|Multi-Stakeholder Public Policy Governance and its Application to the Internet Governance Forum|
The second meeting of the IGF was held in Rio de Janeiro between 11 and 14 November 2007. It was attended by 1363 participants; similar to the number in Athens and similarly broken down by stakeholder group.
A draft programme for the IGF’s second meeting in Rio de Janeiro was released by the Secretariat on 1 May 2007. It addressed certain of the most widespread criticisms made of the format of the Athens meeting during the follow-up process, notably by reducing the size of the panels in main sessions by about half to a maximum of six, and reducing the length of those sessions from three to two hours.
However there were other criticisms, both procedural and substantive, that the programme overlooked. Foremost amongst the former were criticisms of excessive overlap between parallel sessions, since rather than reducing the number parallel events, they were increased from four in Athens to as many as seven for Rio. The most glaring substantive omission from this initial agenda was the continued absence of Internet naming and numbering.
The main changes to the agenda for Rio in this draft programme were:
Each plenary session would be preceded by a two-hour speed dialogue session which would feature a succession of three round-table discussions to be held in groups of ten to twenty on issues relating to the theme of the plenary session;
There would again be three concurrent streams of workshops, but these would now be divided into thematic workshops on the main themes of openness, security, access and diversity, and open workshops that would be available for any Internet governance topic proposed by the workshop’s organisers, as in Athens;
The second of two additional concurrent streams would alternate between an “open forum” and a “best practices forum.” The former would provide an opportunity for other Internet governance organisations to present and discuss their activities, essentially as IT for Change had suggested in February. The latter would be moderated sessions designed to allow stakeholders to present their own experiences of best practices in Internet governance at a regional and local level.
The final new stream was to be set aside for meetings of dynamic coalitions, and other meetings that stakeholders might wish to arrange.
Not all of these changes were to be reflected in the meeting that eventually took place.
Written comments on the draft programme were received during a period of consultation that commenced on 3 April, ahead of the following open consultation meeting in May.
Two open consultation meetings were held to seek input from stakeholders on the agenda and programme for the Rio meeting. The first was held on 23 May 2007 in Geneva, and like previous meetings was webcast. A document synthesising nineteen written contributions to the meeting was prepared and released one day in advance.
The contribution most notable in its influence on the discussion over the substantive programme for Rio was that of China, whose voice now joined those of others in recommending that “the Second IGF meeting should discuss the critical Internet resources issues such as the DNS root servers and IP Address, as these issues are the core of Internet governance and just because of which that the IGF was founded” [sic]. Even Forum doves such as Canada and Australia conceded for the first time at the May consultation that the discussion of critical Internet resources was now inevitable.
Besides agreeing that a session on “core Internet resources and their current governance institutions” was required, the CS-IGC recommended the inclusion of three other new plenary sessions for the Rio meeting, including one on the role and mandate of the IGF, and another on issues and institutions of global Internet public policy more generally. However the position of the Forum doves on the IGF’s role in global public policy development had not changed, with ICC/BASIS and Canada both referring with approval at the May consultation to the contribution of ISOC that claimed:
IGF Athens worked because ... it was an open environment free of the intergovernmental pressures of negotiated texts and political maneuvering. Suggestions that might change the structure and nature of the IGF for Rio or future meetings need to be approached with great caution.
On the structure of the IGF, ENSTA and EUROLINC amplified their argument made at the February 2007 consultation that the limitations of the Advisory Group were significant enough to warrant its replacement by a multi-stakeholder bureau, which should include segments for government, civil society, the private sector and the Internet technical community. Although others from civil society (such as the APC) received this proposal coolly, as did the Forum doves (such as ICC/BASIS, Canada and Australia), support for the establishment of a “multi-stakeholder bureau office” was also voiced by Brazil, which linked it to the need for the IGF to develop non-binding recommendations:
As in many other international fora, there is always the possibility of, for instance, a chairman’s report. But the chairman alone would not have the required legitimacy to prepare such a report without the help of a representative, multi-stakeholder, and regionally balanced group. So how do we call such group? Friends of the chair? Bureau? Supporting committee? I think that there are many options. What we believe is that we need to have this kind of support. Otherwise, the chairman alone will not be able to deliver to the expectations that are already created by the international community.
