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Institutionalizing the “Clearing House” Function

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No. 153 Institutionalizing the “Clearing House” Function

Lea Kaspar

The Noncommercial Users Constituency

IGF 2014 sub theme that this workshop fall under

IGF & The Future of the Internet Ecosystem


Ever since the WSIS and WGIG a decade ago, many have argued that there is an important gap in the distributed institutional architecture of global IG. We lack ways to perform holistic, ongoing monitoring and analysis of policy-related developments, and to aggregate and disseminate information needed to make fully informed decisions. This is especially the case with so-called “orphaned” and multidimensional issues that do not fit neatly within any single organization. Where then can governments and stakeholders turn for accessibly formulated and usable information on policy, best practices, and lessons learned, and to connect with sources of experience and expertise in order to construct governance networks that can help identify forward-looking solutions?

Recently, there has been a number of proposals about this informational function. They vary not only in their details but even in how they label what is proposed, e.g. a clearing house, knowledge bank, observatory, policy network facilitator, IGF+, etc. While none of the labels fully capture the ideas in play, there is growing interest in moving forward, as is evidenced by the dialogues and initiatives in the IGF, WGEC, NETmundial, the High Level Panel, EC, ISOC, civil society, academic organizations, etc. Accordingly, the NonCommercial Users Constituency of ICANN (includes 94 organizations and 252 individuals in 81 countries) proposes this workshop to help advance and give shape to the discussion. The panelists and audience would brainstorm on such questions as: What, substantively and operationally, would be entailed by the function? What would be needed to institutionalize and perform it effectively? Which organizations would be involved, with what kinds of interrelationships?

Name(s) and stakeholder and organizational affiliation(s) of institutional co-organizer(s)

Joana Varon Ferraz
Civil society/ Academia
Researcher and Project Coordinator, Center for Technology and Society (CTS/FGV)

Lee Hibbard
Intergovernmental Organisations
The Council of Europe

Lea Kaspar
Civil Society
Programme Lead, Global Partners Digital

Tarek Kamel
Technical Community
Senior Advisor to the President for Government Engagement, ICANN

Markus Kummer
Technical Community
Vice President of Public Policy, The Internet Society

William Drake
Civil society/ Academia
Media Change and Innovation Division, Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research, University of Zurich

Paul Diaz
Technical Community
.Org The Public Interest Registry

Thomas Schneider
Federal Office of Communication, Government of Switzerland

Has the proposer, or any of the co-organizers, organized an IGF workshop before?


The link to the workshop report


Type of session


Duration of proposed session

90 minutes

Subject matter #tags that describe the workshop

#internetgovernance #IGclearinghouses #IGobservatories #NCUC

Names and affiliations (stakeholder group, organization) of speakers the proposer is planning to invite

Tarek Kamel
Technical Community
Senior Advisor to the President for Government Engagement, ICANN

Lea Kaspar
Civil Society
Programme Lead, Global Partners Digital

Wolfgang Kleinwachter
Civil Society/ Academia
Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus and Member of the ICANN Board

Markus Kummer
Technical Community
Vice President of Public Policy, The Internet Society

Alice Munyua
Intergovernmental Organisations
Advisor to the Government RNL, African Union Commission

Megan Richards
Intergovernmental Organisations
Principal Adviser, European Commission

Name of Moderator(s)

William Drake

Name of Remote Moderator(s)

Joana Varon

Description of how the proposer plan to facilitate discussion amongst speakers, audience members and remote participants

To make the discussion as interactive and participatory as possible, the workshop would eschew the model of serial talking heads giving detailed stand-alone presentations. In advance of the meeting, the moderator and panelists would agree online to a baseline set of questions to be addressed. The workshop would begin with brief opening position statements from the panelists, followed by interactive, “talk show” style discussion of the questions, prompted by the moderator. About half-way through the session, the floor would be opened to bring the in-room and remote participants into the conversation.

Description of the proposer's plans for remote participation

The moderator will pose questions to the in-room and remote participants. The remote moderator will convey any interventions by remote participants.

Background paper

background paper

Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions

The workshop aimed to advance and give shape to a decade-old discussion about institutionalising a clearing house function in the internet governance ecosystem – to enhance the gathering, assessment and distribution of governance-related information and facilitation of distributed governance networks. The underlying objectives of such an initiative would be to help empower developing country governments and other non-dominant actors to respond effectively to policy challenges, particularly with respect to “orphan issues”, and potentially, to enhance the spread and application of good governance principles, such as transparency, accountability, and inclusive participation.

In an effort to move the discussion forward, the workshop gathered a set of panellists who have been exploring the practical and political implications and challenges that such an initiative would entail. To frame the discussion, the panellists were presented with a background paper co-authored by William Drake and Lea Kaspar entitled “Institutionalizing the Clearinghouse Function”, which was published in an ‘e-book’ by the Internet Policy Observatory (Annenberg School of Communication, U. of Pennsylvania) on Beyond NETmundial: The Roadmap for Institutional Improvements to the Global Internet Governance Ecosystem.
This framing served as background for the workshop discussions and set the scene for the panellists and audience to brainstorm on such questions as:

1. Is the status quo sufficient, or is there a compelling case for institutionalizing the clearinghouse function in some manner?

2. If one believes that in principal this is worth exploring, what elements of the clearing house function most need to be thought through and clarified in order to make it a viable project?

3. How do we assess the relative costs and benefits of the five models outlined in the piece:
o Status Quo+
o Intergovernmental Organization
o A New Multistakeholder Organization
o The IGF
o Mixed

4. Which ultimately seems like the most promising path forward? Or is there another, better model to consider?

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions

The panellists highlighted the growing complexity of the internet governance ecosystem, the coordination and information gap that currently exists, and the challenges that developing countries in particular are faced with in this space. In the absence of neutral and easily accessible material about existing and emerging issues, relevant existing processes and potential solutions, actors might turn to information that's being selected from a narrow or particular perspective, creating sub-optimal policy outcomes.

The panellists and the audience highlighted existing initiatives that are aiming to circulate knowledge, and facilitate information sharing and collaboration in the field of internet governance. Greater coordination and strengthening of these existing initiatives was seen as desirable.

It was noted that we are reaching a point similar to where we were ten years ago, when the IGF was created, where there is a clear demand to determine what kind of change the institutional ecosystem might require to help provide the kinds of functionalities that address stakeholders’ needs.

Existing gaps in the ecosystem should be addressed, while further empowering existing organisations and actors. Developing a clearing house function with its various elements is a good way forward, but it will require further dialogue and broad community input to make sure that the right modalities are found. It was highlighted that the function would need to strike a delicate balance between greater coordinated action that facilitates good policy-making and the risk of centralisation.

In terms of institutional solutions, there was general support to connect such an initiative to the IGF, as this would correspond to the original mandate of the Forum and would, at the same time, add legitimacy to the initiative. However, in order for this to happen and the IGF to perform such a function, it would need to be strengthened and allocated appropriate resources. Workshop participants identified this year’s IGF initiative to collate and present best practice as an example of how the Forum could evolve by incorporating parts of what could constitute the clearing house function.

Workshop participants also highlighted early engagement and buy-in from key Governments – especially from the developing world – and other stakeholder as a crucial element in terms of building credibility and getting political and broader community support for such an initiative.

Estimation of the overall number of participants present at the workshop


Estimation of the overall number of women present at the workshop

about half of the participants were women

Extent to that the workshop discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

it was mentioned briefly in the presentations and discussions

A brief summary of the discussions in case that the workshop addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

No information provided

Reported by

Lea Kaspar

Workshop transcript


Youtube video



No attachments provided

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