Following up on an agreement reached on the contentious topic of internet governance at the November World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has decided to start creating a forum for a more inclusive dialogue on internet policy. According to his spokesman,  Annan will establish a small Secretariat in Geneva to assist in the convening of an Internet Governance Forum, following consultations held in February by Nitin Desai, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the WSIS that produced a consensus on the need for a strong development orientation.

“It was also felt that the Forum should be open and inclusive, and allow for the participation of all interested stakeholders with proven expertise and experience in Internet-related matters,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

The Secretariat will be headed by Markus Kummer, who has been the Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Working Group on Internet Governance, which was established by the Secretary-General at the request of the first phase of the Summit, held in Geneva in 2003.

In November, amid rumours that the UN was trying to take over the Internet, WSIS decided that a non-profit United States-based body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will remain in charge of technical management of the Internet, though individual countries will manage their own country-code domains.

In addition, it asked Annan to convene the governance forum, which would have no oversight function and would not replace existing arrangements, but would allow for dialogue among stakeholders.

The purpose of this exchange, according to the WSIS outcome document, would include making the Internet more multilingual, supporting local content development and addressing "many cross-cutting international public policy issues that require attention and are not adequately addressed by the current mechanisms.” The first meeting of the Forum is expected to take place later this year in Athens.

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