July 2009 Statement re Review of IGF (Questionnaire)
1. To what extent has the IGF addressed the mandate set out for it in the Tunis Agenda?
The IGF's mandate stipulated by the Tunis Agenda (TA) is specifically set out in para 72, while the imperatives that led to its creation are contained in the preceding paras of the TA dealing with Internet governance, and specifically about public policy-making in this area.
In terms of its principal mandate, the IGF seems largely to be on its way to becoming a unique global forum for multi-stakeholder dialogue on IG. However it is important, for this purpose, to keep up the on-going process of evolutionary innovation evident at each successive IGF meeting. To keep up the interest and engagement of stakeholders it is important that the IGF take up the most pressing global IG issues and seek a policy dialogue on them, with the objective of such a dialogue helping processes of real policy-making in these areas. Overall, IGF's success will be judged by how much it managed to influence these real policy-making processes. If this is taken as the central criterion of success, one can say that IGF is moving towards fulfilling its mandate, but not quite yet there. It needs to continue to pursue structural evolutions that (1) enable 'effective and purposeful policy dialogue' on 'issues that require most urgent resolution' and (2) strengthen links with institutions and processes of real policy making.
In this connection, the IGF must extend its effort to Œfacilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet' (section 72 b) and 'interfacing with appropriate inter-governmental organisations and other institutions on matters under their purview' (72 c).
IGF has also not been able to make any significant progress towards fulfilling its mandate under section 72 e of 'advising all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world', and section 72 g of 'identifying emerging issues, ... and, where appropriate, making recommendations'.
IGF has however, had considerable success in at least three areas:
1. Getting stakeholders with very different worldviews to begin talking with each other, and at least start to see the others‚ point of view, if not accept it. This is a very important initial step because it is widely recognized that IG requires new and different governance and policy models beyond exclusively statist ones.
2. Building capacity on a range of IG issues among many newer participants, especially from developing countries with under-developed institutional and expertise systems in IG arena.
3. Triggering regional and national initiatives for multi-stakeholder dialogue on IG, and forming loops of possible interactivity between the global IGF and these national and regional initiatives (IGF-4 is trying this innovation in a relatively formal way).
Paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda, (a), asks the IGF to: Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet.
There can be no doubt that this discussion is beginning to take place. The participation, the increasing quantity and quality of workshops, even the controversies that arise, are proof that this discussion is taking place. The continued interest in workshops is an indication that this process is still dynamically growing and needs to continue so that discussions may cover all aspects of the debate and include all actors, particularly in areas such as rights, inclusion and others, which have not been adequately addressed.
The Tunis agenda also calls for "development of multi-stakeholder processes at the national, regional∑ level" similar to the IGF. As already noted, some national and regional processes are already taking shape. IGF should further encourage such processes and seek to establish formal relationships with these initiatives, including through IGF Remote Hubs.
2. To what extent has the IGF embodied the WSIS principles?
The WSIS principles hold that Internet governance processes „should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.‰ WSIS principles also state that IG „should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning of the Internet, taking into account multilingualism‰. Governments invoked these principles throughout the WSIS process, and in the Tunis Agenda mandated the IGF to, „promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet Governance processes.‰ Nevertheless, the IGF has not held any follow-up discussion on how to pursue this key element of its mandate. The Internet Governance Caucus has consistently advocated programmatic activity in this arena, and hence welcomes the Swiss government‚s statement that implementation of the WSIS principles should be added as a cross-cutting issue at the core of all IGF discussions.
We suggest that a process for the ongoing assessment and promotion of those principles within IG processes be established, per the Tunis Mandate. To that end we support the APC/COE/UNECE initiative "Towards a code of good practice on public participation in Internet governance - Building on the principles of WSIS and the Aarhus Convention" as a building block for such an effort.
In parallel, we would welcome sustained, cross-cutting efforts to consider the linkages between Internet governance and development and to evolve a development agenda for Internet governance, in keeping with the Tunis mandate.
A reading of the Geneva Declaration of Principles shows repeated mention of rights, yet the IGF has side-tracked efforts to give rights and principles a significant emphasis in the meeting agenda, allowing a minority of voices to over-ride what is clearly a central obligation of the IGF.
The concept of "rights" should continue to stress the importance of openness and universal access. This framework must continue to emphasize the importance of access to knowledge and development in Internet governance, while adding to it the basic right of individuals to access the content and applications of their choice. This is in keeping with current debates regarding an „open Internet‰, and relevant aspects of the often confusing network neutrality discussions.