Little new was said during the May consultation meeting on the IGF’s working procedures, save that Nitin Desai ironically expressed doubt as to the wisdom of the Secretariat’s own proposal to conduct speed dialogue sessions at the Rio meeting.
Although the mandate of the existing Advisory Group had been fulfilled with the conclusion of the Athens meeting, the decision as to whether to renew that mandate or to restructure the group was officially one for the UN Secretary-General, who had not yet made a decision by the date of the May consultations. Consequently the private Advisory Group meetings planned for 24 and 25 May were belatedly declared open to all parties (although this was not announced ahead of their commencement, and the meetings were not webcast or transcribed).
During the first of these meeting days, there was general acceptance that it would be necessary, after all, for the IGF to develop the capacity to develop a set of agreed recommendations in order to fully comply with its mandate. The desperation of the Forum doves to avoid this reform was made clear when Chris Disspain of auDA wrote to Markus Kummer and Nitin Desai, copying the private Advisory Group mailing list, stating:
[W]e are concerned that there appear to be fundamental changes being mooted which are unacceptable to and may lead to the withdrawl [sic] of some non government and perhaps even government participants. ...
Chief amongst our concerns is the concept, that seems to have been “agreed” in today’s session, of final recommendations arising from the igf. In effect, a negotiated document. This is way outside of the mandate of the igf and is, simply, unacceptable to the majority of non government people here. ...
There is a grave danger that financial support and general involvement of non government participants will be withdrawn.
When a revised programme was released in June 2007, “Critical Internet resources” had been added as a new plenary session to be held on the first day, and the speed dialogue sessions had been quietly removed. By August, the Advisory Group had also been re-appointed by the new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, largely with the same composition as the previous group, but now with two co-chairs; Nitin Desai being joined by Hadil da Rocha Vianna of Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations. In September, the Advisory Group met again following a second open consultation meeting that does not call for specific discussion here.
For the first time, the Advisory Group released an agenda and a brief report of its private meeting shortly after it had concluded, pursuant to a communique from the Secretary-General which “asked [it] to enhance the transparency of the preparatory process by ensuring a continuous flow of information between its members and the various interested groups.” However, at the same meeting, it was determined not to open the meeting to observers.
The report of the Advisory Group meeting referred to two papers that had been tabled by Everton Lucero, a special advisor to the Brazilian co-chair. The first, dealing with the role and procedures of the Advisory Group itself, was presented “as a starting point for preparing the session entitled ‘Stock taking and the way forward’ at the 2nd IGF in Rio de Janeiro,” and asked for comments of Advisory Group members to be incorporated into a synthesis paper that would be used in that session. Amongst the paper’s recommendations were that “[e]ach stakeholder group shall appoint their representatives to the AG according to its own procedure, which should be transparent, democratic and inclusive.”
Lucero’s second paper dealt with the substance, structure and outcomes of the Rio meeting. It recommended that as well as considering the role of the Advisory Group, the stock-taking session should “be devoted to a discussion on the structure for future meetings,” and that the meeting’s outcomes should include a “Rio message on Internet Governance” prepared by the Chairman as a summary of the meeting, along with reports of all the workshops, dynamic coalition meetings and other events as attachments to that summary.
No discussion of Lucero’s papers was recorded in the report of the Advisory Group’s meeting, and their recommendations were not carried forward.
The paper synthesising the substantive contributions made for the Rio meeting was released in English towards the end of September 2007, about a month sooner than that for the Athens meeting had been, but at the cost that just over a third as many submissions, by fewer than a third as many contributors, were received in time to be included. Of the twenty-eight submissions that were summarised, nine of them, from BASIS, were identical to those it had submitted for Athens. In view of the paucity of source material, the Secretariat also drew upon a handful of posts to its Web forum and some contributions to the intervening open consultation meetings in the synthesis paper.
The paper was divided into sections on each of the themes of the substantive agenda, followed by consideration of the role and functioning of the IGF. Only the latter need be considered here.
