At last week’s World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF), a proposed opinion was tabled by Brazil on Operationalizing the role of Government in the multi-stakeholder framework for Internet Governance. In an earlier form discussed at the ITU’s Informal Experts Group (IEG) the proposal had not reached consensus. An initial consideration of the text by the relevant committee requested that it be reworked. By May 16, a revised version of the proposal was tabled at the WTPF. This revised text drew broader interest and support. However, it was not adopted. There was relative consensus, though, that the text be maintained under consideration and discussion in various other Internet-Governance related fora.
The Chair proposed that the opinion could be considered at the Council Working Group on international Internet-related public policy issues (CWG-Internet) and thence taken to the ITU Council for approval. The CWG-Internet is a government-only group which meets in closed sessions, although with open consultations. The discussion of the proposal in such a setting would, therefore, not be multistakeholder, unless the CWG-Internet were significantly reformed and opened to all stakeholders on an equal footing.
There is a CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation with multi-stakeholder participation, which could consider the issues raised in the opinion, but some member states objected that they are not participants in that Working Group. A third proposal was that the opinion could be discussed at the IGF. But a number of governments resisted this suggestion on the ground that the IGF does not produce outputs, and the topic was considered of such importance that there should be a formal output document reflecting a set of agreed conclusions on that topic.
The purpose of this note is to suggest a way forward, whereby the IGF could step up and meet the unmet need for a multistakeholder forum for work on the draft opinion from Brazil, through a new pilot process that aims to produce a non-binding output document, that governments and other stakeholders alike could choose to support.
The question of outputs from the IGF
The fact that the IGF does not produce outputs has been supported by some and criticised by others. Those who support this have often expressed concern that the pressure to produce outputs could stifle the free exchange of views, and that in any case there are no mechanisms for the IGF to produce such outputs. (It should be noted that for the most part that those who are concerned by outputs think of them only in terms of formal outputs by States.) Those who criticise it point out that the IGF’s mandate specifies that it should be able to make recommendations on emerging issues where appropriate, and that its lack of mechanisms to produce such outputs flows from choices made when defining its structure and processes, which according to the Tunis Agenda should be “subject to periodic review” as the IGF continues to evolve to meet the needs of its multistakeholder community.
Indeed, in 2010 the UN Secretary-General acknowledged the perception “that the IGF had not provided concrete advice to intergovernmental bodies and other entities involved in Internet governance”, and “that the contribution of the IGF to public policy-making is difficult to assess and appears to be weak”. When the General Assembly renewed the IGF’s mandate the following year, it did so “recognizing at the same time the need to improve it, with a view to linking it to the broader dialogue on global Internet governance”. The task of recommending such improvements fell to a CSTD Working Group, which suggested that the IGF should “develop more tangible outputs”. One of such was to be a set of policy questions which should be asked at each meeting, and whose “results … should be stated in the outcome documentation”.
This note proposes a mechanism for beginning to implement the CSTD Working Group’s recommendation, in a deliberately modest way that does not require substantial structural reforms to the IGF, nor the expansion of its agreed mandate. The Tunis Agenda defines Internet governance to include the development by all stakeholders of shared decision-making procedures, so it is only appropriate that the IGF be bold enough to experiment with the development and documentation of such procedures. No experiment is guaranteed of success, but from its results, we can learn and continue to refine the multistakeholder model of governance. This is not proposed as a broad-based solution to address a range of policy issues, but as a response to this particular call for the Brazilian opinion to be discussed various other fora.
Multistakeholder opinions process
The production of a multistakeholder opinion at the IGF could work as follows:
- Post the existing draft text on “Operationalizing the role of Government in the multi-stakeholder framework for Internet Governance” as proposed by Brazil to a dedicated official IGF website that would enable paragraph-level comments to be added by registered users from all stakeholder groups.
- Encourage stakeholders to discuss the proposal and the paragraph-level comments on diverse Internet mailing lists and Web fora, including existing lists maintained by stakeholders such as ISOC and the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, and a multistakeholder list to be maintained by the the IGF Secretariat. Invitations to known discussion fora would be sent out to ensure wide-spread input.
- Encourage regional IGF meetings that are held between now and the global IGF to hold workshops on the draft text to gather feedback and suggestions, that would be summarised and submitted to the global IGF in writing. Links to these submitted reports would be included on the IGF website alongside the draft text.
- Compile submissions and comments into a concise background paper by a multistakeholder working group of the IGF MAG. The background paper would seek to define and group areas of agreement and areas of difference around each paragraph of the draft opinion.
- Dedicate at least a session at the global IGF, or perhaps as pre-session to the IGF, for development of a multistakeholder opinion based on the draft text. A speaker from Brazil and representatives from the other stakeholder groups would be invited to speak.
- Dedicate another session for interactive editing of “disagreed” text. The room would be separated into groups, to which participants would be assigned randomly, with neutral facilitators. One group would also be connected to remote participants. Each group would be tasked with addressing one point of disagreement over the draft text, with the aim of either reaching a view on one side or other of the disagreement, or proposing a compromise.
- Appoint a moderator of the sessions who would compile the outputs from the groups into a new composite text.
- The session would aim to reach a rough consensus amongst its participants as assessed by the chair, but if a consensus of all participants cannot be reached, the chair could decide either to close the text in the form that has been most broadly agreed, or not to close the text, in which case in lieu thereof a report of the session would be prepared recording the points on which there were agreement and disagreement.
- The output of this process would be discussed in the Taking Stock session, with an invitation extended to all participants to sign onto the opinion.
- Any such opinion text would not be binding, and would not be described as a multistakeholder opinion of the IGF, but a multistakeholder opinion developed at the IGF as an input to further discussions in other venues. The IGF Secretariat would maintain a register of those who have endorsed the opinion.
Endorsements of the multistakeholder opinion proposal
This statement is now closed to new endorsements.
End date: May 31, 2013
Signatures collected: 29
|17||Idec (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense)||May 23, 2013|
|16||GLOBAL ILLUMINATORS INTERNATIONAL||May 22, 2013|
|15||Centre for Innovation Policy and Governance||May 22, 2013|
|14||ONG derechos digitales||May 21, 2013|
|13||Access||May 21, 2013|
|12||CTS-FGV||May 21, 2013|
|11||Instituto NUPEF||May 21, 2013|
|10||Fight for the Future||May 21, 2013|
|9||Common Room Networks Foundation||May 21, 2013|
|8||ID-Config (Indonesian CSOs Network for Internet Governance)||May 21, 2013|
|7||ELSAM - The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy||May 21, 2013|
|6||Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade (CTS/FGV)||May 21, 2013|
|5||ICT Watch - Indonesia||May 21, 2013|
|4||Global Partners||May 21, 2013|
|3||AGEIA DENSI||May 21, 2013|
|2||Association for Progressive Communications (APC)||May 21, 2013|
|1||Consumers International||May 20, 2013|
|12||Mawaki Chango||May 24, 2013|
|11||Marília Maciel||May 21, 2013|
|10||Alex Comninos||May 21, 2013|
|9||Ogechi Obiorah||May 21, 2013|
|8||Virginia Paque||May 21, 2013|
|7||Matthias C. Kettemann||May 21, 2013|
|6||Gilang Hernanda||May 21, 2013|
|5||Tapani Tarvainen||May 21, 2013|
|4||Norbert Bollow||May 20, 2013|
|3||Avri Doria||May 20, 2013|
|2||Young-eum Lee||May 20, 2013|
|1||Nnenna Nwakanma||May 20, 2013|