6.2. Role

The Tunis Agenda recognises “that there are many cross-cutting international public policy issues that require attention and are not adequately addressed by the current mechanisms.”[1] The deficiencies of each of these current mechanisms were first noted in the introduction to this thesis.[2] This does not mean that there is no place for the use of each of these mechanisms of governance. Quite the contrary; the use of all of them in concert is likely to be necessary to achieve policy objectives in many issue areas.[3] But in order for their legitimacy and effectiveness to be maximised, they should be employed in a coordinated rather than an ad hoc manner, whereby not only the policy objectives to be achieved, but also the means by which they are to be achieved, are the subject of democratic deliberation amongst all affected stakeholders.

This is the essential advantage of the use of the mechanism of governance by network. Such a governance network does not so much incorporate all the other mechanisms of governance, as transform them, synergistically increasing both their legitimacy and effectiveness. They are endowed with greater legitimacy by being subjected to multi-stakeholder democratic oversight, and with greater effectiveness because they can be deployed through the network, either alone or in combination, in an adaptive manner.

Governance by network can thus be understood as a meta-mechanism, in that it provides the means by which for the use of other mechanisms of governance themselves to be governed. To put this in practical terms applicable to the case of the IGF:

The roles that are inherent in the IGF’s function as such a governance network are twofold, and have been described above as the organisational roles of policy-setting and coordination. The former role is that which allows its stakeholders to collaboratively decide upon the objectives to be achieved, and the latter includes the process of establishing how and by whom they are to be achieved.

As already noted, these two roles of policy-setting and coordination are found in the express mandate of the IGF in the Tunis Agenda. However as also noted, that document also arguably places some limitations upon the IGF’s policy-setting role in established rather than “emerging” issue areas,[5] to which there has been only further accretion through the subsequent narrow interpretation of the IGF’s mandate by the Advisory Group and Secretariat, which they have institutionalised in its structure.

The following two subsections will discuss what is involved in the roles of policy-setting and coordination in more detail, and will consider the extent to which the IGF’s ability to carry out those roles, and thereby to fulfil its function as a multi-stakeholder governance network, is prejudiced by the limitations that have been placed upon it either constitutionally in the Tunis Agenda or institutionally by the Advisory Group and Secretariat.

But before moving on, it should also be noted that policy-setting and coordination are not the only two roles of the IGF noted in its mandate. The Tunis Agenda also assigns the IGF an operational role in contributing to capacity building,[6] and as the previous chapter illustrated, this has been very strongly emphasised by the Advisory Group and other Forum doves, at the expense of the IGF’s policy-setting role. A third subsection will therefore address this role and consider whether it too constitutes a core function of a governance network that has somehow been overlooked until now.



WSIS, Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (2005), para 60


See Section 1.4.


See Section 2.4.


In principle, this is much like a domestic co-regulatory framework, only with a network rather than a government in the regulator’s position.


See Section 5.2.


WSIS, Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (2005), para 72(h)