The multistakeholder approach to global governance has gained a great deal of traction in recent years, particularly in the realm of Internet governance. This is partially due to the fact the Internet itself is a diverse, and dispersed, institution composed of many complex parts around the world. Basically all of human society has developed a stake in the governance of the Internet, whether that be private sector businesses, governments, NGOs, or individuals. Toward the end of developing a multistakeholder platform for Internet governance, the Brazilian government and ICANN held a multistakeholder conference to develop principles by which the Internet would be governed. These principles ended up being: Human Rights and Shared Values, Protection Of Intermediaries, Culture and Linguistic Diversity, Unified and Unfragmented Space, Security, Stability and Resilience Of The Internet, Open and Distributed Architecture, and Enabling Environment For Sustainable Innovation and Creativity.
Unfortunately, the grand challenge that is Internet governance was too great for the attempted initiative by the Brazilian government and ICANN as the initiative ended in failure. Other multistakeholder initiatives such as the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) continue with leadership from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in spite of this failure. The IGF, like the Brazilian and ICANN initiative, has a multistakeholder approach to decision making and has representatives from the public and private sectors along with civil society sitting on its Multistakeholder Advisory Group. The MAG guides the IGF and advises the Secretary General of the UN, placing the UN’s approach to Internet governance well within the realm of multistakeholder governance.
There is another dimension to multistakeholder governance though, specifically with regard to the Internet, and that is the importance of multistakeholder governance for development. By having more diverse voices at the governance table, policies and decisions can be made that are more effective at spurring development for all. Having developing countries at the table, as well as advocates for everything form human rights to disability, at the Internet governance table, telecommunication resources can be more effectively employed to give everyone access to information and economic opportunity. Multistakeholder governance will also help to ensure the Internet does not become the exclusive preserve of large multinational telecoms, or entirely controlled by developed country governments. This is not to say that multistakeholder governance will be easy to achieve, the failure of Brazil and ICANN is testament to that fact, rather multistakeholder governance is important for development.