On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, Ambassador David A. Gross delivered a lecture at The Institute of World Politics that was provocatively titled “How Effective Multilateral Diplomacy can save the Internet and the World.”
Ambassador Gross’s lecture was the second in a series on multilateral diplomacy organized by Ambassador Louise Oliver. He discussed his experiences as the U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy (2001-2009), explaining how the State Department works with U.S. government agencies, other nations, and international organizations to formulate communications policies. These issues affect such technologies as cell phones and satellites – essential for the United States, particularly in wartime.
Nevertheless, Amb. Gross made it clear that, even in a highly-specialized field such as international communications policy, technical knowledge must work hand-in-hand with such vital diplomatic skills as creativity, advocacy, understanding the multilateral process, and especially interpersonal relations. For example, when negotiating international treaties, Amb. Gross regularly found himself persuading nations such as Syria why certain agreements would be beneficial to both nations as a long-term solution, even though the U.S. might use this technology against Syria in the short term.
He also described his experience at two world summits on international telecommunications, which took place in 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis. At these conferences, Gross worked to advance U.S. political and economic goals. Control of the internet was the major issue at these conferences, and Amb. Gross was tasked by the State Department and a unanimous U.S. Congress to defend the status quo of U.S. control of the internet. Thanks in large part to his advocacy and diplomatic tactics, the opinions of most participating nations were changed to support the U.S. position – that the U.S. should remain “in control” of the internet in order to safeguard the free flow of information.
Amb. Gross concluded his remarks by responding to audience questions on such issues as cyber-security, coordinating communications policy, the nature of his international negotiating team, and the U.S. relationship with such nations as China and Russia in matters related to telecommunications.