List of Workshops Reports 2009
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Workshop Report 2009

Workshop Number: 316

Workshop Title: Implementing the WSIS Principles: A Development Agenda for Internet Governance

Report by: William Drake

Workshop description and list of panelists:


William J. Drake, organizer and moderator
Senior Associate, Center for International Governance, Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

Anriette Esterhuysen
Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications, South Africa

Derrick Cogburn
Associate Professor of International Relations, American University, and Senior Scientist and Chief Research Director at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, United States of America

Olga Cavalli
Advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and representative to the Governmental Advisor Committee of ICANN, Government of Argentina

Christine Arida
Director for Telecom Planning and Services, Egyptian National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Government of Egypt

Alice Munyua
Convenor, East African IGF and Kenya ICT Action Network,
Communications Commission, Government of Kenya

Hong Xue
Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Internet Policy & Law, Beijing Normal University, China

Fiona Alexander
Associate Administrator (Head of Office) for International Affairs,
National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce, Government of the United States

Elfa Yr Gylfadottir
Adviser, Office of cultural affairs, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Iceland


The Tunis Agenda’s WSIS principles on Internet governance comprise both procedural and substantive prescriptions. The former state that governance should be conducted in a manner that is multilateral, transparent, democratic, and fully inclusive of all stakeholders. The latter state that governance should, inter alia, ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all, and be an essential element of a people-centred, inclusive, development-oriented, and non-discriminatory information society. Taken together, these latter principles suggest that Internet governance should help to advance development objectives. In addition, the Tunis Agenda mandates the IGF to, “Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet Governance processes.” Implementing the substantive WSIS principles and this element of the IGF mandate would require that stakeholders use the collaborative opportunities afforded by the IGF to assess and encourage governance mechanisms’ contributions to development. But unfortunately, the development dimension often has been overlooked in discussions of the WSIS principles and the IGF mandate.

Accordingly, this workshop sought to help redress the problem by fostering a dialogue that took seriously the concept of IG4D and by exploring ways to promote its realization in both the IGF and Internet governance mechanisms. More specifically, the workshop considered the possible establishment of a development agenda for Internet governance that would facilitate implementation of the WSIS principles and the IGF mandate. A development agenda is a holistic program of analysis and action intended to mainstream development considerations into the procedures and policy outputs of global governance mechanisms. While there have been concerted efforts to pursue such agendas in the multilateral institutions dealing with issues like international trade and intellectual property, there has been no broad-based discussion of a corresponding initiative for global Internet governance.

This was the third in the series of IGF workshops intended to foster such a discussion, each of which has built upon and gone beyond its predecessors. The first workshop, “Toward a Development Agenda for Internet Governance” was held at the IGF in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 Participants considered the general desirability of pursuing a development agenda and agreed that a properly configured and consensual initiative could help to promote an open, accessible, diverse, and secure global Internet. The second workshop, “A Development Agenda for Internet Governance: From Principle to Practice” was held at the IGF in Hyderabad in 2008 Here participants began to explore the possible substantive focus and operational aspects, and inter alia affirmed that the IGF is the most appropriate venue in which to elaborate a cross-cutting and flexible agenda that could encourage development-oriented enhancements within Internet governance institutions. The third workshop, held at the IGF in Sharm el Sheikh, sought to advance consensus building on the substantive focus and operational aspects of pursuing an agenda in light of the WSIS principles mandate.

The actors involved in the field; various initiatives that people can connect with, and contacts for further information:
Institutional Co-Sponsors (active in the field)

• Government of Argentina
• Association for Progressive Communications
• Centre for International Governance, Graduate Institute for International Studies (organizer)
• Council of Europe
• Diplo Foundation
• Institute for Internet Policy & Law, Beijing Normal University
• Internet Society of China
• Federal Office of Communication, Government of Switzerland

For further information:

William J. Drake
Senior Associate, Center for International Governance, Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
william.drake [at]

A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were identified:
Because the workshop enjoyed an expanded three hour time slot, it was possible to engage a wider than usual range of speakers. The panelists included seven females and one male---five governmental and three nongovernmental representatives, from seven countries around the world. In addition, the increased time allowed ample opportunity to probe the issues deeply and to have a robust discussion with the sizeable audience. Two online platforms were used in parallel, and about a dozen people participated thereby from around the world. All the online participants’ questions were read out by the moderator during the open discussion portion of the program and addressed by the panelists.

