IGC's response to the MAG questionnaire on improvements to the MAG and the IGF's preparatory processes
1. Has the work of the MAG been consistent with the mandate set out in the Tunis Agenda and subsequent decisions?
The IGC broadly supports the continuation of a balanced multistakeholder advisory group. In its current role, the MAG has performed reasonably. However, the IGF now stands at a cross-roads where it may be called upon to produce more tangible outputs. The qualification of the MAG to steer the IGF through this challenging phase of its evolution is less clear.
We would like the MAG to play an active role in any possible improvements towards a greater outcome orientation that may be suggested by the ongoing IGF improvement process. Since there is no other clear body or structure in and of the IGF, any possible suggestions for improvements like inter-sessional work, choosing of key issues for more focussed work, working groups on issues, background papers etc will require the MAG to play an important part.
To ensure that the MAG remains effective in this new era, the IGF may require more direct lines of accountability to its constituencies, more balanced sectoral representation, and proactive leadership. Reducing the size of the MAG might also improve its effectiveness.
It is also very important that the established process by which one-third of the MAG members are rotated each year is executed methodically, so that the composition of the MAG is completely refreshed every three years.
Moreover, MAG members should be encouraged to put ideas out for multistakeholder comment and participation, in a variety of other institutions, processes and fora, both online and offline. Opening up meetings of the MAG to observers, either face to face or remotely, could also assist in making it more accessible and responsive to the broader community.
Finally we ask that when the MAG prepares the IGF's agenda, it should prioritise issues which directly concern the interests of marginalized groups, as they and those working with them (rather than just technical experts) see these issues. This in turn requires that these marginalised groups should be better represented on the MAG.
2. How best to nominate non governmental members for the MAG?
As the MAG takes on more responsibility, it will also be necessary for it to become more accountable. Part of this process may involve moving on from the existing "black box" approach whereby the United Nations Secretary General selects MAG members from a range of nominees put forward by various parties, pursuant to selection criteria that are not published.
An alternative approach that many from the IGC support is the selection of MAG representatives through a bottom-up process driven by the stakeholder groups, subject to appropriate criteria to ensure regional and gender balance and a diversity of viewpoints .
Although members of the IGC broadly agree on this general principle, various different models for implementing are being debated. These include the reestablishment of a civil society umbrella group such as the WSIS civil society plenary, the use of an independent nominating committee, or the assignment of a role to the Internet Governance Caucus itself, whose existing open, accountable, transparent and democratic processes provide a good model for a broader nominating group. Whatever the precise method used, diverse participation from civil society in the nomination of its representatives must be ensured.
Another reform that might be considered is to rescind the special privileges that representatives of intergovernmental organisations, and special advisors to the chair, currently possess. If the MAG's processes are opened to broader oversight by the community, such special privileges would soon become redundant.
3. How best to nominate the MAG Chair?
At present, a single UN-based Chair is appointed by the UN Secretary-General. This may no longer be appropriate if the MAG develops into a body whose members are self-selected by the stakeholders. In that case, it could be that the MAG should select its own chair or chairs, and for that position to rotate between the stakeholder groups.
In any case, this must not change the fundamental nature of the role of the Chair, which is not to push a personal or stakeholder agenda, but to facilitate the MAG's effective operation as a de facto multi-stakeholder bureau for the IGF that is responsible for facilitating the fulfilment of the mandate in the Tunis Agenda.
4. How best to organize open consultations?
There is merit in regarding the open consultation meetings not as meetings held in Geneva, with provision for remote participation from around the world, but as meetings that are held online, with provision for some participants to attend in person at a hub in Geneva, or at other hubs. Indeed, the IGF meetings themselves could come to be considered in the same terms.
Online meetings are most effective when provision is made for participation both synchronously (ie. in real time) and asynchronously (ie. through comments and discussions that are contributed over an extended period through blogs, Twitter, mailing lists, Facebook and so on).
It is somewhat anachronistic that the IGF at large does not utilise an electronic mailing list for discussions, and that other means of asynchronous participation are not widely promoted for use by IGF participants as means of contributing to open consultations. In particular, MAG members do not tend to contribute in that capacity to online discussions outside of their closed mailing list, which limits the profile and accessibility of the MAG and the IGF as a whole.
5. How best to link with regional meetings?
The regional IGF meetings have the potential to bring the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance to a much broader community of Internet users and citizens, but at the same time we must be careful to ensure that these meetings meet the same basic process criteria as the IGF itself, including adequate participation by civil society at all levels .
In this context, civil society has less capacity to contribute to governance processes than governmental and private sector groups, due to funding constraints and its reliance on voluntary labour. This may require that additional efforts be made (and funded where appropriate) to ensure that a plurality of civil society voices are heard in Internet governance processes.
In our submission taking stock of the Sharm IGF meeting, the IGC expressed the view that dynamic coalitions or working groups seeking to have their outputs discussed at the IGF should meet 'stringent standards ... including open membership, democratic processes, and ... multi-stakeholder composition.' The criteria that apply to regional or local IGFs should be no less stringent. Additionally they should uphold a high level of transparency in their funding mechanisms, agenda-setting, and the process by which their contributions are received at the global IGF.
It is important that such regional meetings play a more important role in IGF agenda-setting and issue-framing. The discussions that take place during the meetings, if summarized in an objectively and timely manner, could represent real regional contributions to the process. The outcomes of regional meetings should also serve to better clarify and sharpen discussions, reducing the complexity of themes into concrete issues to be addressed at the IGF.
6. How best to link with international processes and institutions?
Just as at the Vilnius IGF meeting online moderators helped to bridge between online and offline discussions, so too there could be rapporteurs whose job it would be to summarise relevant discussions at the IGF and to forward them to external institutions, and to act as a proactive conduit for feedback from those institutions.
Ideally these summaries would include both main sessions and workshops, since much of the valuable discussion at the IGF takes place in the latter. Alternatively, they could be limited to the main sessions provided that a better mechanism for feeding the output of workshops back into main sessions is realised.
A emerging model for this process (though other possible models may also be explored) is found in the "messages" or "recommendations" produced by national IGFs such IGF-D (Deutschland), and regional IGFs such as the East African IGF and EURODIG. Ideally this would become a two-way process in which the institutions addressed could also turn to the IGF with issues they wished the IGF to address through multi-stakeholder dialogue.