How can the Global Digital Compact prevent Internet fragmentation? – TOPIC 02 Sub 03 2023
20 June 2023 | 17:00 - 17:45 EEST | Main auditorium | |
Consolidated programme 2023 overview / Main Topic 2
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This interactive session will consider how the Global Digital Compact, which is expected to be agreed at the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024, should establish a set of core principles and agree commitments to act by stakeholders, in order to prevent Internet fragmentation.
The UN Secretary General’s report “Our Common Agenda” has proposed that a Global Digital Compact (GDC) based on shared principles for “an open, free and secure digital future for all” should cover a range of thematic areas and specific issues including the avoidance of Internet fragmentation. The report can be accessed at https://www.un.org/en/content/common-agenda-report/ - the proposed Global Digital Compact is described in para 93.
The Office of the Envoy on Technology launched a consultation on the proposed thematic areas for the GDC which concluded on 30 April. The details of the consultation process are accessible at https://www.un.org/techenvoy/global-digital-compact .
EuroDIG's response to the Tech Envoy's consultation is accessible at www.un.org.techenvoy/files/GDC-submission_EuroDIG.pdf This included the following summary of messages from recent EuroDIG meetings when the issue of Internet fragmentation was included in its agenda:
- Core principles:
- The original model for Internet services based on multiple implementations, interoperability and open standards, has proved to be effective in countering the growth and dominance of "walled gardens" and closed platforms.
- Any regulatory initiatives aimed at exerting sovereignty in a particular field must ensure they do not harm human rights online, do not harm the open and global nature of the Internet, and are in line with democratic multi-stakeholder principles.
- Commitments to action
- The single, global, multi-stakeholder governance framework should be maintained for the key technical resources of the Internet (including IP addresses and domain names).
- One of the ways to reduce the possibility of a “splinternet” is to avoid incompatible regulations for Internet infrastructure. Fragmentation at the transport layer (IP, DNS root) should be avoided.
- In regulating the Internet infrastructure, collateral damage should be avoided to the services and operators regarding economic costs and availability and avoid fragmentation of the global critical internet infrastructure.
- Sovereign states have the right to create rules over the usage of the Internet by their citizens according to their national values and legal frameworks, on issues such as moderation and removal of content, privacy and data protection, fair competition, national security and taxation.
This session in Tampere being held at the time when UN member states are being briefed on the potential scope and impact of the Global Digital Compact, will enable the EuroDIG community to articulate in a set of key messages how specifically the Global Digital Compact should serve to prevent Internet fragmentation.
Mark Carvell, Member of EuroDIG's Support Association, will open the session with a short summary of the recent EuroDIG messages on Internet fragmentation that were included in EuroDIG's response to the UN Secretary-General's Tech Envoy's consultation on the Global Digital Compact. Tatiana Tropina, Assistant Professor in Cybersecurity Governance at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University will then initiate the session's interactive discussion to introduce briefly:
- the UN Secretary-General's process led by the Tech Envoy of consultation on Internet fragmentation as a proposed thematic area for the Global Digital Compact;
- the current status of relevant initiatives, including the Internet Governance Forum's intersessional Policy Network on Internet Fragmentation (PNIF - https://www.intgovforum.org/en/content/policy-network-on-internet-fragmentation).
Following these short opening presentations, the floor will open for a 30 minute discussion of how to provide responses to the question in the session title: "How can the Global Digital Compact prevent Internet fragmentation?"
The aim of the session is to agree at least three specific, broadly consensus-based EuroDIG messages which will be reported for submission to the Tech Envoy, Under-Secretary-General Amandeep Gill.
Further reading: Tatiana Tropina, Assistant Professor in Cybersecurity Governance at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University: Internet Fragmentation: What’s at Stake? https://www.gcr21.org/publications/gcr/gcr-quarterly-magazine/qm-2-3/2022-articles/qm-2/3-2022-tropina-internet-fragmentation-whats-at-stake
Please provide name and institution for all people you list here.
- Tatiana Tropina
- Yrjö Länsipuro
The Subject Matter Experts (SME) support the programme planning process throughout the year and work closely with the Secretariat. They give advice on the topics that correspond to their expertise, cluster the proposals and assist session organisers in their work. They also ensure that session principles are followed and monitor the complete programme to avoid repetition.
