead of closing the discussion about who should govern the Internet.

The aim of this seminar/presentation is to attempt to summarize the key points from the event, outlining a number of issues that contextualize and discuss the conference, bring up perspectives of relevance for media and communication studies, and conclude with a brief discussion on the potential for further research on the topic.

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What happened at WCIT-12?

  1. 1. What happened at WCIT-12? Julia Velkova PhD student Södertörn University, Sweden
  2. 2. background
  3. 3. What is WCIT-12?
  4. 4. • Conference organised by the ITU to update the InternationalTelecommunication Regulations (ITRs).• ITRs were defined in 1988 at the World AdministrativeTelegraph and Telephone Conference held in Melbourne,Australia and unchanged since then.• ITRs from 1988 were created to facilitate the“global interconnection and interoperability of telecommunication facilities and to promotingthe harmonious development and efficient operation of technical facilities, as well as theefficiency, usefulness and availability to the public of international telecommunication services.” (International Telecommunication Regultions 1988)
  5. 5. What did this cover in practice?International radio, satellite, and mobile communications. ITRsgovern connectivity relationships between telecommunicationsnetworks. They exclude though the Internet. Source:
  6. 6. • How is the Internet excluded?Definitions of actors, rights and ways for communication totake place internationally.
  7. 7. So, what was WCIT-12?• A meeting with the aim to redefine and update the ITRs “toreflect the dramatically different information and communicationtechnology (ICT) landscape of the 21st century.”• What did this mean in practice? - INTERNET.• Why now, 24 years later?• Structure of meeting & ITU: nation-states discuss & vote,others watch (maybe)
  8. 8. Why Internet was a problem? For whom? • would change the current way Internet is governed • convert ITU into a one big government-composed actor with strong influence on Internet Governance • allow nation-states to legally block access to Internet, filter content and apply “undemocratic” policies thus harming the Internet and changing it into something different from what it is now. • Influence the West most
  9. 9. What is Internet Governance?• process to discuss how and by whom the Internet shouldbe governed• Culminated in 2005 with the Tunis agenda during WSIS• Since then ITU tries to play a more active role• Multi-stakeholder model of governance vsintergovernmental model (the usual model)
  10. 10. What is Internet Governance? • Definition of Internet Governance:Internet governance is the development and application bygovernments, the private sector and civil society, in their respectiveroles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-makingprocedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use ofthe Internet.
  11. 11. How and why did I get involved?
  12. 12. Previous work on the subject• 2011 MA thesis at Malmö Högskola/ComDev program on“Wikileaks CableGate & the multi-stakeholder model ofInternet governance”• Remotely follow WSIS 2005 through ISOC Bulgaria• Part of Internet Governance Caucus (
  13. 13. How did I get into the Swedish delegation at WCIT-12? • Joined the Swedish “Referensgrupp Internet Governance” at PTS (open for anyone, welcomes researchers - currently only 2 in it - me and LU). • Asked how/who can participate at WCIT-12 • Got invitation to join as observer with Swedish delegation • Funding secured through SH/MKV, Mozilla Foundation and Internet Society Bulgaria. • Participated 10-15 December 2012
  14. 14. How is this relevant to MKV?• Improve/establish closer contacts with PTS in the area ofInternet-related issues.• Consequences of ITU decisions on regulations could haveinfluence on media content and communication flows in thenear future. Not least in the way they are governed.
