1.4.5. Networks

In a way, networks are an amalgam of all of the other methods of governance. This mechanism can be employed either within a single stakeholder group, or across groups. As an example of the former case, so-called “government networks” are often formed between national regulators.[1] Compared to formal intergovernmental organisations that are formed by treaty, such networks provide more a flexible and inclusive mechanism through which for governments to coordinate their regulatory activities.[2] Similarly within the private sector, the “network organisation”[3] is one that replaces hierarchical authority with a geographically dispersed collection of business units, horizontally coordinated through information technology.[4]

However this thesis will focus on multi-stakeholder networks, involving governments, within whose power it is to create domestic and international legal rules, the private sector whose involvement is key to the operation of markets, and civil society which has a role in articulating and developing norms. Networks that include governments and at least one of civil society and the private sector are also known as public–private partnerships or PPPs,[5] and networks of three or more stakeholder groups can also be known as multi-stakeholder partnerships or MSPs,[6] although in this thesis the term “network” will encompass both variants.

Even prior to the IGF’s formation, multi-stakeholder networks had proved one of the most promising mechanisms for bridging the gap between cyberspace and national legal systems. On the issue of spam, for example the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has entered into a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with its counterparts in other countries, in which the signatories undertake to coordinate their efforts to combat the spam problem.[7] One of these MOUs, the London Action Plan, includes signatories from executive agencies of 38 countries, and 25 private sector signatories.[8]

Another example is the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP),[9] which contains amongst its over 100 organisational members, stakeholders from all three main groups: governments, the private sector and civil society, from over 40 countries.[10] The GKP’s activities include the development of materials and the hosting of events for ICT capacity building and knowledge sharing, the facilitation of partnerships between its members and investment in ICT for Development (ICT4D) and K4D (Knowledge for Development) initiatives, and involvement in public policy development.

Like the other mechanisms of governance, the use of networks comes with its own limitations. One of these is that their legitimacy and effectiveness may be prejudiced by the imbalance that very often exists between the power of one stakeholder group within the network, such as governments or the private sector, as against that of the other groups.[11] Regrettably, this is an error that the Tunis Agenda has perpetuated, in asserting that “[p]olicy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States. They have rights and responsibilities for international Internet-related public policy issues.”[12]

As will be further demonstrated in following chapters, to so restrict authority for the development of international public policy, particularly where related to the Internet, is short-sighted and fallacious.[13]

It so happens that the network model of governance quite faithfully mirrors the manner in which the Internet has been governed from the beginning. The IETF, W3C and ICANN are amongst those institutions of Internet governance that describe their processes as being based around “consensus” between all interested stakeholders. We will examine these existing Internet governance processes in more detail in the next chapter.



See Slaughter, Annie-Marie, Governing the Global Economy through Government Networks (2000) and Slaughter, Annie-Marie, Government Networks: the Heart of the Liberal Democratic Order (2000) . Examples include the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) (see http://www.iosco.org/), the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) (see http://www.iaisweb.org/), and the Joint Forum (see http://www.bis.org/bcbs/jointforum.htm).


Slaughter, Annie-Marie, Government Networks: the Heart of the Liberal Democratic Order (2000), 215–217


Also variously known as the boundaryless, virtual or post-bureaucratic organisation, and described by being organised by principles of adhocracy, technocracy or heterarchy: Fulk, Janet & DeSanctis, Gerardine, Electronic Communication and Changing Organizational Forms (1995), 338–339.


Parker, Martin, Post-modern Organizations or Postmodern Theory? (1992)


Skelcher, Chris, Mathur, Navdeep, & Smith, Mike, The Public Governance of Collaborative Spaces: Discourse, Design and Democracy (2005)


See Section 5.4.4.


See http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_310313.


See Section


See http://www.globalknowledge.org/.


Along with the OECD and WGIG (which are to be discussed below at Section and Section respectively), the GKP was suggested as a possible model for the future IGF at a conference in Malta held by Diplo Foundation in February 2006: DiploFoundation, The Malta Discussions on Internet Governance (2006), 1–2.


Martens, Jens, Multistakeholder Partnerships: Future Models of Multilateralism? (2007)


WSIS, Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (2005) para 35, derived from the earlier WSIS, Geneva Declaration of Principles (2003) , para 49.


Rhodes, R A W, The New Governance: Governing Without Government (1996), 657.