On Some Aspects of the “Declaration For the Future of the Internet”

On Some Aspects of the “Declaration For the Future of the Internet”

One of the most pressing issues stirring the minds of the global Internet community and discussed at the recent UN Internet Governance Forum (November 28-December 2, Addis Ababa) was the prospects for the implementation of the “Declaration For the Future of the Internet”. This document was prepared by an initiative group of countries headed by the US in April 2022, and has already been signed by more than 60 states. 

The Declaration is positioned as an international document of a voluntary nature with potentially widespread implementation, answering the question “How can we ensure that the Internet remains open, global and compatible in accordance with universal values and fundamental rights?” However, upon closer examination, serious issues and criticisms are raised about both the provisions of the document itself and the motives behind its development. 

In the first place, the priority direction of development – “around a positive agenda for a free, open, global, compatible, secure and safe Internet” - draws attention. Thus, the Forum organizers' workshop on the Declaration noted the key importance of “open Internet policies and actions that are essential to building trust, security, stability and interoperability of the Internet, including a people-centered approach. All this cannot be achieved without taking into account the sustainability of the Internet governance ecosystem, which depends on well-structured coordination and consolidation among the various stakeholders to promote a positive vision for the future of the Internet.” Thus, a claim is made for the universality of the document and the creation of a coordination apparatus based on it.  

However, such claims contradict the fact that the Declaration was originally created with a view to expansion - to expand the number of signatories and to form a notional “bloc of countries” with the right idea of security and reliability of the Internet, corresponding to a democratic agenda. In particular, the authors of the document emphasize the importance of the political aspect in the reorientation of the development of the Internet on the “track of democracy and protection of human rights” in some regions of the world. In this context, the proactive stance of the Declaration's sponsors towards certain countries outside the orbit of the document is noteworthy. For example, they try to involve in its support some countries of South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa, which are not signatories of the Declaration.

The fact that individual BRICS countries - Brazil, India and the Republic of South Africa - have also been considered in the context of a partnership based on the Declaration, is of particular notice. Not only were Russia and China not mentioned as promising partners, but they were not even invited to multilateral dialogue in an independent format. These circumstances once again point to a tacit “division” of developing countries by the criterion of potential integration into the new bloc and the implementation of the Declaration's narrative into promising and non-promising (failed). Also, such bloc initiatives aim to sabotage integration processes on the basis of alternative digital governance documents, while reinforcing the hegemony of the Western paradigm in this area of international cooperation.

Finally, it should be understood that the separation of certain “disadvantaged” countries from the single conditionally “healthy” Internet governed by the Declaration is not least due to the impossibility of capitalizing their digital space. This is due both to the enormous loss of sanctions and to the need to build the aforementioned equal dialogue with national regulators, which, in the eyes of the authors of the project, function according to “undemocratic” principles. 

To summarize, it should be recognized that the above factors do not allow the Declaration on the Future of the Internet to be regarded as a promising and universal document, but only emphasize its biased nature and its inability to serve as a basis for the formation of truly generally accepted, “non-aligned” principles to maintain the freedom and security of the Internet. Thus, any cooperation of third countries on the basis of this document should be assessed as actions to expand the influence of the Western paradigm of cyberspace management and, for our part, propose more equitable, independent and unbiased formats for cooperation in this sphere.