  15. 15. WCIT-12(World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012)
  16. 16. Opening of WCIT-12“Let me be very clear one more time: WCIT is not about takingover the Internet. And WCIT is not about Internet governance.”(Secretary General of ITU, opening words)
  17. 17. Closing of WCIT-12“Ladies and Gentlemen, if the world Internet was used frequently here inDubai, it is simply a reflection of the reality of the modern world.Telecommunication networks are not just used for making voice calls, so ourtwo worlds are linked. And I demonstrated that by inviting the new Presidentand CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehade and the Chairman Steve, at the opening ofthe WCIT-12. And I said WCIT-12. And I said I look forward to theopportunities that lie ahead and all that can be achieved by ITU and ICANNtogether in a positive spirit of collaboration.” (Secretary General of ITU, closingwords)
  18. 18. How was WCIT-12 prepared?• secrecy - all documents were online but only limited people had access.• joint proposals coming from huge regions - e.g. Europe, Asia, etc. Europe - 50nation-states among which Russia, Azerbaidjan.• nation-states trying to introduce Internet texts at the last moment. Used as abargain in the discussions (e.g. Doc 27 by Russia)• contributions from civil society solicited but in somewhat ambiguous way
  19. 19. How was WCIT-12 prepared? Image: PTS
  20. 20. How was WCIT-12 prepared? Image: PTS
  21. 21. European contributions• Updates by deleting obsolete definitions, provisions about routing, referencesto collecting charges, accounting rates, and provisions on dissemination ofinformation• Addition requested for tariff transparency• Against (no new texts) on: Internet connectivity, fraud, quality of service,spam, routing or traffic
  22. 22. How was WCIT-12 executed?• 07.30 - 03.00 sessions for 2 weeks• translation into 6 languages, 1000+ delegates working paperless ondocuments constantly changing and with track changes• security control through badges• closed door meetings of regains where press, civil society and parts ofdelegates were not allowed to attend• plenary sessions where everyone discussed documents.• a conference? rather a working meeting
  23. 23. License: CC-BY, Julia Velkova
  24. 24. License: CC-BY, Julia Velkova
  25. 25. What was discussed during 2 weeks?• Internet, Internet, and again, Internet.• Operating agency/Recognized operating agency problem. Solution:authorized operating agency defined as “operating agencies, authorized orrecognized by a Member State, to establish, operate and engage ininternational telecommunications services to the public”• Cybersecurity (fraud, cyberattacks)• Spam• Language issues: shall/should
  26. 26. Excerpts... Discussion on “content”>> CHAIR: Thank you. Lets move on. Let to back to -- so we will leave the text. We have made some progress. We still have an issue with the word "Public." And I want to move now to jump to what I have left in a very contentious discussion. And I want to take -- go back. I remind the meeting about the Article 5A on the security of networks, or the adjustments of that. Security or robustness of the networks, as I suggested. And I started by saying that we -- I suggest to have or I propose to have a new A bis under 1.1. And it reads: "These Regulations do not address and cannot be interpreted as addressing the content." And then I propose to change the title of Article 5A to "Security or robustness of networks" and leave the text as it is. And that is what I see as a compromise for clearing the doubts of many of the Administrations who are worried that these ITRs will get into content. So is there an agreement right now? Is there any objection to proposed 1.1A bis with the text, and modify the title? Saudi Arabia?>> SAUDIA ARABIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman." As I had already clarified in the previous meeting, the use of the term "content" in an absolutemanner would raise problems within the text itself. Because the content has not been defined." Of what content are we speaking?>> IRAN: Thank you, Chairman." We are also very grateful to you. You make your best efforts, Chairman." Under Article 2, you have so many definitions for simple things, like "relationship," like"accounting," but now you come to "content" and without definition you want to put content. Chairman, weare very sorry and apologize to you. We cannot agree with your text. Thank you." >> CHAIR: Thank you. I simply proposed the text which seems to be objected to by a number ofadministrations and therefore I simply would withdraw the proposal. That is it. Thank you.