- Ana Neves
- Mark Carvell
Focal Points take overall responsibility and lead the session organisation. They work in close cooperation with the respective Subject Matter Expert (SME) and the EuroDIG Secretariat and are kindly requested to follow EuroDIG’s session principles
Organising Team (Org Team)
- Emilia Zalewska
- Amali De Silva-Mitchell
- Marlene Straub
- Giacomo Mazzone
- Sebastien Bachollet
- Concettina Cassa
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- Mark Carvell
- Tatiana Tropina
- Ana Neves
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Trained remote moderators will be assigned on the spot by the EuroDIG secretariat to each session.
Reporters will be assigned by the EuroDIG secretariat in cooperation with the Geneva Internet Platform. The Reporter takes notes during the session and formulates 3 (max. 5) bullet points at the end of each session that:
- are summarised on a slide and presented to the audience at the end of each session
- relate to the particular session and to European Internet governance policy
- are forward looking and propose goals and activities that can be initiated after EuroDIG (recommendations)
- are in (rough) consensus with the audience
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Rapporteur: Mark Carvell, independent Internet governance policy adviser and member of the EuroDIG Support Association
- The Global Digital Compact should include detailed and transparent commitments by stakeholders – including governments, regulators and the technical community – to prevent fragmentation of the Internet’s core technical resources and of their governance.
- The GDC process should continue to engage stakeholders, including the national and regional IGFs, in the finalisation and implementation of the Compact.
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>> NADIA TJAHJA: Good afternoon, starting going into the evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are now back on subtopic 3, how can the Global Digital Compact avoid global fragmentation. Like to invite to the stage please.
>> I don’t know if I should sit over here but maybe I’ll be here.
Just let me to arrange everything here.
You are all tired to hear about Internet fragmentation. This is the third subtopic, so if you saw the programme this topic, Internet fragmentation is being taken from different angles, the first one, it was about risks, the risk. The second one, it was about resilience. This third subtopic, it is about hope, and here in the subtopic hope, it will be dedicated on how can the Global Digital Compact prevent Internet fragmentation.
As you may know, I think, the UN Secretary-General’s report of our Common Agenda has proposed a Global Digital Compact based on shared principles for an open, free, secure digital future for all.
Here it covers a range of thematic areas and specific issues including the avoidance of Internet fragmentation.
We are here discussing Internet fragmentation on several dimensions and it is one of the areas that will be covered by the Global Digital Compact and it will be adopted by the Member States in the United Nations in the Summit of the future in 2024.
So the office of the tech envoy launched a consultation on the proposed thematic areas for the Global Digital Compact which concludes on the 30th of April. EuroDIG’s response to the consultation is accessible in the files of the Office of The tech envoy and in the page.
This session here, in this area, it is being held in a time when UN Member States are being briefed on the potential scope and impact of the Global Digital Compact and will enable the EuroDIG community to articulate a set of key members of the messages of how specifically the Global Digital Compact should serve to prevent Internet fragmentation.
Now I’ll give the floor to Mark Carvell, a member of EuroDIG’s support association to summarize briefly the EuroDIG messages. Please, go ahead.
>> MARK CARVELL: Thank you.
It has been a long afternoon, good afternoon, on this topic, Internet fragmentation, the risks and threats, what kind of fragmentation are we talking about? You have been resilient in staying the course, and reaching that point where we’re going to look at one channel for hope.
Now, EuroDIG, this is not the first time that EuroDIG has addressed the issue of fragmentation. If you look back over the record of recent EuroDIG meetings and messages that were agreed at those meetings or published subsequently, you will find that there are very important and relatively consistent statements about addressing the risks of fragmentation.
These messages, they are addressed not only to governments and policymakers but also to the private sector, to the technical community, but there is a consistent theme, and I will recount briefly some of those points that have been made in the messages.
I will quote from all of them.
There is recommendation by EuroDIG that the original model of Internet services based on multiple implementations, I’m quoting here, multiple implementations, interoperability, open standards has proved to be effective in encountering the growth and dominance of walled gardens, we have heard about that quite a bit this afternoon and closed platforms. That’s a kind of principle really that was articulated by EuroDIG about the value of the model and the model’s contribution to avoiding fragmentation of the single global interoperable Internet.
