Multistakeholderism and Multilateralism and the setting of global norms

Feb 21 2018

The rise of nationalism and populism around the globe could cause governments build national policy barriers that fragment the Internet. If current trends are any indication, more and more governments will restrict and control Internet use and access through censorship, network shutdowns and other means. This is a matter of great concern and is highlighted in the ISOC report on “Paths to our Digital Future” released in 2017. This report raised the questions related to globalization and the domestic pressures that need to be answered before we go ahead with the future Internet:

  • Will governments embrace globalisation, or will they respond to domestic pressures to strengthen both physical and cyber borders?
  • Will they support and promote multistakeholder approaches to policy, or will they retrench behind the walls of multilateralism?

Globalisation could pull Governments to become more attuned to the need for cross-border and cross-sector cooperation on cyber threats like crime and terrorism. The complexity of the challenges should compel governments to work with other stakeholders. However, for such efforts to work and to have legitimacy, they will need to move beyond traditional public-private partnerships and include civil society.

The governments need to support multistakeholder approaches particularly when it comes to setting norms and best practices for cyberspace. But because of the slow political process the tension between multilateralism and multistakeholderism will continue for the foreseeable future.

The ISOC report throws a question about the use of multi-stakeholder approaches in the future. It also questions whether civil society groups and activists will have a real seat at the table. The answer to this question will have significant implications for the future of online rights and freedoms. The report mentioned the pressing need for new models of Internet governance in this evolving multipolar world. These new diverging models will be able to shape the global Internet and its core principles. If the international system continues to turn inwards, the implications for the global Internet will become ever more profound.

Read full report here

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