  27. 27. Excerpts... Discussion on “spam”">> CHAIR: Thank you. Algeria?" >> ALGERIA: Yes, thank you, Chairman. We wanted to draw your attention to the word "messages" to bereplaced by "communications," and having taken part in the drafting of this text, we cannot but support itand we do, however, regret the disappearance of "spam."" >> CHAIR: Thank you. Yes, "spam" was there, it was removed as a compromise and we have used thesame exact wording that is coming from the ITU study groups and, yes, I think that there is a mistake and"communication" should be used instead of "messages."" Iran?" >> IRAN: Thank you. We agree with 5B, provided both 5A and 5B be accepted as you have proposed.You cannot take it in individual. Otherwise we have difficulty with unsolicited bulk communications. Wewould like to go back to "spam" if 5A is not accepted by colleagues as you have proposed. Thank you." >> CHAIR: Saudi Arabia." >> SAUDI ARABIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you said earlier, the title was "spam"; however, aftersome debate, considerable debate, we drafted this language which does not respond to our initial hopes. Infact, only meets some of our needs but we do accept this text as a compromise which will allow us to moveforward. "Adopted text is:Article 5BUnsolicited bulk electronic communications41C Member States should endeavour to take necessary measures to prevent the propagation of unsolicited bulkelectronic communications and minimize its impact on international telecommunication services.Member States are encouraged to cooperate in that sense.
  28. 28. Excerpts... Discussion on Internet resolution>> CHAIR: ...We go now to the Primary Draft Resolution to Foster an EnablingEnvironment for the Greater Growth of the Internet. This resolution has been alsopart of the long discussion with the regional groups and this was part of thecompromise text that was put forward to you but the meeting was carefully written.It was -- we have taken it in the group, line-by-line, as a matter of fact as amatter of fact, Secretary-General read it line-by-line to the group, and its putbefore you for consideration.after disputes that the text should be removed completely (it has dropped from the main ITRs, to a resolution so far), SG says:"The future is broadband and the future is Internet, and the future is Internet andbroadband/Internet. And those are two societies that will continue to worktogether, one providing the platform, the other one providing the access and otherthings. They are complementary. When you talk about information, informationwithout the carrier will not be reachable. And an empty carrier will not haveinformation, that is nothing. So two will continue to work together. So please, Ijust wanted you to keep that in mind and encourage us so we continue to buildbridges and it really will work. Trust me. And somebody was saying we cant, andwe can. We can do that. Please."
  29. 29. Excerpts... Discussion on Internet resolution•What follows is a vote that arises a strong debate on the Internet and ultimately would lead to the conference failingto reach an agreement.Past 01 am on 13 Dec>> CHAIR: Thank you." I have a very long list. I just wanted to have the feel of the room on who will accept the draftresolution. If you can use the big board, please, to have the resolution included.(Pause)"   I want the feel of the room, who is against this resolution.(Pause) " You can lower now. The majority is with having the resolution in.(Applause)" Thank you. Now we can go to Corrigendum 2. That is the Preamble and the text which deals with thehuman rights obligations. And the Preamble, the first part of the Preamble, was agreed." The second part of the Preamble states that, "Member states affirm their commitment to implementthese regulations in a manner that respects and upholds their human rights obligations." " Do we haveagreement?" We have a point of order from the UK?" >> UNITED KINGDOM: Thank you, Chairman, for giving me the floor. I would be grateful if you wouldclarify what just happened in respect to the resolution. Was that a decision to include a resolution andreturn to the text at a later date? Or have we just passed a resolution by majority? Thank you." >> CHAIR: Thank you. The majority agreed to adopt the resolution as amended.(Applause)" Canada?(Silence)" >> CHAIR: Spain?" >> SPAIN: Thank you, Chairman." As a point of order, I would like you to clarify whether the temperature you were taking was simply ataking of the temperature or has it now been interpreted as a vote? And had we known that it was a vote,we might very well have acted differently." >> CHAIR: No, it was not a vote, and I was clear about it. Thank you, Spain." Cyprus." >> CYPRUS: Excuse me. That is a mistake." >> CHAIR: Thank you.