Another message stated that any regulatory initiatives aimed at exerting sovereignty in a particular field must ensure that they do not harm the open, global nature of the Internet.
There again you have got that restatement of principle. At the technical level EuroDIG stated that the single global multistakeholder frame work should be maintained for the key technical resources of the Internet, including IP addresses and domain names.
Another message said that one of the ways to reduce the possibility of a splinter-net is to avoid incompatible regulations for Internet infrastructure, fragmentation at the transport layer, IP, DNS root should be avoided.
So later on another message stated that sovereign recognizing – recognizing that sovereign states have the right to create rules over the usage of the Internet by their citizens according to the national values and legal frameworks on issues such as moderation and removable of content, privacy and data protection, fair competition, national cybersecurity, and taxation. There was that recognition that there is – that sovereign states, national states, countries, governments, have that right, however, such regulation should avoid collateral damage and avoid fragmentation of the global critical Internet infrastructure. I think these are highly relevant statements from previous EuroDIG meetings, and indeed as was said, EuroDIG responded to the tech envoys online consultation on the proposed Global Digital Compact, and the 7 themes, including avoid Internet fragmentation. We responded to that and on the basis of the EuroDIG response was to draw on those messages. There are a few others as well that I have not quoted to save time.
So where are we now? The Global Digital Compact formal process of consultations has now apparently finished with the ending of the deep dive consultations by the Co-Facilitators, and there is the road to the Summit of the future which will be in September next year, and many voices have expressed concern that stakeholders should not – the governmental communities of stakeholders should not be excluded from the final processes led by the Member States and the UN. We should continue to fight for the opportunity to express stakeholder views on issues such as the risk of avoiding the risk of fragmentation.
The question now, having said that there is that channel of hope before us, which we should take advantage of, it is what we should say as a EuroDIG community about ensuring that the Global Digital Compact, which is not just going to be a statement, it is going to trigger a process of action, of delivering commitments of ensuring commitments followed up of accountability, transparency of who delivers on those commitments, governments as well as stakeholders. I get that positive element from the DTC process, that it doesn’t stop with the deep dives having finished, but the multistakeholder engagement should continue and the implementation and landing of the Global Digital Compact should involve stakeholders and national or regional IGFs like EuroDIG should continue to be involved.
How do we ensure that the GDC, when it is delivered at the Summit include robust, accountable provision, agreed by Member States on the basis of stakeholder engagement that the Internet fragmentation will be prevented. That’s why we have included the word prevent in the title of this subtopic, let’s go for it. That, I think, is something we should be engaged with, in a very positive, hopeful way.
Okay. I’ll stop there and hand back to Ana. Thank you. Thank you for listening.
>> ANA NEVES: Thank you. Are there any questions to Mark’s intervention.
Otherwise we’ll continue – yes.
>> Two points, the first one, I’m very surprised with the point of view of EuroDIG of each country can do what they want. End user at the end of the day, they’re just not belonging to one country, they belong to the world. When a country decides something for their citizen, it is something against the world, we feed to live together and try to find a way to be together. If we allow for every topic that the country decides what they want, we are in trouble. My main point, it is my hope, it is that GDC you say, the Global Digital Compact, will not fragment, to add to the Internet Governance fragmentation to me, that’s also a big risk. We’re talking about Internet fragmentation I know. If we add 1324 new bodies, I don’t know who will be able to follow or will be missing, at the end of the day, it is a way to have less participation and less user voice and other voice of other constituent.
>> ANA NEVES: Thank you.
>> Two things, we’re talking about the United Nations, we have to talk about process, of course, because the UN is about process. As you’re thinking about messages, there are two things, the consultation and deep dive process, it was established by the President of the General Assembly and as Mark said we have the governments of Rwanda and Sweden leading this.
What’s been noted is that there are no records of those consultations, there is no recording of the deep dive processes themselves, no transcription, there is no record of the written contributions that may have been made to them. That is quite unusual. It does make you wonder what are we going to see in the outcome document because at some point we won’t be able to see what the input was. It means that the outcome will be interesting.
I’ll leave it in that word.
It is an unusual process. That’s the first thing.
