Written contribution on IGF themes and foirmat and the way forward
Here are the concerns and suggestions of the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus on IGF themes and format and the way forward1:
A. Implementation of the recommendations of the WG on IGF Improvements
There has been a sense of impatience and great urgency vis a vis the fact that IGF has really not addressed key global public policy questions that it was created to contribute towards resolution of.
In our view, the implementation of the following three recommendations of the WG on IGF Improvements is very important:
(three quotes from the WG’s report http://unctad.org/meetings/en/SessionalDocuments/a67d65_en.pdf follow)
* “To focus discussions, the preparation process of each IGF should formulate a set of policy questions to be considered at the IGF, as part of the overall discussion. The results of the debates of these questions, with special focus on public policy perspectives and aimed at capacity building, should be stated in the outcome documentation.”
* “The outcome documentation should include messages that map out converging and diverging opinions on given questions.”
* “… identifying pertinent key policy questions around which main sessions for the IGF will be structured. In order to enhance the bottom-up process and to facilitate the identification of key policy questions, the Secretariat could also issue the call for workshop proposals before the first Open Consultation.”
In the spirit of the above-cited recommendations, we propose that the following policy questions be taken up at the 2013 IGF: “How to maintain the principle (referred to by some as ‘net neutrality’) that the price which an ISPs charges their customer for exchanging data packets via the Internet shall not depend on the content of the data packets, nor shall it depend on the party with whom the packets are exchanged? How shall the key architectural principle of best effort service for all user traffic in the global Internet be preserved?”
B. On the overall IGF theme and main sessions
For the 2013 IGF we suggest “Human rights and their implications for Internet governance” as main theme, with “Effective participation of all stakeholders in Internet governance”, “Internet Rights and Principles” and “Internet for Kids” as overall subthemes.
Main sessions and workshops should not be competing with each other, as they are not substitutes. Workshops are the best forum for self-selected groups to exchange information, opinions and experiences. These can be more productive than main sessions, but are often limited to narrow communities of interest and can therefore lack external impact. Main sessions are better for bringing the insights developed through workshops and dynamic coalition members to the broader community of IGF participants, including those with influence over or connections to processes of policy development. Main sessions have the potential to allow for high-level consensus-building and strategising on how these insights can be reflected in policy and/or technical processes elsewhere, sometimes across issue areas: for example, messages on critical Internet resources might also be relevant to those involved in security or openness issues and vice versa. Therefore, main sessions should not be treated as just “big workshops” relevant only to those with topical interests, but should be for the broadest possible segment of the IGF community to attend. Consequently, the programme should be restructured so that main sessions and workshops are not happening at the same time. Maybe the IGF could be extended to five says?
The specific choice of main session topics should vary year by year to address truly “hot topics” that are on the tips of tongues everywhere. There should not be ‘reruns’ of sessions held at previous IGFs and new voices should be prioritised over those who have been heard from many times.
Some of us suggest that the formats of the main sessions should be varied more. 3 hours is generally too long, some were poorly attended in Baku and there were many grumbled complaints about poor content, poor preparation, repeating issues from previous years, etc. Some main sessions need better preparation (and some were good – transcripts illustrate the differences), the MAG has an important fole to fulfil in regarding to ensuring good main sessions. Invite speakers early. Find funds to support speakers. Planning of the sessions should be more open and transparent.
Some of us suggest that it would be good to have one main session with a completely different outcome-oriented format that is more actively facilitated, for example a “speed dialogue” or a “moderated debate”. Amongst the most important foundations for this sort of format is that the participants need to be empowered (ie. they will produce something at the end), and that the power imbalances between them are eliminated for the duration of the exercise (through the way in which the process is facilitated).
Some of us suggest regarding taking stock and emerging issues: Mix the two sessions, that then justifies 3 hours. This will probably be best held on the final morning (i.e. emerging issues become issues the IGF thinks emerging as important for the coming year(s)).
Emerging issues sets the stage for the problems that need to be faced by Internet governance in the coming year. This session should point the way to the work that needs to be done, so that the IGF stakeholders can come out of the meeting with an understanding of the work to be done in the coming year. This session should get greater emphasis and should include possible ways forward. Ie. it should be rebranded: Emerging issues and the Ways Forward. this session could include "Inputs from the IGF' that could then be made available within the Ig ecosystem.
