Internet Governance: In the Footsteps of Global Administrative Law

By Maja Andjelkovic on December 7, 2006

The World Summit on the Information Society's Working Group on Internet Governance developed this working definition of Internet governance, which was adopted by the WSIS governments in the Tunis Agenda (2005):

…the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.

This definition is helpful in that it enumerates the stakeholders and some of the challenges facing Internet governance; however, it provides no direction as to what a system, or a combination of systems, of Internet governance would require in order to contribute to sustainable development.

One of IISD's strategic objectives is to advance sustainable development by contributing to institutional transformation, particularly through promoting the principles of accountability, participation and legitimacy. This paper, originally submitted as Maja Andjelkovic's LLM thesis to the University of Kent Law School, suggests that accountability and legitimacy should comprise the basic tenets of Internet governance. A framework convention has been proposed as the only traditional international legal instrument with the potential to ensure the integration of these principles in Internet governance; however, despite the flexibility it offers, a framework convention has significant shortcomings that would make employing it in the area of Internet governance difficult. Instead, the paper suggests that solutions for Internet governance should be sought within the emerging theory of Global Administrative Law, which describes a decentralized governance scheme based on common trends and characteristics in other multi-stakeholder, multi-level, international issue areas and one capable of promoting the rule of law in hybrid governance structures.

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Maja Andjelkovic, 2006