  30. 30. “Vote” on Internet resolution Photo:
  31. 31. The substance of the adopted resolution on Internet is:“...resolves to invite Member States1 to elaborate on their respective positions on international Internet-relatedtechnical, development and public-policy issues within the mandate of ITU at variousITU forums including, inter alia, the World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum, theBroadband Commission for Digital Development and ITU study groups;2 to engage with all their stakeholders in this regard,instructs the Secretary-General3 to continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active andconstructive role in the development of broadband and the multistakeholder modelof the Internet as expressed in § 35 of the Tunis Agenda; - NOTE - this is self-mandating and was not mentioned in Tunis Agenda in any way.4 to support the participation of Member States and all other stakeholders, asapplicable, in the activities of ITU in this regard.”
  32. 32. Conference concluded with• Long discussion on human rights language• The right of access of Member States to international telecommunicationservicesThe latter led to the US refusing to sign, followed by UK, Sweden & restWestern countries.
  33. 33. General impressions• West pushing for limiting the scope of ITRs, the rest for expanding it.Civil society role:• CS met with SG but with little effect.• Issue of representation, and lack of voice.• ISOC, ICANN and alike, no speech right too.• Too few civil society participation on delegations, or if there is, with littlepossibilities to speak.
  34. 34. Who signed the new ITRs? Source:
  35. 35. Interesting moments from a media & communications perspective• Discussion itself: discourses, rhetorics, pushing an agenda for regulatingInternet. The question of regulation of technology vs democracy.• Format: paperless work, collaboration between 1000+ governmentaldelegates• Language: English used, but French would prevail in disputes. Endlesslinguistic discussion - heaven for discourse and semiotics research.
  36. 36. Interesting moments from a media & communications perspective• Paradox: Feeling of “speechless” discussions - no sound in the room, onlyheadsets. All conversations were through translation. Everyone works onlaptops on constantly changing documents• Secrecy: limited access to closed-door meetings. Problems with access toinformation and decision making process - very intransparent.• Voting: very “old-school” way - yellow and red plastic cards, people runningto count votes
  37. 37. Media coverage• The Economist claimed WCIT-12 to be the equivalent of a “cold war” butin the domain of the digital• Prof. Wolwgang Kleinwächter, Århus University: “Internet GovernanceOutlook 2013: "Cold Internet War" or "Peaceful Internet Coexistence"? -the discussion on Internet Governance will gain in sharpness.• Internet Governance Project, Prof. Milton Mueller: “What really happenedin Dubai” - condemning both sides, West and Russia + allies• Interesting to research how did media interpret the conference and itsoutcomes - what discourses were created & how were they mediated?
  38. 38. Potential for research• The topic will get hotter in the next 2-3 years to come. Most significantevents to follow: World Summit on Information Society in Geneva (WSIS+10) 2013 World Telecommunication Policy Forum 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference• Good opportunities for research by being part of Swedish delegation - ithas an active and strong voice in the process.• Academic engagement and research on Internet Governance very limitedat the moment and lacking media & communication studies perspective.• Good timing for starting research.
  39. 39. Possibilities for collaboration• .SE - interest in developing a project on studying Internet governancefrom a variety perspectives – both political science and media andcommunications. They are open to discuss ideas and (co-)funding. Contact:Staffan Jonsson.• Århus University – potentially contact Wolfgang Kleinwächter,a Professor for International Communication Policy and Regulation within the Department forMedia and Information Studies ( Heorganises regular summer school on Internet Governance.
  40. 40. Coming seminar of interest• 13 February, 17.30 - 19.30venue: .SE Ringvägen 100, Stockholm.SE, ISOC Sweden and PTS make a public recap on what happened atWCIT-12 - “WCIT ­ och sen då?”. Anyone interested?Agenda- PTS: Erfarenheter från WCIT, bakgrund, genomförande och utfall WCIT- ISOC:s engagemang inför och under WCIT- Översiktligt om det civila samhällets engagemang inför WCIT- Vad händer under de närmaste åren? Timeline.- Diskussion
  41. 41. thank you check the WCIT-12 website:
  42. 42. Images & licensing info see notes section of slides.This presentation is licensed under Creative Commons - BY-NCDownload presentation at @jvelkovawebsite: