Following the endorsement of the UN General Assembly, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in two phases: in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005. World leaders came together to express a “common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society”, a first-ever, clear statement of political will toward the establishment of an Information Society beneficial for all and the harnessing of information communication technologies (ICTs) to support development objectives. Through its resulting Geneva Plan of Action and Tunis Agenda, WSIS laid the groundwork for reaching agreement in the fields of Internet governance and ICT financing mechanisms, as well as on implementation measures in the form of targets and action lines.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is one of the major outcomes of WSIS, issuing from the Tunis Agenda in WSIS’s second phase. Operative paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda reads as follows:
“ 72. We ask the UN Secretary-General, in an open and inclusive process, to convene, by the second quarter of 2006, a meeting of the new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue—called the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The mandate of the Forum is to:
o Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet;
o Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body;
o Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organizations and other institutions on matters under their purview;
o Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities;
o Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world;
o Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries;
o Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations;
o Contribute to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise;
o Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet governance processes;
o Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical Internet resources;
o Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users;
o Publish its proceedings ”
Since 2006, the IGF has convened seventeen annual forums across countries and regions, providing a platform for diverse stakeholders to discuss on an equal footing the most pressing issues in global digital policy. It has also developed a robust and influential intersessional programme, expanded its network of local grassroots initiatives (National, Regional, Subregional and Youth IGF Initiatives – “NRIs”), and significantly increased participation in its meetings and processes year on year, while holding steadfast to principles of open, inclusive, and bottom-up decision-making. In addition, under the guidance of the UN Secretary-General, the IGF has benefited from renewed efforts to strengthen its impact on policymaking, including through the enhanced contributions of parliamentarians.
As an outcome of WSIS, IGF came under review and had its mandate renewed for five years in 2010 (2011-2015) and again in 2015 for another ten years (2016-2025) during the WSIS+10 review. WSIS+10 saw the passage of General Assembly resolution 70/125 and the IGF mandate's renewal according to Tunis Agenda paragraphs 72 to 78. Currently in its third mandate, the IGF and its extension will once again be a critical aspect of the upcoming WSIS+20 review process in 2025. The WSIS+20 and IGF+20 consultation will be informed by the proposed Global Digital Compact, to be adopted at the Summit of the Future in 2024.
WSIS+20’s outcome document is foreseen as input to a review of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. As the processes strengthen their alignment, and as new technologies deepen their imprint on societies, an IGF mandate beyond 2025 will be considered -- presenting an opportunity for continuity and progress toward the aim of a people-centred and multistakeholder approach to global digital transformation.