When Jerry and I started WCITLeaks, we didn’t know if our idea would gain traction. But it did. We made dozens of WCIT-related documents available to civil society and the general public—and in some cases, even to WCIT delegates themselves. We are happy to have played a constructive role, by fostering improved access to the information necessary for the media and global civil society to form opinions on such a vital issue as the future of the Internet. You can read my full retrospective account of WCITLeaks and the WCIT over at Ars Technica.
But now it’s time to look beyond the WCIT. The WCIT revealed substantial international disagreement over the future direction of Internet governance, particularly on the issues of whether the ITU is an appropriate forum to resolve Internet issues and whether Internet companies such as Google and Twitter should be subject to the provisions of ITU treaties. This disagreement led to a split in which 55 countries opted not to sign the revised ITRs, the treaty under negotiation.
Where does this divisive ITR revision leave us? It means that the next two years or so of ITU meetings have the potential to be extremely interesting. In particular, the World Telecommunication/Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum (WTPF) in May 2013 in Geneva and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (known as “Plenipot”) in October-November 2014 in Busan, South Korea, are worth watching closely.
Unlike the WCIT, the WTPF is not a treaty conference. It is a meeting that produces opinions and reports. Also unlike the WCIT, at WTPF the Internet is explicitly on the table in an up-front, honest way. The opinions and reports produced at WTPF about the Internet will be used as input documents into Plenipot, which is a full treaty conference. At Plenipot, the entire Constitution and Convention of the ITU is subject to revision, so it is extremely likely that the Internet will be considered. One contact of mine has called Plenipot “WCIT 2.”
There is some good news. So far, all WTPF preparatory documents have been 100% open to the public. WCITLeaks applauds the ITU for this policy. Transparency provided directly by the ITU is better than the transparency we have provided in the past, because the ITU’s public documents are often available in multiple languages, something that WCITLeaks does not have the resources to offer. For example, here is the fourth draft of the SG’s report from the Informal Experts Group for WTPF. Note that it is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Russian. The multilingual availability of this document ensures that an even broader array of global civil society will be able to more closely follow WTPF preparations.
The bad news is that we do not yet know if WTPF documents beyond the preparatory phase will be publicly available. When those documents appear, they will be listed here, but it is possible that users who are not affiliated with Member States or Sector Members won’t have access. In addition, we do not yet know what the policy will be toward access to documents relating to Plenipot.
We hope that the ITU will continue to take these important steps toward greater transparency. At the same time, we are ready to reprise our WCIT role if necessary. To that end, we have reoriented the WCITLeaks site to focus on WTPF and future conferences. WCIT-related documents will continue to be available at wcitleaks.org/wcit. As always, you can stay up to date by following @WCITLeaks on Twitter. Happy leaking!