Final afternoon: session on outcomes (1 hour), followed by closing.
Some of us suggest that since Critical Internet Resources was a strong session in Baku, this justifies 3 hours. Keep this.
An alternative view is: Continuing focus on cIr remains important and should be the focus of continuing workshops emphasizing specific substantive issues and the current state of multistakeholder modalities in the various cIr management institutions. At this point, the main session on cIr is not necessary, though there may be references to cIr brought into the Emerging Issues and the Ways Forward session based on the outcomes from the workshops.
New theme: Enhanced Cooperation. Sessions in mixed formats over 1 day, e.g. Morning expert panel session 2 hours. Follow by a long break where people encouraged to join self-organizing small groups (there probably needs to be active facilitation of the process to encourage small groups to form with a good mix of stakeholder categories) to discuss a few set questions and ideas from the morning panel. Afternoon, 2 hour moderated session with audience only, no panel/experts etc. Bring back comments from the small groups.
New theme: Internet rights and principles. One day, perhaps same format as suggested for enhanced cooperation. Or try something different. There was a proposal in Baku to summarize all (national/regional/sectoral) “IG Declarations on Principles” (25+) of the last three years and to produce a “compendium”. Bali has to take the next step and the MAG should pave the way for a more comprehensive and analytical approach. It would be very good as well to link this into the upcoming WSIS +10 (2015).
The development aspect of Internet Governance has been generally overlooked in spite of the official choice of the theme for the 2012 IGF, and too often “governance” is lost as discussion focuses on IT for development. A question that should be considered in this context is: “How can human rights based Internet governance principles support development?” The development agenda, which is a key aspect of the part of the Tunis agenda that creates the IGF, should also be a key theme in Bali. Given that WSIS+10 and the review of the Millenium Development Goals are taking place in 2015, why not bring the MDG follow up into the discussion of IG for development? Also the WSIS Plan of Action from 2003 could be looked at. Open specific public comment on design/scope of IG4D session. Bring back to the May meeting to decide on topics and format.
It is time to drop access and security/openess/privacy as main sessions, but keep as workshops and perhaps round-tables.
C. Workshops, other sessions and pre-events
Workshop planning detail should continue to receive more attention especially in terms of quality and the processes for achieving gender balance, multistakeholder balance and regional coverage, which are really not working.
Some of us suggest: At the 2012 IGF, there were too many workshops. Cut to between 80 and 100. Make this target number known when the call for applications is published, might be the first time quite a large number of proposals are rejected (might think about implications of this for the IGF), people should expect to be disappointed.
Although in preparation of the 2012 IGF, the MAG went through the exercise of ranking WS proposals, which in the first cut resulted in 2/3rd of applications being below the acceptance threshold and needing more work, a great many of these ultimately made their way into the program seemingly irrespective of the extent to which they were revised and improved in accordance with MAG feedback. If we want a high quality and right sized program, sometimes we have to have the courage to say sorry no please try next year.
MAG should put out an immediate call for workshop themes. It should then review these themes and put out requests for workshops pertinent to these themes. In developing the themes, while it should review the historic themes, it should also review new ways of approaching some themes which have remained constant over the years, but in which little progress was made. the MAG should also be careful to judge workshop proposals on their relevance to current Internet governance circumstances as discussed in contributions and in the consultations, and not just try to force workshops into pre-arranged categories.
Clearly state in the call for workshop proposals that the proposed workshops shall relate to Internet Governance (as the term is defined in the WGIG report, the WGIG Background report and the Tunis Agenda); there are other spaces in WSIS follow-up for non-IG issues. Use an evaluation form for workshops (at the moment don’t even know if a room was empty or overflowing, simple count a good idea.) However, indications are that while there were too many workshops in Baku many were strong in content, well received. MAG should not cut what looks like a success to favor the floundering main sessions.
Past experience has shown that merging workshops rarely serves to improve a workshop. If two workshop proosals are similar or the same, the MAG should use the criteria that have been established for workshops to pick the one that best meets those criteria. It should then be the responsibility of the workshop that was chosen to integrate what they can from the proposal of the rejected workshop(s) without overloading or otherwise diluting the content of the selcted workshop.
The rules for other sessions (open forums, dynamic coalition, etc.) should be clarified. The MAg and Secretariat must endeavor to not let outside pressures force them into accepting sessions that do no meet the rules established for sessions.