Firstly as to the role of the IGF, the Forum doves such as the ITAA and ETNO continued to oppose a recommendation-developing capacity for the IGF; ENTO specifically commending the Secretariat for dropping speed dialogues from the agenda, and even asserting that it was important “that IGF itself does not sponsor nor recommend any best practice” highlighted during Best Practice Forums. Amongst the Forum hawks of civil society, IT For Change found this attitude confounding, and noted:
The sudden position of antipathy among many actors—many of whom were represented in the WGIG—to any recommendation-making role for the IGF is difficult to understand, or logically defend. WGIG also had the exact same role of giving policy recommendations to a legitimate policy-making body, the Summit, in that instance. In this light, it seems illogical to hold that WGIG was worthwhile but a recommendation providing-IGF is not.
In respect of IGF’s structure, the hawks were largely content with the status quo; ETNO simply recommending some fine-tuning to the composition of the Advisory Group, and the NRO suggesting that the non-governmental stakeholder groups should be given greater representation. IT For Change on the other hand was amongst the doves who continued to push for more major reform; in its case, that the Advisory Group should be supplemented by a WGIG-like standing committee.
However in one respect, a consensus on the need for reform to the IGF’s structures had now developed: namely on the need to develop some criteria for the recognition of dynamic coalitions. This proposition, that originated with civil society,had been repeated by Marcus Kummer at the September 2007 consultations where it also met with the agreement of the ICC and WITSA, and was finally recorded in the synthesis paper as possessing general support.
As demanded in the open consultations that followed the Athens meeting, the panels of the plenary sessions of the Rio meeting were smaller, comprising between four and seven members, who were selected by the Secretariat on the advice of the Advisory Group from a slate of nominees. No formal call for speakers had been made to produce this slate; rather it was the outcome of the private solicitations of the Secretariat and Advisory Group and of nominations made by recognised stakeholder representative groups such as the CS-IGC and the ICC.
The reduction in the number of panelists seemed to make little difference to the extent of interaction between the panel and the audience. This was for a number of reasons. First, the sessions had also been shortened by one hour, and other than during the final session on “Emerging Issues,” in which the professional moderator strictly limited both the panelists and the floor to brief statements, panelists often overran their allotted time. For example, the plenary session on security was one in which the panelists’ presentations took up more than half of the allotted time of the session.
The other main reason why there remained only limited scope for interaction with the floor during the panel sessions was that despite the reduction in the number of panelists, the Secretariat had also selected for each panel a similar number of “discussants” from amongst those who had been nominated for but missed out on a seat on the panel, to be given preference in making statements or questions. The position of discussant was not one that had been raised during open consultations.
Most of the plenary sessions were attended by fewer participants than in Athens. On the second and third days in particular, the plenary sessions attracted smaller audiences not only than the workshops overall, but even than some individual workshops. Some attributed this to the fact that the content of the plenary sessions had developed little from Athens. However the limited impact of the plenary sessions even extended to the new and potentially divisive subject of critical Internet resources.
During the opening ceremony, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Brazilian Extraordinary Minister for Strategic Affairs, had explicitly called for ICANN "to pass on its power to a more inclusive organisation,” which he called upon global civil society to form in a participatory democratic process. But none of those selected to form the panel on critical Internet resources made a similar call. The most radical views on the panel were those of Milton Mueller, who simply questioned the primacy of the GAC amongst ICANN’s Advisory Committees but without proposing that a successor body was required, and Carlos Alfonso, who outlined his modest programme for ICANN to attain independence from the US government.
As in Athens, many of the workshops proposed for the Rio meeting covered quite similar themes, since the Secretariat had provided no institutionalised mechanism for stakeholders to coordinate their proposals. However on this occasion, an even greater number of workshops were put forward than the venue could accommodate. By 4 July 2007 when sixty proposals had been made, the Secretariat issued a request to proponents “to contact potential organizers of similar workshops and initiate discussions on how to merge them. ... In parallel, the Secretariat will contact workshop proponents to seek clarifications and/or to make suggestions.”
In the end, there were 36 workshops in the Rio meeting, along with 23 best practice fora (most of which were effectively indistinguishable from workshops), eight open fora and sundry other meetings (including those of the dynamic coalitions to be separately treated below).
The most significant new events amongst these were the open fora, which opened the Rio meeting to other participants in the Internet governance regime, potentially thereby addressing the disconnect between the IGF and the other institutions with which its mandate required it to interface.
