The most important outcome of NETmundial 2014 wasn’t in the text

Perhaps a more important outcome of NETmundial than the multistakeholder statement of São Paulo is what its participants have learned in experimenting to jointly create a multi-stakeholder conference, inclusive of online and offline participants from all sectors, that produces shared outcomes.

The process was designed as an open one, in which the organising committees were (mostly) self-selected by their communities, and who shepherded the process of compiling a basic text from 188 comments that were contributed online by participants from 46 countries.  This compilation was then opened for comment using an online tool that drew 1370 paragraph-level comments and ratings.  Further comments were taken during the meeting itself, both from those present in person, and others interacting online or from remote hubs.

This kind of process has been practised in Internet technical fora such as the IETF for many years, but until now has not been successfully tried in developing broader public policy principles.  For example the Internet Governance Forum, another Internet governance institution, has drawn criticism for being just a “talk shop”, and its improvement is a focus of some of the recommendations of NETmundial.

Whilst successful to a point, NETmundial shows that multi-stakeholder Internet governance remains a work in progress.  It was still possible for industry lobbyists to dictate language when the text moved from the plenary meeting into smaller, multi-stakeholder drafting groups.  But even then, those groups were exposed to public view, with the drafting process being open to all stakeholders to observe.  This lies in very stark contrast to the closed process of negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, whose negotiators often claim that text on contentious issues cannot be negotiated in public – a claim that NETmundial now shows to be false.

NETmundial is not a continuing event; its conclusions will have to go into other fora to be taken further.  So too, hopefully, will its innovative methods.

NETmundial 2014 intervention on a deliberative plenary process for the IGF

My name is Jeremy Malcolm and I’m now speaking only on my own behalf, though some of these points do enjoy broader support. The document that we produce I believe should be a declaration of its participants, rather than a mere Chairman’s summary.

I would also like us to concretise some of the general and aspirational statements that currently appear in the roadmap section.

First, the European Commission in a statement from Vice-President Kroes has put forward a set of concrete suggestions about what steps could be taken next and when, in relation to improvement of the IGF, strengthening of the multi-stakeholder model and so on. Those suggestions do not seem in any way controversial and I suggest that we add them to the outcome document.

Secondly, paragraph 39 of the document acknowledges one very important issue, but puts it into the “too hard” basket” – the “Different roles and responsibilities of stakeholders.” I suggest that we don’t just acknowledge the issue but specify where it could be discussed next, and I feel that that should be the IGF.

However, we should also encourage the IGF to adopt a deliberative plenary process for this task, based on that conducted at NETmundial. NETmundial is a one-off forum, so we need to make sure the value of this innovative process is not lost, and the IGF is a perfect forum to take it up, in fulfilment of its mandate to make recommendations where appropriate.