The IGF pre-events have added a lot to the richness of the IGF experience. These events should remain independent, but should receive more timely attentions in terms of scheduling, planning and advertisement.
D. Venue and infrastructure
The venue planning needs to be carefully done, as having venues outside the cities causes both stress and challenges to accessibility.
An Internet Connectivity Team should be assembled by the IGF Secretariat in collaboration with the Indonesian IGF multi-stakeholder planning committee. This team should work beforehand on the ground to manage internet connectivity to cover remote participation, connectivity for over 2000 participants keeping in view that this may mean planning and connecting 2000 people x 6000 devices (laptops, cell phones, wi-fi enable cameras, tables etc).
A draft of the logistics plan for internet connectivity and other aspects of the meeting venue should be made public, and stakeholders should be invited to comment.
On-site Internet connectivity should be IPv4/IPv6 dual-stack.
There should be a specified service level agreement to ensure adequate Internet connectivity.
There should be suitable redundancy plans.
There should be an on-site liaison officer of the host country’s ISP.
Dedicated bandwidth should be reserved for remote participation. The online experience should receive equal attention and funding as the event on the ground.
With regard to remote participation: Increase emphasis on ensuring the reliability of being able to participate interactively, even in the face of potential Internet-related challenges or disability-related challenges. At least for workshops that have remote panelists, the possibility to connect via telephone and the possibility to communicate with the remote moderator via irc should be engineered for having at least 99.99% reliability. Also supporting remote participation by video conferencing (for those who have plenty of bandwidth available) should be treated as a “nice to have” feature with lower priority. The basics must be assured first.
E. Transparency and logistics of the preparatory process and MAG
A public archive of MAG mailing list is needed, the existing archive has not been updated for a year.
The IGF preparatory process still requires a great amount of work to be sensitive to developing country participation in terms of logistics, open consultation and MAG observation and improvements in its remote participation that really needs a backup overhaul.
Logistical support in terms of visa acquisition to attend open consultations or observe MAG meetings remains a challenge for people from developing countries and attention to detail is needed from the IGF secretariat. People from developed regions do have considerable advantage over this issue but do not represent the views and insights of developing country issues and inputs to the IGF.
The sudden shift of Open Consultations and MAG meetings from Geneva to France for February 2013 without open consultation and comments from the community puts a severe logistical pressure on participation for those that find it a challenge to already participate in such meetings. This shift enables only certain individuals to participate that can freely move around EU but for people that need to acquire visas to travel to Switzerland and participate from outside of Europe are posed with a big challenge. Should they apply to Swiss or to the French and how does one explain why one is taking the visa of one country to participate in the other and how does the IGF Secretariat plan to manage this?
Any country that hosts an Internet governance or management meeting should establish special Visa wavers for attendance and should set up offices for Visa assistance before being approved as a location for an Internet governance or management meetings.
At present the IGF consultation and MAG are scheduled in the same week (13-17 May) as not on only the WSIS Forum, per usual, but also the ITU’s World Telecom Policy Forum on global Internet governance. MAG members are precluded from attending the WTPF by this scheduling.
F. Selection of future host countries
At the 2012 IGF, people from certain neighboring countries were not able to participate while the fear factor of participating in an IGF where the host country was authoritarian was high. It needs to be ensured that at future meetings of the IGF, people from any country can participate without fear or visa hassles.
IGF should put out a call for host country expression of interest, with clearly laid out principles and process for selection, instead of simply waiting for offers. These expressions of interest should be subject to IGF stakeholder consultation and MAG recommendation before they are approved as a location for IGF meetings.
At the 2012 IGF, the visa issue despite being well managed by the host country remained one of them most unclear aspects of the IGF, and the IGF secretariat should give more emphasis on detailing out these issues with future host countries in the very beginning.
1These comments have been developed, in a bottom-up manner, using the following process: Using the mailing list and online working area of the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, comments were gathered and initial drafts for the statement were created in an informal manner. Following that, the statement has been formalized by means of a formal consensus process, during which the civil society representatives who are members of the caucus were able to raise issues about the draft statement, such as suggestions for additions, deletions and changes. These issues were then discussed with the goal of finding a phrasing that would be acceptable to all who participated in the discussion. Those points on which it was not possible to reach consensus were deleted from the draft statement. The result is a statement which therefore reflects the consensus of the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus.