|Multi-Stakeholder Public Policy Governance and its Application to the Internet Governance Forum|
The outcomes of the first IGF meeting had been predetermined by the Secretariat and Advisory Group before the meeting opened, and were stated on the IGF’s Web site:
The outcome of the meeting will be the reports of the individual sessions as well as of the meeting as a whole. There will be no negotiated texts such as decisions or resolutions. The Chairman may also wish to make a summing-up of the meeting. The report of the meeting will be submitted to the Secretary-General and made available on the website.
In addition, all the material that was used as input into the meeting will remain on record on the IGF Web site.
As a third possible outcome, there may be “dynamic coalitions” emerging from Athens, ie a group of institutions or people who agree to pursue an initiative started at the inaugural IGF meeting.
The report of the meeting referred to here was published as an “informal summing up,” and was a brief precis of the six panel sessions only. Although it identified a “broad convergence of views” or “a widely held view” on several substantive issues, such as the need for multi-stakeholder cooperation in addressing issues of Internet security, the report did not attempt to draw any overall conclusions from the discussions that had taken place.
The emergence of dynamic coalitions as another possible outcome of the Athens meeting became a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the announcement of several such coalitions at the meeting itself, and a number of others shortly afterwards. As at 2008 eleven dynamic coalitions claim to be active.
Save that the mission and contact details of each of these dynamic coalitions is listed on the IGF Web site, as matters stand they have no formal institutional affiliation with the IGF, nor any access to the resources of the IGF Secretariat. As such, there are no strictures upon the objects, structure or processes of dynamic coalitions claiming association with the IGF. Probably the most obvious consequence of this is the diversity that the dynamic coalitions display in these respects, to the extent that the groups currently sharing the appellation of dynamic coalition can be divided into three quite distinct types. These may be described for convenience as networks, working groups, and BOFs.
The StopSpamAlliance is currently the only dynamic coalition in the first category. It is essentially a coordinating body for the existing programmes of its members, including the London Action Plan (which as already noted, is a multi-stakeholder governance network in its own right), as well as APEC, the ITU, the OECD, the Seoul–Melbourne MOU group and the EU’s CNSA (Contact Network of Spam Authorities). As self-described at its meeting in Rio, it allows its members to reduce duplication of work between themselves, and allows them to speak with a single voice to the international community when they are in accord. However the StopSpamAlliance does not currently have an independent programme of its own.
A second type of dynamic coalition is exemplified by the Internet Bill of Rights Dynamic Coalition. It provides a structure within which for its members to collaborate on a joint programme of work; in this case, the definition of an Internet Bill of Rights that could be promulgated either through the informal moral authority of the IGF, or through intergovernmental and/or other mechanisms, to improve the recognition and enforcement of human rights online. Already that dynamic coalition has made progress to this end, having secured the agreement of Brazilian and Italian officials “to facilitate together the process of defining an Internet Bill of Rights with a view to frame and enforce fundamental rights in the Internet environment.”
The third type of dynamic coalition are the BOFs, which are open fora for those sharing an interest in a particular issue area, but which have not yet adopted a joint programme of work. As in the case of their namesakes within the IETF and APNIC, groups that begin as BOFs may later develop into working groups, and indeed there is some overlap between the two categories. The FOEonline dynamic coalition, which brings together those with an interest in freedom of expression and freedom of the media on the Internet, is a good example of a BOF.
In the week following the conclusion of the Athens meeting, the Secretariat called for written comments on what had worked well, and what should be done in preparation for the Rio meeting to address what had worked less well. Thirteen documentary submissions, and ten others submitted using an online questionnaire form, were summarised by the Secretariat in another synthesis paper that was released a few days ahead of a public consultation on the same topic that was held in Geneva on 13 February 2007. The public consultation itself was again translated and webcast, and a transcript later posted to the IGF’s Web site.
In both the written submissions and the interventions at the open consultation, there were certain aspects of the IGF’s first meeting that met with a broad positive or negative consensus. There was, for example, general agreement that the meeting had succeeded in creating a valuable space for discussion across stakeholder groups, and that the real-time transcription service and unrestricted seating arrangements had been amongst the factors contributing to this success; but on the other hand that the plenary sessions had been too long, that there had been too many panelists, and that there had been excessive overlap between the plenary sessions and the workshops (many of which themselves overlapped in content).
But beyond these broad areas of agreement, many fundamental gulfs remained. These can again be usefully grouped into the three procedural issues of the role of the IGF, its structure, and its processes. In addition, one substantive issue—that of Internet naming and numbering—drew strong comment, with the Third World Network amongst those who were particularly critical of the exclusion of this issue from the agenda of the first meeting.
As to the procedural issues, there was no perceptible relaxation of the restrictive stance of the Forum doves as to the role of the IGF. For example, ICC/BASIS maintained its position that “[t]he emphasis on discussions without negotiated conclusions is an essential principle for the Forum. It avoids the pressure to reach consensus, establish strict criteria for representation, or spend time on what could be protracted political negotiations and wordsmithing.”
However the Forum hawks (civil society and developing country governments) had a different perspective. For example, the government of Brazil said:
we also believe that it is important for us to envisage some kind of written conclusions, be it a reporting, recommendations, or concluding statement, that would be a reference of the meeting. In fact, the mandate that was given to the IGF on [paragraph] 72, item g of the Tunis Agenda refers to the possibility of making recommendations where appropriate. And we should have that in mind. We are aware that the format that has been used on the first meeting, while it allows for the wider discussion, it may not be the best format in order to negotiate texts. And I don’t think that we are aiming at a binding negotiated text, but we should consider having some kind of reporting for the fact that the IGF is not an isolated path.
Even Nitin Desai acknowledged for the first time that “there is language in paragraph 72 which talks of recommendations as appropriate, and we still do not have a process for figuring out how to get to those recommendations. But these are things which will evolve.” The CS-IGC recommended that a “meta-governance” theme be included in the Rio agenda to deal with such issues as these in a more overt and open fashion.
One simple and practical way in which the IGF could fulfil its mandate in sub-paragraph 72 (c) to “[i]nterface with ... other institutions on matters under their purview” was suggested by IT for Change: that those other organisations be invited to present their own sessions at the next IGF meeting. The ITU, at least, indicated at the open consultation that it would in principle be likely to accept such an invitation.
Leading into discussion of the second main procedural issue, the structure of the IGF, the dynamic coalitions were now becoming widely accepted as a first step for the IGF towards developing the capacity to produce recommendations. Thus the EU (through Germany) stated, “we feel that Athens has provided an opportunity for a concrete outcome, not least in the form of dynamic coalitions. We welcome this development, and we hope to see it continued in the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, providing the different dynamic coalitions with an opportunity to present their work.” Switzerland and Australia spoke to similar effect.
The other main issue that was discussed in relation to the structure of the IGF is what should become of the Advisory Group. The two main opposing views were that it should be retained in its present form with new members only brought in to replace those who have departed, or that it should be reconvened in a more inclusive and democratic manner, to address charges of lack of transparency in its appointment and operations that were acknowledged in the synthesis report.
The first view was most strongly represented by the Forum doves (including the United States, Canada, ITAA and SIDN), and the second by the Forum hawks (such as the CS-IGC and the governments of Egypt and the Russian Federation). The CS-IGC for example decried the under-representation of civil society, and said:
We think that clear terms and rules should be established for the Advisory Group between now and Rio, through an open process involving all the participants in the IGF, as a shared foundation for our common work. We further consider that if these rules and the quotas for representation from each stakeholder group were openly established, it would be possible for the Secretary General to delegate the actual process of selection of Advisory Group members to the stakeholder groups themselves.
The final procedural issue dealt with in the post-Athens submissions and consultation session was as to the IGF’s processes. It was argued by many, for example France, that more use should have been made of online tools. Indeed, this deficiency had already been noted within the Advisory Group, with Desai acknowledging, “[i]f we are talking of Internet governance, if you do not use the capacities of the Internet to allow people to connect and interact with one another, then, in a sense, we are failing in our duty.” The Online Collaboration Dynamic Coalition was one of four coalitions that presented a report to that open consultation meeting, and it announced its resolve to help redress this deficit.
Other suggestions made for the improvement of the IGF’s processes were based around developing more creative formats to increase the interactivity of the discussion, as ICC/BASIS put it at the consultation. For example, the CS-IGC suggested that workshops could be broken into table groups, or could use online tools to engage with those outside, and ISOC was amongst those who suggested that the opportunity should be provided for sharing of national best practices.
Another issue directly raised by the Secretariat for discussion was as to the effectiveness of the use of input papers for the Athens meeting, and more specifically the synthesis paper which attempted to summarise them. There was no disagreement that a synthesis paper, translated into the UN languages, was potentially invaluable in providing participants, especially those who did not speak English, with background briefing material covering a variety of perspectives, which could in turn allow the discussions at the plenary sessions to be more focused, in-depth and practical.
However, several respondents, including the ITAA, noted that this had not happened in Athens. Not only did moderators fail to draw upon the synthesis paper as a base for questioning panelists, but in fact no reference was made to it during the plenary sessions in Athens at all, which left several potentially valuable proposals hanging. Part of the reason for this may well have been because the paper was distributed so late, as a number of respondents also noted.
Nothing more was heard from the Secretariat or Advisory Group on any of these suggestions until May, when their consultations shifted from a focus on taking stock of Athens, to preparing in earnest for Rio.
They are those on Spam (the StopSpamAlliance), Privacy, Open Standards (IGF DCOS), Access and Connectivity for Remote, Rural and Dispersed Communities, The Internet Bill of Rights, Diversité Linguistique (Linguistic Diversity), Access to Knowledge (A2K@IGF), Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media on the Internet (FOEonline), Online Collaboration, Gender and Internet Governance (GIG), and Framework of Principles for the Internet.
Others will be noted at Section 126.96.36.199.
During the September 2007 open consultations, France distinguished “between groups that are advocacy group or facilitation groups,” which approximately equate to BOFs and networks respectively.
Moreira, Gilberto P G & Vimercati, Luigi, Joint Declaration on Internet Rights by the Minister of Culture of Brazil and the Undersecretary for Communications of Italy (2007). Also in this category are the dynamic coalitions on Access to Knowledge, Framework of Principles for the Internet, Online Collaboration, Open Standards and Privacy.
Those on Access and Connectivity for Remote, Rural and Dispersed Communities, Diversité Linguistique, and Gender Equality also currently best fit into this category.
ICC, ICC/BASIS Feedback on First Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Athens, Greece (2007). ETNO (the European Telecommunications Network Operators), the ITAA and ISOC spoke to similar effect: see ISOC, From Athens to Rio de Janeiro: Building on the Success of the First Internet Governance Forum (2007) , 1.
Similar remarks were made by IT for Change, an India-based civil society group: see IT For Change, Taking Stock and the Way Forward (2007), 1–2.