The second, it is the much mentioned policy brief 5 from the Secretary-General, covers many of the same issues, which is interesting when the General Assembly, the President of the General Assembly has initiated a process and the Secretary-General seems to have almost reached a conclusion on some of the same issues. So as he inadequately preempted the outcome of a process that was initiated by the General Assembly is perhaps an interesting question to raise.
I would consider, it is generally boring to talk about process, it is the General Assembly, the United Nations, so perhaps consider those two points, that we aren’t seeing a record of inputs into the process of consultation and deep dive, and where does the policy brief fit with the work that Rwanda and Sweden are doing. It seems somewhat unusual.
>> ANA NEVES: Very good questions. I still have Chris and Tatiana to speak up about how the GDS will prevent Internet fragmentation and so Nigel, I wonder if you want to speak now or to wait for the interventions of Chris and Tatiana and then you can come back?
>> (Off microphone (.
>> Thank you very much. Nigel Hickson, U.K. government, want to be brief, first of all to thank EuroDIG for hosting this session and thank you to Mark and Ana yesterday for the session that we had on the WSIS process and the GDC.
I’m not going to mention process although I think Adam makes some really useful points, but I would mention the opportunity that the Global Digital Compact has. I mean, indeed there’s a lot of concerns that many of us governments had in the paper that the Secretary-General brought out. Let this glass be half full in this case and especially as this topic is on Internet fragmentation, let us hope that the Global Digital Compact can aspire to higher ideals than many other UN processes do. Let’s forget about the open-ended Working Group on cybercrime, let’s forget about cybersecurity for once, and let’s focus on the real issues that the global world faces, an Internet fragmentation is one of them.
The lack of diversity, the lack of development, the lack of multilingualism, the Global Digital Compact can highlight some of these issues, it can highlight some of the work being done. It doesn’t need to duplicate some of the work being done elsewhere or ICANN or the IGF, it can complement it. Member governments – and I only speak for one of them – we have an obligation here. We have an obligation to ensure that the Global Digital Compact doesn’t just end up as some ITU, UN document that no one will ever read.
>> ANA NEVES: Thank you very much, Nigel.
I think that both Adam and Nigel’s comments are very important. I hope we can pick them up for our messages on the Internet fragmentation.
Now I will give the floor to Tatiana to talk about how digital global compact can prevent Internet fragmentation.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: I must admit, you and Mark gave me an impossible task to speak about Global Digital Compact and Internet fragmentation in the context of Global Digital Compact. Three previous interventions made this task almost even more impossible. I could not express it better than Nigel. So I was supposed to give a bit of an introduction, but after the day of talking about Internet fragmentation, to me, it feels a bit more as a recap than an introduction. The end, the wrap up of huge discussions, the wrap up of the issue of almost impossibility to frame and define Internet fragmentation to something as Nigel had said would be hope. If you look at the Global Digital Compact, you will not see an explanation what it means by avoiding Internet fragmentation and we spoke about various stakeholders having their own definitions of Internet fragmentation. Let me just as a matter of introduction put it in the context of the IGF and in the context of the Policy Network, what are we talking about here.
First of all, we can think and speak about Internet fragmentation, the promise of global connectivity, the technical fragmentation of the network.
This is one level. This is one layer. There is also fragmentation of user experience and fragmentation of governments. I already heard this covered even in the interventions before us.
So what I wanted to say here, is that in the context of Global Digital Compact, we have only one line, avoid Internet fragmentation, the promise of this line is huge because it is up to us, it is up to European community to make these messages and the messages have the chance to become a firm commitment of the governments.
It is a very important step here. How we scope it, how we define it, how we shape this messages, how we project them, and how we deliver them might define the future of the Internet.
I just want us to remember this. You know, we will have these discussions and saying what can we do, how do we define it, we are preaching to the converted, we may be preaching to the converted, but this message goes to the outside world. I suggest let’s roll up our sleeves and do the work right now.
>> Ana Neves: You know a lot of this issue as well. The different layers of the Internet fragmentation, what do you think the Global Digital Compact will do to avoid Internet fragmentation.
Chris: Like Tatiana, I’m very much speaking here having heard a lot of what I said echoed back to me before I said it, but I want to seize a little bit on Nigel’s ideas there, I think there is an opportunity here for a more ambitious kind of agreement, more ambitious kind of project than we have seen before, I think that’s necessary. There is a need for this, for the UN to step up, look at new models, new ways of ensuring that we meet these challenges.
