IGF 2022 WS #235 Dialogue on the 'Declaration for the Future of the Internet'

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (12:05 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (13:35 UTC)

Organizer 1: Milton Mueller, Georgia Tech Internet Governance Project
Organizer 2: Andreas Kuehn, Observer Research Foundation America

Speaker 1: Timothy Wu, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Louise Marie Hurel, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Anriette Esterhuysen, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 4: Dhruva Jaishankar, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Additional Speakers

Dr. Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador for Germany


Milton Mueller, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Andreas Kuehn, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Andreas Kuehn, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How can we foster global cooperation on an open, free and secure internet, without creating a digital Cold War that pits one bloc of nation-states against another? 2. What are the Internet policy issues that can command a broad consensus among governments and other stakeholders, and where are the points of disagreement? If the Declaration is not the right vehicle for these efforts, what is a better alternative? 3. How can stakeholders other than governments be brought into these dialogues?

Connection with previous Messages: Our panel builds on Message #7, under the heading, "Inclusive Internet Ecosystems and Digital Cooperation," which said: "A positive vision for the future of the Internet has to draw together the strands of core values across technical principles. human rights. access and openness, transparency, and rule of law. as well as economic considerations. This can only be done in an inclusive multistakeholder manner. where the interests of all actors can be addressed."


9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; 16 Peace Justice and Strong Institutions Both (9) and (16) are relevant to the Declaration. #9 is relevant because the Declaration recognizes Internet as an infrastructure, encourages innovation and looks for coordinated initiatives to regulate industry when needed. #16 Is relevant because the Declaration is attempting to foster coordinated adherence to international norms and promote peaceful relations in cvberspace.


The U.S. government-led "Declaration for the Future of the Internet" was an attempt to renew and revitalize the vision of an open global digital environment while addressing known problems. It included commitments to "Human rights and fundamental freedoms" as well as "Inclusive and affordable access." Sixty (60) countries signed on to it, but some notable countries did not. In general, we see the IGF, the UN Digital Cooperation Agenda and the Declaration as related, potentially complementary, mutually reinforcing initiatives to develop a vision and positive agenda tor tackling contemporary digital policy problems on a coordinated global basis. This workshop will foster dialogue between supporters of and signatories to the Declaration, neutral analysts from academia and civil society, and representatives of several major countries that did not join it. They will discuss the value of the initiative and whether it should be expanded. The initiative raised a number of questions: What effect will these commitments have? What does it do that other existing groupings, such as the Freedom Online Coalition, do not do? Will the initiative continue to seek additional signatories? Why was it conceived as a government-to-government initiative and did not include civil society and business? Why did some important countries not sign on to it? This panel discussion and interactive exchange will feature the following people: Timothy Wu, US Government. Wu is in the Executive Office of the President and was one of the key developers of the Declaration. Dr. Regine Grienberger, Cyber Ambassador for Germany. Anriette Esterhuysen: South African civil society. Human rights activist, selected to Internet Hall of Fame, and former executive director of Association for Progressive Communications Dhruva Jaishankar: India. Executive Director of the Observer Research Foundation America. Has published research on India’s relations with the United States, Japan, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Louise Marie Hurel: Brazil. PhD Researcher in Data, Networks, and Society at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) TBD: A speaker from the European Union Parliament or European Commission will be added TBD: We have made outreach to someone from the Chinese government and expect a positive response, but it is not confirmed yet. TBD: We have invited a representative from Ethiopia, but it is not confirmed yet. Milton Mueller: USA. Moderator. Dr. Mueller is a well known academic researcher and activist in Internet governance who has held elected positions in ICANN, ARIN, and runs the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech. Andreas Kuehn: Swiss. Online Moderator. Dr. Kuehn works for Observer Research Foundation and has held previous positions with the East-West Institute.

Expected Outcomes

1. A key follow-up process would be for the IGF participants to decide whether the Declaration for the Future of the Internet should continue to seek additional signatories from governments, and to expand its signatories to include civil society and business stakeholders. If there was consensus to continue to expand the initiative, an multistakeholder organizational apparatus could be set up to do that. 2. Another important followup process would be to establish an ongoing assessment of how well signatories to the Declaration are living up to the commitments made in the Declaration. 3. The organizers (IGP and ORF America) expect to edit and publish an edited transcript of the discussion as a white paper.