The inclusion of "rights and principles" allows for wide discussion of the responsibilities that the different stakeholders have to each other. Further, it allows for open examination of the principles that should govern the Internet, particularly in its commercial facets.
3. What has the impact of the IGF been in direct or indirect terms? Has it impacted you or your stakeholder group/institution/government? Has it acted as a catalyst for change?
The Internet Governance Caucus recognizes an improvement in the level of discussion between stakeholders since the WSIS process. It is observed that there is greater collaboration during the IGF phase than there was during WSIS, as well as less confrontation. Due to the request by the IGF Secretariat to merge proposals, there are now workshops and panels that include business, government, academia and civil society working together and exchanging ideas on various levels.
The impact of the IGF can also be seen on a deeper level. If the question is posed differently in order to examine the impact of the IGF on participants, it can be seen that many participants as individuals or organizations have gained from the flow of knowledge at the IGF which in turn is being shared with, and influences the respective stakeholder groups.
In fact, one might also ask different questions such as "Has your involvement in IGF increased your knowledge of internet governance?‰ "Has your involvement led to meaningful contact with other peers that has assisted in your work? and "Has your participation in the multi-stakeholder process changed or affected your perspective on any particular governance issues?" to understand the extended impact of the IGF.
The Internet Governance Forum is also improving mutual understanding and perceptions in all directions. During the preparatory phase as well as during the first three IGFs, governments have had an opportunity to experience the multi-stakeholder participatory process of the IGF and many are becoming comfortable with this process of consultation. This 'roundtable' equality is largely an IGF achievement. The IGF process promotes trust in the functionality of the participatory governance process and this will have other and potentially widespread impact.
4. How effective are IGF processes in addressing the tasks set out for it, including the functioning of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), Secretariat and open consultations?
**Membership of the MAG**
Civil society continues to be underrepresented in the multi-stakeholder advisory group, and this situation should be remedied. Fair civil society representation is necessary to ensure legitimacy for this new experiment in global governance.
We agree that the organizations having an important role in Internet administration and the development of Internet-related technical standards should continue to be represented in the MAG. However, their representation should not be at the expense of civil society participation.
When recommending members of the MAG all stakeholders should ensure diversity in terms of gender, geography, and, where applicable, groups with special needs or interests in the context of Internet Governance.
**Role and Structure of the MAG**
With the experience of four years of the IGF, it is also the right time to revisit the role and the structure of the MAG. To start with, it will be useful to list out the functions that MAG is expected to perform.
One function is of course, to make all necessary arrangements for the annual IGF meetings. We must reviews MAG's experience with carrying out this function. What more needs to be done by MAG to further improve the effectiveness of the IGF? We are of the opinion that MAG must review its decision-making processes to make them more effective. These are especially important if IGF is to evolve into something more than what it is today, to enable it to fulfil all aspects of its mandate. A MAG that is little more than a program committee will not effectively advance the cause of internet governance or the fulfilment of the WSIS mandate.
It would be very useful for the MAG to work through working groups (WGs). These WGs should prepare for each main session and the set of workshops connected to this main session. WGs can also be used for managing internal tasks of the MAG more effectively.
MAG should prepare an annual report for the IGF. This report should mention IGF activities and performance for the year against relevant parts of the Tunis Agenda which lays out its mandate, and also outline plans for the year ahead. We suggest that this report, once adopted by the Secretary General, would also satisfy the requirements of paragraph 75 of the Tunis Agenda and provide necessary background for the discussion about the desirability of continuing the Forum beyond 2010.
IGF should actively encourage regional and national level IGFs, which should be truly multi-stakeholder. A specific plan should be drawn up for this purpose, possibly using a MAG working group. Such a need is also expressed in the paragraph 80 of Tunis Agenda.
**Funding of IGF, and Issues of Participation**
The United Nations needs to recognise that the IGF is the outcome of a UN process and should ensure that it has the resources it needs to fulfil its mandate as defined at the Tunis Summit in 2005. We express our great respect and appreciation for the work of the IGF Secretariat. While severely under-funded it has still been responsible for much of the success of the IGF to date. The Secretariat should be provided with the resources it needs to perform its role effectively.
In addition, a fund should be established to support the participation of those from civil society in developing and least developed countries with perspectives and experience contributory to the effective conduct of the discussions in the IGF annual meetings and the IGF preparatory consultations.
The need for Special Advisors, their role in the MAG, and criteria for their selection should be clarified. Considerations of diversity, as mentioned above in the case of MAG members, must also be kept in mind for the selection of Special Advisors. The number of Special Advisors should be kept within a reasonable limit.
