By Rajeev Chandrasekhar
The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has supported my stand on the need for consultation with multi-stakeholder groups in India before finalising the stand in UN. He assured that the Government will review its position in the UN and submit a new proposal post consultations with all stakeholders in India. I welcome the government’s plan to hold a consultation on the issue of global Internet governance.
I had taken up this issue in May 2012 and sought a public consultation on this issue through representations and meetings with the Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister and several other senior bureaucrats in the government opposing India’s existing proposal of a Committee for Internet-Related Policy (CIRP) without any prior consultation with multi-stakeholder groups in India.
Dangers of India’s Proposal
India had made statement made at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on October 26, 2011, proposing government control over the internet through the formation of Committee on Internet Related Policies – CIRP which expected to come up for a discussion on May 18, 2012 in Geneva during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) meeting on the issue of enhanced cooperation etc.
India’s position enunciated in the statement hurt its reputation of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and democratic society with an open economy and an abiding culture of pluralism. Further, it hurts the advancement of the internet as a vehicle for openness, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, diversity, inclusiveness, creativity, free and unhindered access to information and knowledge, global connectivity, innovation and socio-economic growth.
India’s proposal was fundamentally against the interest of 800 million mobile users and over 100 million internet users in India who need to play a continued role by strengthening the existing multi-stakeholder process, rather than moving internet governance to a government-run, inter-governmental, bureaucratically organized system – as proposed by India.
Another, fall out of India’s position was that India’s position is closely associated with countries such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Brazil, South Africa and Rwanda etc, none of which is a sparkling example of democracy, free speech, or human rights. Unless the global reporting on this issue is inaccurate, it is clear that we will suffer tremendously by way of our reputation in being seen as associated with such countries on the issue of internet governance and, by extension, freedom of expression and free speech.
The multi-stakeholder groups consultation will go beyond its current stage and involve all stakeholders, including provide specific platforms wherein multi-stakeholder groups can come to face-to-face in meetings or online forums to provide their inputs.
I encourage the youth – school and college students, civil society, academia, private sector and businesses and international organizations to use this opportunity to provide detailed views since their future is at stake – as Internet governance relates to issues of free speech, freedom of expression, privacy, access, and growth of the Internet to reduce barriers, increase employment opportunities, and enhance information amongst communities in India and around the world.
With the Government agreeing to hold public consultations on the matter, is the time for the multi-stakeholder groups to take lead keeping in mind which deserves to play its rightful role at a global level through media such as the Internet. Hope that the government would learn that discussions on the issue of Internet governance cannot be held behind closed doors or with limited groups, and that this will be the beginning of a new paradigm of engaging all citizens in a constant dialogue relating to the future and growth of the Internet.
Coming on the eve of Independence Day, the government’s decision to agree on consultation is small but significant victory for all millions of netizens and those who have fought the last few months to preserve the open, non bureaucratic, non-governmental nature of Internet regulation.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha