IGF 2019 WS #382 Is the Civil Society doing enough as a Stakeholder group?

Organizer 1: Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, Internet Society India Chennai

Speaker 1: Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Sebastien Bachollet, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Judith Hellerstein, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

Is the Civil Society doing enough to bring about a balance in Internet Governance Policy positions?

Relevance to Theme: Though proposed under "Digital Inclusion", it is a workshop on stakeholder 'balance', proposed across the three themes, and of relevance to the overall design of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet Governance.

Relevance to Internet Governance: When broadly classified, Civil Society is one of the three stakeholders in Internet Governance. Since WSIS 2005, Civil Society has played a constructive role to bring about a balance in Internet Governance debates. However, a certain degree of imbalance persists as the other stakeholder groups tend to steer policy a little more than proportionately towards their own respective positions. Governments around the world draft legislative directives some of which the Civil Society find undesirable. In some instances, Civil Society positions remarkably differed from that of Government, the proposed Acts such as SOPA or PIPA or Directives were withdrawn, only to be reintroduced and confirmed by some other title or form. Business responds to Civil Society positions, for instance, on Privacy issues, but many of the concerns of Civil Society are not adequately addressed. It could be stated that the other stakeholder groups prevail more than proportionately over Civil Society, in matters related to Internet Governance. This prompts the question, "Is the Civil Society participating enough? Is the Civil Society doing enough?"

If not enough, what needs to be done? In Internet Governance, the formal title as "Civil Society" is shared by a somewhat loose collaboration between Internet Governance participants who took up the Civil Society role since WSIS 2005, other early CS participants in the IGF, organizations that pursue issues in public interest including Privacy organizations, Freedom foundations etc, and also organizations such as some of the Internet Society Chapters, some of the ICANN AtLarge Structures, some of the participants from ICANN Non Commercial Stakeholder Group etc, who partake in Civil Society positions in their own way, though not always entirely identifying themselves as Civil Society.

If the Civil society is not doing enough, is it because it requires greater interaction among those who pursue Civil Society positions in the IGF? How would Civil Society strengthen itself? Would it also look for Civil Society participation from beyond the IGF arena to bring in newer Civil Society participants to the IGF?

These are some, and not all, questions that follow the questions in the title.


Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Description: The session would revolve around the Title Questions, "Is the Civil Society doing enough to bring about a balance in Internet Governance Policy positions?" to bring up supplementary questions, and in the process identify its strengths and weaknesses to identify solutions towards strengthening itself for a balance.

Expected Outcomes: The session is aimed to articulate shared concerns and common pursuits and perhaps lead to well defined efforts to strengthen the Civil Society for the good of all stakeholders who would equally desire a certain degree of balance in Internet Governance.

Onsite Moderator: 

Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator: 

Sebastien Bachollet, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

Following opening remarks and perspectives from the lead panelists, the discussion would be around the table, encouraging diversity of view points and a free flowing debate with [email protected] around the table, both questions and responses by all participants around the table.

Online Participation: 

I will request one of the Internet Society Chapters to help manage remote participation using the IGF platform.

Proposed Additional Tools: Skype, Zoom, Livestream.


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