In brief, the workshop proceeded as follows. To set the stage, the moderator began with an overview presentation that summarized the evolution of the discussion to date, both in the previous IGFs and related events organized in Geneva and by the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet); outlined four possible substantive elements of development agenda; and proposed two possible options for taking the process forward in the IGF and beyond. The speakers then drilled down into the details of these elements and options and offered comments on related matters as well. This was followed by an extended Q&A segment with the audiences in the room and online.

With regard to the substantive focus of a development agenda, the first possible element discussed was capacity building. Panelists and audience members shared examples of initiatives underway and of challenges encountered in seeking to enhance the ability of developing countries to participate effectively in global Internet governance. Other points raised included the importance of building the skills and knowledge of both governmental and nongovernmental actors; tailoring capacity building to different governance institutions and local environments; leveraging widely available and low-cost technology and applications for distance education and empowering online collaborations; and recognizing that capacity building is a necessary but not sufficient condition of effective participation, as it must be blended with other steps (such as those discussed next). A development agenda could include mechanisms to aggregate and make more accessible and usable information on the various initiatives and experiences, to identify good practices, and so on.

The second possible element discussed concerned institutional and procedural improvements to reduce barriers to effective participation. Workshop participants noted that developing country representatives from government, the private sector, the technical community, and civil society can encounter a variety of formal and informal barriers in intergovernmental, private sector, and even multistakeholder governance arrangements. These may include, inter alia, restrictive rules on admission, speaking and document submission; the location, cost, and timing of meetings; organizational culture, language, and working methods; and asymmetries in knowledge, technology and power that can frustrate efforts to influence agendas and outcomes. Here too, it was agreed that development agenda could helpfully organize and present information on conditions and experiences, identify good practices, and encourage improvements.

The third element discussed concerned the substantive policy issues on infrastructures and critical resources that a development agenda could address. The global governance mechanisms that have the strongest and most direct impact on the Internet---i.e. those for names and numbers, technical standards, and network security---are responsible for managing a range of issues that can entail distinct developmental concerns. However, as participants noted, these concerns usually are not the focus of concerted deliberation and action. In contrast, some ICT global governance arrangements ---e.g. those for telecommunications, trade and development assistance---often are more explicitly focused on developmental concerns, but they have weaker and more indirect effects on the Internet. In this context, a number of workshop participants dwelled in particular on related challenges concerning access to and pricing of network infrastructure, international interconnectivity, and the like.

The fourth element discussed concerned policy issues raised by public use of the Internet for information, communication and commerce. The global governance mechanisms that have the strongest and most direct impact on use of the Internet---e.g. those for intellectual property, cybercrime, digital trade and global electronic commerce, and cross-border information flow and content---also address a range of issues with important developmental dimensions. In particular, intellectual property and access to knowledge attracted sustained commentary from workshop participants, some of whom expressed concerns that developing countries’ prospects could be sharply limited by current and proposed governance frameworks. Concerns were also raised about the comparative weakness of other relevant governance mechanisms, such as those for privacy and consumer protection and spam reduction, and the implications thereof for developing countries. In sum, workshop participants identified a number of substantive policy issues that could be productively monitored and assessed in order to encourage governance institutions to blend a development perspective more fully into their processes and outcomes.

The workshop discussed two broadly framed options for taking a development agenda effort forward. The first was to promote the idea within the relevant global institutions and processes. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion on this point concentrated on the IGF. Among the ideas raised were to make development an ongoing main session theme; organize annually a cluster of interrelated workshops, best practice forums, and open forums; related coordination with national/regional IGFs; and establishment of a dynamic coalition. Also discussed was the promotion of a development perspective within Internet governance decision making bodies; for example, an interest group is in formation among some noncommercial stakeholders in ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization. The second option discussed was to advance the development agenda concept through scholarly/policy research institutions and collaborations, and to encourage its incorporation into the work of some of the leading capacity building programs.

Conclusions and further comments:
Participants are considering options as to whether and how to move forward.
...End of Report...

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