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August 26, 2014

Independent, Technical, Multistakeholder Organizations that Have Become Part of the United Nations

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In relation to the debate over whether and how the U.S. should hand over control of the root zone (IANA) functions of the Internet to an independent, multistakeholder organization like ICANN, the Obama administration (and many others) have been adamant that they "are not turning the Internet over to the United Nations!" We absolutely will not allow that to happen, they insist.

And I give them credit for wisely and uncharacteristically (for this administration) understanding the problem with turning Internet governance over to the United Nations.

The long-term problem, as I have argued previously, is that independent multistakeholder organizations set up to do technical functions that are of interest to the global community have a habit of getting absorbed into the United Nations system.

Here is a list of such organizations that have ended up as "specialized agencies" in the UN system, despite the fact that there was no compelling reason why that function needed to be subject to the rules and governance of a UN organization. Tourism, really? The first date is the date of the treaty the function of which the organization was set up to administer, the second date is the date the precursor organzation was incorporated, and the third date is the date when the organization became part of the UN system. And it's an incomplete list.

Name Treaty Precursor UN
World Meterological Organization (WMO) 1873 1949 1951
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) 1893 1967 1974
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 1865 1932 1947
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 1943 1945
Universal Postal Union (UPU) 1874 1948
World Trade Organization (WTO) 1948 1995
World Health Organization (WHO) 1907 1948
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 1925 1974
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) 1966 1985

For the purpose of this blog post, I am not "bashing" UN specialized agencies. I'm just pointing out that there plenty of agencies that have been set up to perform technical functions or to administer treaties that have ended up getting drawn into the UN system. There is every reason to believe that the IANA functions, which the ITU is already coveting and which many countries are already lobbying to be turned over to UN control, will eventually find their way there.

It could happen by ICANN becoming part of ITU, or part of the IGF, or all three of them getting rolled up into one big happy UN Internet agency, which is what I'd be working toward were I China, Russia, India, Brazil or Argentina and looking for a power play against the United States.

And once the US has given up these controls, no matter what promises or assurances the Commerce Department has been given, the US will not be able to claw them back once they fall into the gravitational field of the United Nations.

Just sayin.'

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