Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on enhanced participation of member states in Internet governance matters – Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 26 May 2010
at the 1085th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

1. All Council of Europe member states have undertaken to secure within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

2. The Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) serve to promote the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and therefore have high public service value.1 Enabling access to and use of the Internet and ICTs, as well as ensuring their protection, should therefore be high priorities for member states’ policies with regard to Internet governance.

3. The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society2 defines Internet governance as “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”. Further, it reaffirms that “the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organisations”. It recognises that “Policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of states” and that states “have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues”. It also underlines that, “Intergovernmental organisations have had and should continue to have a facilitating role in the co-ordination of Internet-related public policy issues”.

4. Council of Europe member states have a shared responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure the ongoing functioning, stability, openness and universality of the Internet; solidarity in interstate relations is important in this context. 3

5. Public policy authority with regard to the Internet and the related responsibilities concern, on the one hand, technical co-ordination of shared global resources and, on the other hand, human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular, freedom of expression, privacy and freedom of assembly. The rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights and its protocols extend also to questions related to physical safety and integrity, education and property.

6. The private sector’s leadership in the management of critical Internet resources and ongoing efforts of non-state actors to promote the universality of the Internet and to ensure the stability, security, robustness and resilience of its networks should be acknowledged and welcomed.

7. In particular, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plays a key role in ensuring the operational stability, security and resilience of the Internet. Moreover, in implementing its mission and in line with the Tunis Agenda objectives, ICANN has embraced a multi-stakeholder approach in its organisational structures and processes, and promotes open and transparent policy-development.

8. ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) can play a key role in ensuring that technical decisions on, and activities carried out in connection with, the management of Internet resources under ICANN’s remit take full account of international human rights law and other public policy objectives. GAC can also contribute to promoting transparency and accountability in the management of those resources.

9. At present, GAC’s secretariat services depend on ad hoc arrangements made by specific national authorities. The European Commission has facilitated these services in the past. Efforts are currently underway to establish a competent, independent and more stable secretariat for GAC.

10. The Council of Europe could encourage due consideration of fundamental rights and freedoms in ICANN policy-making processes. At the conference in Reykjavik in 2009, the Council of Europe Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services undertook to further explore the relevance of Council of Europe values in this field and, if necessary, ways in which to provide advice to the various corporations, agencies and entities that manage critical Internet resources with a transnational function. This is to ensure that they take full account of international law, including international human rights law. Further, if appropriate, international supervision and accountability of the management of those resources should be promoted.

11. The Committee of Ministers therefore:

– encourages an active participation of all Council of Europe member states in GAC or other forms of involvement in ICANN’s work with the objective of promoting the Council of Europe’s values and standards in the multi-stakeholder governance of the Internet;

– invites the Secretary General to make arrangements for the Council of Europe to participate as an observer in GAC’s activities and to explore, in consultation with GAC, ICANN and other relevant stakeholders, ways in which the Council of Europe can contribute to arrangements concerning GAC’s secretariat, subject to budget neutrality.

Note 1 Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)16 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet.
Note 2 The Tunis Agenda on the Information Society was adopted by the second phase of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005.
Note 3 Resolution on Internet governance and critical Internet resources adopted by the 47 Council of Europe member states at the 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and New Communication Services (Reykjavik, 28-29 May 2009).


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