I think Mark mentioned it, the tech envoy has also mentioned it, there needs to be transparency, accountability, follow-up for this document, it can’t just be sort of problem commitments made. There needs to be sort of structures to sort of follow-through.
I think that is where there is an element of risk, that’s where I want – where you released a lot of my thunder in that, Sebastien Bachollet. A, we have to look at what structures we have, the IGF is obviously one of those, the community that it is built around, the structure, the intersessional work that it has built up, it is so valuable here.
The multistakeholder approach within the UN, in that sense, others have said that in response to the survey, we need to look to what the IGF community has produced and in this case it has produced some really specific responses to the Secretary-General’s challenge, produced challenges responding to each of these themes, including avoiding fragmentation.
We also need to look to that intersessional work like the Policy Network on Internet fragmentation and what it is described as the fragmentation of governance of the Internet, and that’s a real threat which I think is captured under the Secretary-General’s original idea of avoiding Internet fragmentation.
Looking at a new kind of structure, looking at new ways to ensure transparency and accountability, there is a real risk there that we’re going to see new models, new bodies, new groups assigned. We have heard from the Secretary-General about digital cooperation forum, we have heard from the HLAB, the high-level advisory board on improving multilateralism on a new Commission.
These are in some senses rational ideas and they’re looking at the gaps and they’re trying to fill those gaps.
But in another sense, they are driving down that road towards greater fragmentation of this process, and what that will mean is it will make it much harder for all stakeholders, including governments themselves, to actually engage with this process.
I think for something that EuroDIG really needs to stress going out is built on what we have, build on that multistakeholder approach that is there, build on the bodies that already exist, that embody that multistakeholder approach like the IGF, like the NRIs that exist in an ecosystem, they will need to be evolution, you know, what they have right now may not be ready to address all of the challenges here and to ensure accountability, but the IGF has been improving and evolving for the past 17 years, that won’t stop, and perhaps this will give direction as to how the IGF and the community means to evolve going forward.
>> ANA Neves: Thank you very much.
Now I give the floor to you. We have the Global Digital Compact, please come here.
Something that I would like to emphasize, it is that if you read about this, they’re talking about three main stakeholder groups, they’re talking about government, they’re talking about private sector and Civil Society, where is technical community? Together with the private secretary, I don’t think that’s the case and where is academia as well? This is something that we have to pay attention because of what we have to do for government to be really informed and give them more intelligence for them to adopt something that will be good in the future of September of 2024. Please present yourself and go ahead.
>> It is not a question, rather a comment. I appreciate the points regarding the long, transparent process, the fragmentation of governments, processes, but what I want to say, the more I follow the GDC, the less I understand who would benefit from it at the end of the day. It seems like okay, we have this intergovernmental process with stakeholders in it, we can’t see really what’s happening there. It seems like it won’t be like a treaty, yes, all of this Internet community, multistakeholder community is fighting about any legally binding treaty, so what is GDC, just a set of values? We have the declaration of the Internet, whatever, the connectivity and on fragmentation, whatever, it covers not the whole world, but just part of it, but GDC won’t solve this problem.
What will be next? Okay, we have this Summit for future. We have this GDC, hopefully it will be negotiated but what next? We will still have some processes like IGF, technical people doing technical stuff, policy people doing policy stuff. So who is the main beneficial actor from GDC, maybe you know the answer.
>> ANA NEVES: Well, it should be the world community, but we’ll see.
Please introduce yourself and go ahead.
>> Coming from Spain, thank you.
We have seen many countries accepting the declaration on Human Rights and then they have broken it afterwards in some form. These countries are usually the forms that the countries fragmenting the Internet. How do we make sure they follow the Digital Compact, thus avoiding the Internet fragmentation? Thank you.
>> ANA NEVES: Thank you very much.
Other persons that would like to ask or comment or say something about the theme? If this is not the case, I go back to you three.
>> MARK CARVELL: Can I just react on the position of the IGF, and the national or regional IGFs, in the GDC process, and I don’t think we should resign our severs to being excluded. I think we should still fight for what many of us envisioned as a role for the IGF and the broader community of IGF at the national regional levels to have a role in implementing the GDC. That, you know, I think that does resonate effectively.
