IGF 2018 WS #196 Expanding Space for Civil Society Activism Online

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

The policy question here is the role of civil society in internet governance discussions and policy making. Too often questions about how internet governance policy on the national level is developed and created is dominated by governments and the private sector, often from a securitized or national security point of view. Take for example, the recent cybersecurity agreement between the governments of Ukraine and the United States. It was very heavy on mitigating cyberattacks but almost nothing involving civil society, fundamental rights online, or the increasing securitization of Ukraine's internet. Counterpart's commitment in spaces such as the IGF is to amplify the voices of civil society so that grassroots, bottom up, voices are heard and considered in policy development and outcomes. We do this by showcasing the work of internet freedom champions on the national level and ways in which their research and advocacy are working to expand, what is often closing, civic space online in advance of a vibrant, inclusive, and democratic internet. We support the work of partners from many developing nations who would not otherwise have the opportunity to travel to Europe to participate in the IGF so their voices can be heard.

Format: 

Round Table - 90 Min

Interventions: 

Our speakers will be used in a unique manner in that some will also share a skill from their work, e.g. a unique research methodology tracking social media disorders and propaganda, or ways in which internet accessibility measurements are conducted and used effectively in closed spaces, or creative advocacy campaign. Think of this component as "news you can use" as opposed to simply sharing information in a one way direction. Audience members will be invited to share their ideas, work and creative input in order to surface unique internet governance advocacy methodology from other parts of the world.

Diversity: 

Counterpart International is committed to diversity in its participation and presentation at IGF, showcasing the work of women and LGBT activists in historically patriarchal cultures such as Ukraine, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. We are also committed to regional/geographic diversity by having representatives from Latin America, Southern Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe, regions where the path towards democracy requires a robust independent civil society community maintaining and expanding civic space online. We will also encourage diverse participation in our audience members.

The content of the session will highlight the work of civil society activists working in closing civic spaces in Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. (others may be added). We'll feature activists whose research, advocacy activities, and internet accessibility measurements have made a real difference in the ongoing national conversations occurring on internet governance, tech usage, and fundamental rights online. Each participant will open with a 5-7 minute overview of country context, the most urgent issues at stake, and ways in which their work is having an impact within the country. Later in the session, we will also include a skill share with active audience participation. Our topic is vitally important given the long backsliding of democracy and civic space as documented by Freedom House and other researchers. We'll also be taking questions from the audience both in person and remotely in order to create an interactive experience.

Discussion Facilitation: 

We believe the focus of the discussion should center around the panelists and not the moderator. The moderator's role is to briefly introduce the panelists and toss them appropriate questions which showcase the impact and work of the panelists. The remarks by the panelists will be designed to not only share knowledge but also to provoke discussion among the audience in finding solutions to expand civic space online. At least half of the time spent during the discussion will be devoted to audience interaction

Online Participation: 

We'll have an online moderator who will actively encourage participation from our remote audience. We understand that attending the IGF can be cost and logistically prohibitive for many in the civil society community but that shouldn't prevent a remote participant's full involvement. If technology allows, we'll even open up the discuss to video questions in order to bridge the remote divide. The online moderator will actively monitor remote traffic and encourage questions from the audience.

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678