One of the issues at the center of discussions over the future of Internet governance is how multilateral and multistakeholder institutions with an interest in working on Internet-related issues can coexist without duplication or conflict and without threatening to undermine the Internet and its promise. In an ideal world, each would learn from the other, and the activity of one would only add value to the other.
This issue surfaced again last week in Geneva, Switzerland as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hosted the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) + 10 High Level Event (HLE) along with co-organizers UNESCO, UNCTAD, and UNDP. Representatives from around the world gathered to approve an assessment of stakeholders to gauge how well the world has done to fulfill that mission and what our vision is for the future pursuit of those aims. The event reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the outcomes of WSIS, a two-stage summit in 2003 and 2005 that brought the world together to work towards a "people-centered" information society with ICT access for all and an environment focused on ensuring communications as a platform for people to use to lead healthier, more productive, and better informed lives.
In preparation for the gathering, stakeholders from every sector of society came together to prepare the documents for consideration at the WSIS+10 High Level event through six multistakeholder preparatory meetings held over the last year. The people that came together to do that work deserve our appreciation and their hard work produced substantive outcomes.
After some last minute negotiation that set aside some limited portions of the preparatory documents that did not achieve consensus support of all stakeholders, the meeting unanimously endorsed a set of outcome documents that represented the consensus view of all stakeholders. The documents broadly address a "WSIS + 10 Vision for WSIS Beyond 2010" and provide a "WSIS + 10 Statement of Implementation of the WSIS."
These outcome documents were satisfactory for the United States as the documents, among other things, recognize the usefulness of the multistakeholder approach in building the Information Society during the WSIS review process and the potential of ICTs as a tool for development, gender equality, and the exercise of human rights. These documents also demonstrate the continued relevance of the existing WSIS Action Lines that were constructed a decade ago. The original action lines were broad enough to capture emerging issues and our work remains unfinished. We need not create new ones. The success of the process and the deference that was demonstrated to the underlying multistakeholder work show promise for progress toward a productive coexistence between the multistakeholder and multilateral models.