Hybrid Format: 1. Facilitating interaction between onsite and online speakers: IGP did a Town Hall and Workshop in Hybrid mode at the 2021 Poland IGF. In both cases, the onsite moderator and online speakers had no trouble coordinating through the Zoom interface. The sequence of speakers will be worked out in advance, so both types of speakers will know when they are expected to start. For discussion, the onsite moderator will keep track of hands raised in the room, and the online moderator will carefully watch for virtual hand raises through the meeting platform. The two moderators will alternate between in-room and online questions. 2. Session design: The session will be clearly divided into 5 segments: a) background information (explaining what is in the Declaration and a background of some of the issues it raises); b) panelists statements; c) interactions among the panelists; d) open discussion including audience members e) decisions about follow up. The moderators will make sure that an specific amount of time is allocated to each of these 5 sections and that those time limits are adhered to. 3. Our summary of the declaration will draw on recorded videos and include some reactions drawn from public media.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Session Report (* deadline 16 December) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

On April 28, 2022, the United States announced the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI), a commitment signed by 61 like-minded nations to reclaim the promise of the early internet in the face of 21st-century challenges. The IGF session, Dialogue on the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, was held on December 1, 2022, and gathered experts from signatory and non-signatory countries to debate the policy questions highlighted above.

Milton Mueller from Georgia Tech's Internet Governance Project opened the session by asking panel members whether their host countries signed the declaration and, if not, to explain why they didn't.

The Cyber Ambassador for Germany, Regine Grienberger, opened by stating that EU member states had all signed the Declaration. Grienberger highlighted how EU stakeholders are reaffirming their stance on ongoing digital transformations through other initiatives such as the Declaration on digital rights, principles for the digital decade, and Germany's Freedom Online Coalition.

BRICS-block countries did not sign the Declaration, taking issue with the process and substance. According to Dhruva Jaishankar from Observer Research Foundation (ORF) America, India did not sign the DFI because its drafting process did not include sufficient consultation with Indian officials or an emphasis on national security. Jaishankar noted that while nations like India may pay lip service to multistakeholder principles, digital nationalism will be India's predominant form of internet governance going forward.
According to Anriette Esterhuysen from Civil Society, African Group, South Africa did not sign the DFI due to a customary position of not signing international agreements they did not negotiate. That said, South Africa has broad alignment with most DFI principles, except for multistakeholder governance. Esterhuysen added that the DFI sends a geopolitical signal of alignment between like-minded and democratic nations. The DFI language makes it difficult for many other states to align themselves with the document. Esterhuysen hopes civil society will use the DFI to hold countries accountable.
According to Louise Marie Hurel from Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), Brazil does not typically sign international agreements where they are not part of the conceptual and negotiation phase. Further, Hurel highlighted how Brazil's foreign policy stance could best be described as strategic ambiguity, where cooperation with different geopolitical blocks is made on an ad hoc basis. For example, Hurel noted that Brazil cooperates with the West on the international counter-ransomware initiative while maintaining a working relationship with other countries such as China and Russia. Hurel said the DFI achieves its objective of sending a government-to-government political signal but is less sure about its adherence to a multistakeholder process. For Hurel, the DFI is about creating trust with countries in the middle geopolitical ground and a stakeholder mapping effort for the US to gauge a willingness to support from its allies.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and National Telecommunications and Information (NTIA) Administrator Allan Davidson noted that the DFI's intent was to signal a shared vision and renewed commitment around its seven core principles, given the rising trend of digital authoritarianism. Davidson noted the DFI was conceived as an intergovernmental declaration because it started as a contribution to the Summit for Democracy, where governments were initially approached. Davidson hopes the document can attract more countries to become signatories and allow the multistakeholder community to advance the DFI vision and hold nation-states accountable.
Milton Mueller asked whether the Declaration will mean the US will be more willing to distance itself from forms of digital sovereignty. Mueller also emphasized the difficulty of navigating the tension between creating an exclusive geopolitical block of like-minded nations while allowing countries that cannot agree with the DFI principles the possibility of signing on and adhering to the document in the future.
Finally, the panel decided to bring DFI principles into future IGFs to gain more support and discussion of those principles. The Q&A portion of the session included the following interactions:

  • A question from an unnamed UK government representative asked what could be practically done with the DFI.
    • Esterhuysen answered that the DFI principles could be used to engage in public, open review processes of a country's recent online legislation.
  • Moira Whelan from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, DC, emphasized civil society's engagement in developing the DFI. Whalen also noted that government colleagues were reluctant to provide civil society with opportunities to contribute meaningfully. Whelan asked the panelists for a detailed explanation of the mechanisms for civil society to participate.
  • An audience member noted that since DFI was a project early in the Biden administration, it suffered from an "objective creep" problem. He suggested that UN member states declare their aspirations, intent, vision, and commitments to the future of an open internet and engage in that process through the General Assembly or the Secretary-General.
  • Yik Chan Chin, from the Oxford Global Society and Beijing Normal University, noted that the DFI was a geopolitically driven initiative and questioned the intent behind the Declaration.
  • Matthew McNaughton from Kingston Jamaica's SlashRoots foundation indicated that a declaration of values by like-minded actors would not necessarily be the best vehicle for achieving an open, un‑fragmented internet. He noted the DFI might have the opposite effect of further highlighting distinct divisions and separate visions.
  • Izaan Khan noted the Shanghai cooperation organization, of which India has been a member since 2017, has made digital sovereignty the foundation of internet governance and is promoting it as an international code of conduct in information security.