However few signs of this potential being realised were evident in Rio. For example, in ICANN’s open forum, its Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush merely outlined the history of the organisation, took reports from some of its constituent bodies, and invited discussion of a few of the current issues on its agenda, but without considering questions such as the organisation’s performance against the WSIS process criteria, or the IGF’s role in the development of public policy principles on matters under ICANN’s purview.
Each of the dynamic coalitions held a meeting in Rio. However no mechanism had been developed since the Athens meeting by which their findings and recommendations could be considered by the plenary body, other than that they could present a summary of their meetings during a subsequent reporting back session.
Ironically rather than addressing this omission, the Advisory Group intended on further limiting dynamic coalitions’ access to the plenary forum, having resolved at its meeting of September 2007 that “in future no Dynamic Coalition should have an automatic right to report to the main session.” However neither had the Advisory Group begun to consider the development of any criteria pursuant to which the dynamic coalitions could earn such a right.
The Advisory Group’s position contrasted with the view, expressed by William Drake and Bertrand de la Chapelle amongst others during the last day’s session on “The Way Forward,” that the plenary sessions could be more productively used to receive and consider the dynamic coalitions’ output. In Drake’s words:
After two years of the configuration of openness, access, security, diversity, one could argue that doing the same thing again the next year might be of relatively limited value, whereas ... what we could do is try to have essentially the dynamic coalitions and the workshops ... [bring] some of the ideas, some of the key points that have come out of their work ... to the larger community for discussion in a plenary setting. ... In this manner, also, those ideas might feed back, then, into other institutions and back to the national level.
Even Nitin Desai, when summarising the session, acknowledged the view that the connection between the main sessions and the workshops and dynamic coalitions would need to be addressed for future meetings.
Despite the criticisms that had attended the limitations of the facilities provided by the Secretariat for remote participation in the Athens meeting of the IGF, these were developed very little for the Rio meeting. In some respects they actually regressed, for example in that questions for the floor of plenary sessions were only received from remote participants in two languages rather than the four promised, and the email addresses at which they were to be received were not published until after the first day’s sessions had commenced, with the result that they were even less used than in Athens.
One of the most significant improvements that was planned was developed by a team from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture led by Jose Murilo Junior, a member of the Online Collaboration Dynamic Coalition. This combined chat and webcast facility would have allowed remote and in-person participation to be integrated much more closely by displaying online discussion on the plenary session in near real-time on a large projection screen at the venue, subject to light moderation for inappropriate content. Although completed, the use of this facility for projection into the venue was quietly vetoed by the Secretariat at the last minute.
The OCDC itself also had limited success in improving upon the facilities that its founders had provided for the Athens meeting through the IGF Community Web site. It was originally intended to expand the facilities of this site using a dedicated server that a member had pledged to donate in February 2007, but one month ahead of the date of the Rio meeting this donation had yet to eventuate. Even so, shortly before the Rio meeting opened a successor to the Athens IGF Community site was rapidly assembled and launched. Although it carried several improvements to the original, including a ribbon menu at the top of each page that linked between all of the official and community sites, the Secretariat once again declined to publicise the availability of the site to IGF participants, with the result that it was also less used than in Athens.
The original is no longer available, but is on file with the author. The version as most recently revised before the Rio meeting is at http://www.intgovforum.org/Rio_Schedule_final.html.
Similarly, the promise that prepared video statements would be shown in a loop at the venue and made available on the IGF’s Web site again failed to eventuate: IGF Secretariat, Draft Programme Outline for the Second Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (2007), 2.
A transcript of the proceedings is available at http://www.intgovforum.org/May_contributions/IGF-23May07Consultation.txt.
Including El Salvador, Brazil, Argentina, Iran and the Russian Federation at the consultation meeting.
And subsequently leaked: copies of the message and Kummer’s reply are on file with the author.
IGF Secretariat, IGF Second Meeting Synthesis Paper (2007), 14 (recorded as being a submission of AfriNIC).
It was originally made of working groups for the IGF (for example MMWG, Internet Governance Forum Input Statement (2006), 3), and later of dynamic coalitions (for example during the session on Taking Stock and The Way Forward by the writer, and at the February 2007 open consultations by the CS-IGC).
This would have implemented suggestions of the author that were recorded in the synthesis paper for the May 2007 open consultation meeting: IGF Secretariat, Open Consultations Geneva, 23 May 2007: Summary of Contributions Prepared by the IGF Secretariat (2007), 8.