There are some positive statements in the policy brief about multistakeholderism, there is this thread going through a lot of the key passages in the Secretary-General’s policy brief about multistakeholder, and also about building on existing processes, and not creating new institutions or new entities like what possibly could be the digital cooperation forum or the H lab proposal for global Commission.
There is language about building on existing, and we should fight as a community of stakeholders, as channels for the stakeholders worldwide to have that grow, to implement the GDC, and to inact processes and monitoring, holding people to account in terms of their commitments. I don’t think we should give up on that ambitious.
It will resonate well I think with many Member States in the UN, we just have to keep fighting for that argument, you know, those are ready-made global ecosystem of governments based on stakeholders actively committing to delivering an open, free, interoperable, secure Internet.
Again, expressing an ambition but it is a way to make progress on that, that we should try to work to. Okay.
>> TATIANA TROPINA: I don’t want to comment. I should be carrying – I’m not speaking from the stage but as a community member. I want to throw the first few lines, the commitments taking into account what we discussed here. Of course, we can propose to have a firm commitment to transparency and the process itself, it has to be the call to have an actionable commitment, not just say transparency 100 times and not being transparent at all. I think one of the most important for me, in terms of avoiding and preventing Internet fragmentation, there are two things, on the government level, for the governments or organizations to avoid creating incompatible standards protocols and what have you on the technical level, on the technical layer of the Internet. That’s the first one.
The second one, I believe that governments should have a firm commitment to both multistakeholder model of governance and multistakeholder participation in governance processes, and the first one would be the firm commitment to the global multistakeholder governance of the technical layer of the Internet, and this should be a non-negotiable, because I see even democratic governments confusing and conflating these two terms, multistakeholder participation and multistakeholder governance. I think we have to firmly say look, the governance of the technical layer of the Internet unique identifier protocols based on trust of the community and participation, and this goes back to comments by Sebastien Bachollet, should remain global multistakeholder and untouched and governments should participate in multistakeholder process in all other processes. This is my input, the first kind of substance.
>> SEBASTIEN BACHOLLET: If I can –
>> ANA NEVES: Governments are not a single entity, they are very, very, very different.
>> TATIANA NEVES: If I may go deeply, exactly.
One of my messages to the governments is always if your Department of Foreign Affairs is committing to global multistakeholder governance of the technical layer, could you please go to the Department of Justice, could you please go to this, this and that and align across and one of the things, maybe this should be in the messages that across the governmental departments inside and outside messages and commitments should be align sod that we’re not called hypocrites, you know, projecting messages and saying empty words if I may say.
>> ANA NEVES: Governments have to do a lot of homework and see how.
(Technical issue). – it means the Internet technical community to buy into this, to feel ownership of this, to make their own commitments, that they will also be held to, but you cannot do that if the document itself is purely a multilateral agreement between governments. I think in advocating for that, governments are really undermining the significance of this, the potential significance of this document, and I think for EuroDIG it is something that we can sort of advocate for and there is a practical proposal that we can get behind on that.
>> MARK CARVELL: The leadership panel has proposed support for this, am I right?
>> SEBASTIEN BACHOLLET: The proposal is sent to Rwanda and Sweden representatives by the Chairs of the leadership panel, Vint Cerf and the Chair of the MAG, Paul Mitchell on behalf of the IGF leadership panel and the IGF MAG so it has really the full support of the IGF machinery behind it, I think we’re going to need to build a case and work with other stakeholders, work with other Member States to make clear there is support for this and this is a workable solution going forward.
One step is for EuroDIG is to lyase with other regional IGFs, the Asia-Pacific, the African IGF, others, I think that may be a useful communication EuroDIG could make.
>> ANA NEVES: So it is 57 past 5:00. I wonder if anyone would like to intervene, to comment? Are you coming? Yes.
>> I want to say it is very important that you can give this message to the national IGF, the French one will be the 6th of July and it is important to raise this issue and we can take that on board.
>> ANA NEVES: Thank you.
No other comments? So if it is not the case, thank you very much. And a big applause to our speakers.
>> NADIA TJAHJA: Thank you and we thank the moderator Ana Neves for moderating this session.