Sorting out the past 36 hours at the WCIT
Sorting out the past 36 hours at the WCIT
Sorting out the past 36 hours at the WCIT

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    Anyone following
    the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) World Conference on
    International Telecommunications (WCIT) over the last 36 hours knows this has
    become a moment of high drama around the International Telecommunications
    regulations (ITRs) and the role of the ITU for internet-related issues.

    Unfortunately, that is probably the only thing anyone can
    say for certain. Even the member states on the ground have expressed confusion
    on critical matters, such as whether the widely reported “vote” on a resolution
    that included express language relating to the internet was really a vote or

    Public Knowledge does not want to pre-judge any final
    outcomes while everyone remains in negotiation and debate.  We are also mindful that the 8 hour time
    difference between Washington, DC, and the conference in Dubai, and the
    incredible speed with which events keep unfolding, has made us hesitate to say
    anything. But at this critical juncture we need to emphasize some important

    First, we remain committed to the Civil Society declaration
    at Best Bits in Baku, Azerbaijan last month.   Consistent with this, we continue to urge the
    ITU members to reject any version of the ITRs or any resolutions that would
    expand the scope of the ITU to Internet governance or Internet services. We
    want to highlight that this does not just mean any explicit reference. As an
    organization that has fought against the expansion of copyright maximalism in
    international agreements as a threat to internet freedom, we are well aware of
    how parties with agendas try to create ambiguities that they can subsequently
    leverage to advance that agenda. Any ambiguity about words and phrases that
    would support an argument that actions at WCIT opened the door for ITU
    expansion of its jurisdiction in these areas need to be either clarified or

    Second, we want to emphasize that nothing is gained for
    anyone if the conference resorts to dubious procedures. We recognize that in
    the thick of things, after many hours of intense negotiations, some things are
    genuinely unclear. We are very glad that the Chair clarified at the Plenary,
    following the “vote v. temperature” controversy, that it was not a vote. But
    the incident serves as a warning that the legitimacy of the conference outcomes
    – and the ability of the ITU Secretary General to maintain its role as an “honest
    broker” among the member states – depends on keeping the process crystal

    This is not a time to try to get something passed in a
    dubious manner so that the ITU or member states can declare the WCIT a “success.”
    Adopting something through confusion, or questionable procedure, would create
    an atmosphere of distrust that would potentially poison ITU deliberations on
    these issues for years to come.

    We at PK understand that the ITU Secretariat and the Chair
    of any ITU conference always play a role in pushing delegates hard to reach
    consensus. But Chairman Al-Ghanim and Secretary General Touré need to be very
    conscious in these final hours that – for the first time in ITU history –  the whole world is watching these events
    unfold in real time. 

    This places a special responsibility on them to make it
    clear to people generally unfamiliar with the ITU and its processes that what
    comes out of the WCIT – whether consistent with the Best Bits Civil Society Declaration
    or not – genuinely comes from the ITU’s member states and not because the ITU
    or the Chair tipped the scales procedurally.