Summary Report on the Workshop held at the Third Internet Governance Forum (IGF) [ pdf ],
Co-organized by the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Nominet (UK)
Several countries have independently established at the national level multi-stakeholder processes or structures to address national policy choices and/or interact with the Internet Governance Forum. Similar initiatives have emerged more recently at the regional level.
The purpose of the workshop organized in Hyderabad was to gather actors involved in these initiatives to study real-life examples of the various ways this was achieved with respect to the local and historic context. Panelists from Brazil, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Senegal and Koweit (see list of panelists in annex), coming from the different stakeholder groups, described their experience of national or regional initiatives. Other initiatives, from Latin America and the Caribbean in particular were also identified in the course of the Hyderabad IGF.
The workshop illustrated the diversity of the mechanisms put in place and their different degree of development and link with the IGF; it identified some common elements to help launch such initiatives and mapped the way forward by deciding the creation of a Dynamic Coalition to develop the network of Forums.
1. A diversity of approaches and methods
Origin : early multi-stakeholder initiatives predated even the launch of the World Summit on the Information Society (Brazil, France), or were created to foster national interaction during the WSIS process (Finland). The recent ones however can be considered as an indirect outcome of the WSIS and more specifically, were inspired by the example of the Internet Governance Forum.
Convenors : early initiatives often came from the governments who created independent ad hoc structures where they retain a nominating capacity (Brazil) or participate – with others - in the oversight (France). Governments are also involved in the recent initiatives but at more diverse levels : some are the initiators and maintain a full management responsibility (Senegal, Kuwait), some actively supported initiatives taken by the private sector (UK) or civil society (Italy, Germany, Kenya). More rarely, the initiative was fully from civil society, with the government invited to participate (Germany). Regional initiatives were usually the result of a self-organized co-initiative by a diverse group of stakeholders (such as at the European level with the Euro-DIG)
Scope : while the most recent initiatives principally foster exchanges among stakeholders on the agenda of the IGF, they also begin to bring into focus issues that are specific to the region or the country, either to highlight them at the global level or to influence the national process. By contrast, older efforts were understandably more oriented towards the national level, including for instance the management of the national ccTLD (Brazil) or the development of codes of conduct among national actors (France).
Structure : the most recent initiatives, inspired by the IGF, have adopted a relatively informal approach, often without formal incorporation. They may further develop (as in the UK) by encouraging the creation of thematic groups (like the Dynamic Coalitions) to address specific issues. Older initiatives, by contrast, usually established a formal structure with explicit representation of various colleges of stakeholders and working groups.
Competences : the IGF-inspired initiatives currently conform to the dialogue and non-decision making approach. The more structured initiatives that predated the IGF have often been given the capacity to make recommendations to specific sectors of activity or the government. In some cases, they have a decision-making capacity and can play a mediation role to ensure the respect of the national regimes they helped develop.
2. Key common enabling elements
In spite of the diversity of formats that reflected the time when these processes were instituted and the national cultures, some common elements emerged from the discussion and can guide the formation of other national or regional processes, among which :
Individual initiators are critical at launch : motivated individuals were almost everywhere instrumental in the launch of the initiative, be they in government, in civil society or business at the time. Their continued involvement in the early stages is critical, as the transition of a champion to another job can weaken the dynamic (particularly if the initiative is launched by a specific governmental actor). But, as the panelists themselves illustrated, they often had a personal career path that combined experiences in two or more stakeholder groups and helped them mobilize a broad range of actors.
Some informality is welcome initially : spontaneous self-organization by a few actors reduces the barriers to entry and enables a smooth launch, without lengthy discussions on structures and representation. Organizing a simple preparatory workshop for the IGF can kick-start a process that can progressively structure itself afterwards.
Governments do not need to be the initiators but they need to be involved : The involvement of governments is a factor of legitimacy but some degree of independence helps the process to be truly multi-stakeholder. It also helps nurture debate on national issues. One case (UK) highlighted the benefit of involving parliamentarians in such discussions.
Articulation between national and international deliberations is key : national and regional Forums should not only prepare for the International IGF but also bring back and help disseminate the results of discussions at a higher level. This two-way interaction fosters a synchronization of agendas, by raising local awareness of global issues and nurturing the global agenda with concrete dimensions and local priorities.
3. The way forward
The workshop demonstrated the benefits of the replication at national and regional levels of IGF-inspired spaces for multi-stakeholder interaction (in line with the WSIS recommendations), and the potential that improving their inter-relationship offers.
It also showed that such a network of IGF-related spaces would greatly facilitate outreach and potentially be a support for the remote participation efforts of the IGF, particularly in developing countries.
Last but not least, regular exchanges of experiences between the promoters and animators of these national and regional processes would help them develop their activities and provide actors planning similar initiatives in other countries or regions with useful guidelines and support.
Therefore, the organizers and participants in this workshop have announced their intention to establish a Dynamic Coalition to help develop the IGF network of forums. This Dynamic Coalition will, inter alia :
- make an inventory of the existing national and regional processes with the corresponding contacts;
- foster exchanges among these actors on organizational issues of common interest
- assist as needed, actors willing to establish similar initiatives
- interface with efforts to promote remote participation