The Underpants Gnomes of the IGF

I recommend this article from IP Watch, for some choice quotes from Marcus Kummer and Nitin Desai illustrating their understanding of the role of dynamic coalitions as the workhorses of the IGF, in that it is only through their development of substantive policy positions that the IGF might fulfil its mandate. In other words, they are in all but name the working groups of the IGF that I and others have been demanding all along. This understanding, although belated, is welcome. As the article points out, one (but I would stress, only one) of the possible results of the policy recommendations that might be developed by the IGF through its dynamic coalitions is that they might be transmitted to intergovernmental organisations such as WIPO to be elevated to the status of international legal norms through resolutions, or even being incorporated into a treaty. However, reminiscent of the Underpants Gnomes’ three-phase business plan,* the IGF is missing a vital stage in the process by which this is to occur:

  1. Dynamic coalitions develop policy recommendations.
  2. ???
  3. Recommendations are formalised as resolutions at an intergovernmental level.

So what is needed for phase 2? As I’ve been saying for a while, what is needed is a standard to which dynamic coalitions may be accredited (or it has been suggested to me that “recognised” is a less loaded word) by the IGF for compliance with procedural norms of openness, multi-stakeholder composition and democratic decision making. This would then allow for that coalition to present its recommendations to the IGF’s next meeting to be adopted by consensus (or not, as the case may be). It is only then that those recommendations would proceed into intergovernmental fora. What is interesting is that much of the conceptual groundwork here has been done already, in the form of the UNMSP proposal for the establishment of a specialised UN agency that would accredit multi-stakeholder partnerships (or MSPs – which are essentially what dynamic coalitions are). In the case of the UNMSP proposal, essentially all that would be required is that the MSP have a written charter, and that it be supported by at least two states. The criteria that I would put forward are a little more involved than that (and will be explained in more detail in my thesis), but this goes to show that the issue is by no means as intractable as the regressive forces within the Advisory Group would have us all believe.


  1. Collect underpants.
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

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