First reaction to the cancellation of the IGF

News of the cancellation of the Bali IGF meeting has been the hot topic of discussion since last Thursday, after news broke that there was a shortfall of $1.05m in the event’s budget of $2.2m. The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information had contributed only $250k, passing the baton to a local organising committee to raise the balance. To make things more interesting, the shortfall was only a little shy of the bill from the United Nations for its official travel and security detail: a cool $900,000. And then there was the brouhaha about the local organising committee’s panelists for cash deal (“Major [private sector] sponsors may recommend speaker(s) for the closing ceremony”, etc). Fun times. None of this should ever have happened; the IGF was created to perform a public function: as a forum to help fill an observed gap in global mechanisms for coordinating public policy on Internet-related issues. As such, the need for public funding seems obvious. But far from contributing funding, the extent to which the UN has actually been leeching money from the IGF has now been revealed. Moreover, according to participants in the former CSTD Working Group on Improvements to the IGF, UN officials were steadfast in refusing to even consider a recommendation that the UN contribute funds to the forum. So that attitude has borne fruit in the likely cancellation of the IGF – all over $1m or so. Can we imagine a WTO meeting being cancelled over $1m? The IGF has well and truly failed if it isn’t even worth that much to save.