5. Is it desirable to continue the IGF past its initial five-year mandate, and why/why not?
The Internet Governance Caucus is of the view that the IGF should continue beyond its first mandated period of five years.
Two key elements of the mandate are first, as a forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue, and second, regarding capacity building. Both aspects of the IGF's role need to be strengthened and to be recognized as being co-equal in terms of emphasis and measures to improve effectiveness.
It is important that IGF remains open to addressing all issues that are
in the IG space, no matter how controversial. Arguably, the more controversial an issue, the more appropriate it may be to bring it to the IGF where inputs from a diverse range of stakeholders can be sought.
Deliberations at the IGF can be seen as providing inputs for global Internet policy making, which will in turn help to make policy-making processes more participative and democratic.
We congratulate the IGF secretariat on doing exemplary work. However for this success to be built on, the IGF should be assured stable funding from publicly accountable sources sufficient to carry on its functions effectively and impartially in the global public interest. To this end we believe it is important that there be the involvement of no other UN organization in the IGF's management.
6. If the continuation of the Forum is recommended, what improvements would you suggest in terms of its working methods, functioning and processes?
We have suggested some improvements in our answers above. In addition, we submit:
The IGC believes that the review should focus on addressing issues where the IGF might be improved, and particularly the area of more inclusive participation. In this instance we suggest a review of the current operational processes to identify ways for more active inclusion of rarely heard and developing country voices through, but not limited to, remote participation including transcription and archiving.
And here, in keeping with WSIS principle 13: ‰In building the Information Society, we shall pay particular attention to the special needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups of society, including migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees, unemployed and underprivileged people, minorities and nomadic people. We shall also recognize the special needs of older persons and persons with disabilities.‰ We include in particular, Indigenous peoples worldwide, rural people and particularly those who are the poorest of the poor and often landless or migrants, those concerned with promoting peer to peer and open access governance structures built on an electronic platform, those looking to alternative modes of Internet governance as ways of responding to specific localized opportunities and limitations, and those working as practitioners and activists in implementing the Internet as a primary resource in support of broad based economic and social development.
This requires a willingness to reconsider the current structures and processes that may have seemed necessary at the time of the IGF‚s inception but which may now be reconsidered in light of current practices, technology support opportunities, changed international financial and environmental conditions and so on. For example, it may be appropriate for the Internet Governance Forum to be reconceived from a single face-to-face meeting. Rather, the IGF might consider how other Internet governance institutions such as the IETF and ICANN, conduct their work and engagement between meetings in online and regional fora, and for which global face-to-face meetings are a capstone for the work done elsewhere rather than the single element in the process.
Specifically, the IGC considers that the location for meetings should more clearly support participation by individuals and organizations with few resources and thus accessibility, airline competition and routing options, and city/country cost of hotels and food should be taken into consideration as well in this process. As well, final meeting dates and sites should be announced 360 days in advance to allow for budgeting and advanced planning, and to ensure equitable access to transport, food and lodging that is competitive and convenient.
The regional forums - holding the stakeholder model, signature and the support of the IGF ˆ are a powerful tool to foster the implementation, in a regional/ local level of the mission of the IGF and these should be complemented by more formal support and structured inclusion from the Remote Hubs through the annual IGF meeting.
The Tunis Agenda 72g mandates the IGF to make recommendations "where appropriate". This dimension of the IGF mandate should not be forgotten, but this does not necessarily mean traditional resolution drafting. The IGC believes that it is important in that respect for the outcomes of workshops and main sessions, and of the IGFs in general, to be presented in more tangible, concise and result-oriented formats. IGF participants should also be encouraged to engage in concrete cooperations as a result of their interaction in the IGF in a manner that would facilitate their posting on the IGF web site, for instance under a specific heading.
The Internet Governance Caucus calls upon the UN Member States to provide substantial funding for IGF programs and participation to be used to further enhance the quality of programs and to foster greater diversity of participation including enhancing the linkage of IG activities with the broader range of civil society concerns in for example the areas of poverty alleviation, the environment and gender.
Multilingualism has still to be improved in IGF procedures, notably for key documents disseminated by the IGF secretariat on its website, in order to increase participation and feedback from stakeholders.
7. Do you have any other comments?
The Internet Governance Caucus proposes that the IGF Secretariat introduce a mechanism to record and archive all sessions by text transcript and collated audio visual records as a searchable research resource, as also assign neutral personnel to prepare consensus/stakeholder position reports on issues/sessions.