The Global Commission on Internet Governance will focus on stimulating innovation, ensuring human rights online and systemic risks

Researchers from Canada and around the world working under the auspices of an independent think tank founded by former Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie and a United Kingdom-based institute have launched a two-year initiative to tackle Internet governance.

In a statement this week, the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG), which was launched by the Waterloo, Ont.-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in the U.K., said it aims to “create and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance that can act as a rallying point for states that are striving for continued free and open Internet.”

The commission will focus on four key themes:

  • Enhancing governance legitimacy
  • Stimulating innovation
  • Ensuring human rights online
  • Avoiding systemic risks

The CIGI was founded in 2001 by Balsillie  to support research, form networks, advance policy debate and generate ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Balsillie made an initial donation of $20 million to the group. His then co-CEO at RIM (now BlackBerry), Mike Lazaridis, contributed an additional $10 million. Their combined contributions were matched by the Government of Canada in 2003.

The new GCIG will include about 25 members drawn from various fields from around the world, including policy, government, academia and civil society.

“The rapid evolution of the net has been made possible by the open and flexible model by which it has evolved and has been governed. But increasingly this is coming under attack,” said Carl Bildt, Sweden’s minister of foreign affairs and chair of the GCIG. “And this is happening as issues of net freedom, net security and net surveillance are increasingly debated.”

Bildt said Internet freedom is as fundamental as freedom of information and freedom of speech.

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