To what extent has the IGF addressed the mandate set out for it in the Tunis Agenda?
Date: 23/3/2009 2:27 am
An excerpt from my answer to this question in response to the IGF's questionnaire on the continuation of the Forum
It has done so selectively - to the extent that its stakeholders have been comfortable to support. Since those stakeholders include others than those who reached agreement in Tunis, it is understandable that certain of them have set their faces against the fulfilment of the IGF's mandate in full measure (even to the extent, in one notorious incident, of threatening the withdrawal of financial support).
To assess the extent to which the IGF has fallen short of fulfilling its mandate, it need only be observed that commentators are again speaking of the need for a new Internet governance institution (one has dubbed it "IG20") that would serve as a forum for Internet public policy development, in partnership between governments and other stakeholders. This is, of course, precisely the same observation that WGIG made in recommending the IGF's formation.
To what extent has the IGF embodied the WSIS principles?
Apart from serious deficits in the transparency of the operations of the Secretariat and Advisory Group, particularly in its early years, the IGF has adequately embodied the call from WSIS that international management of the Internet is to be "multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full participation of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations".
However the IGF is not merely required to embody the WSIS principles in its own operation, but also to promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet governance processes - implicitly, this refers to other
Internet governance processes such as standards development within institutions such as the IETF, and the resource management functions of ICANN.
Not only has the IGF failed to achieve this paragraph of its mandate in any measure at all, but it has largely declined to acknowledge its existence.
How effective are IGF processes in addressing the tasks set out for it, including the functioning of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), Secretariat and open consultations?
Nomenclature aside, the MAG is not the bureau that the Tunis Agenda required to be established for the IGF. It has neither the authority, the capacity nor the legitimacy required to make decisions for the IGF, such as the finalisation of recommendations (mandate paragraph 72(g)), interfacing with intergovernmental and other international organisations at an executive level (paragraph 72(c)) or assessing the embodiment of the WSIS principles in other Internet governance institutions (paragraph 72(i)).
What is required is a more representative bureau, to which all stakeholders appoint their own representatives, and to which the Secretariat would in turn be accountable. This bureau would be empowered to assess and act upon the consensus of the IGF's plenary body, which should be developed during more deliberative moderated small group discussions. The bureau should do this by forming its own consensus amongst each of its constituent stakeholder groups.
If the continuation of the Forum is recommended, what improvements would you suggest in terms of its working methods, functioning and processes?
Just as the MAG is no bureau, the Dynamic Coalitions are no working groups, such as those that exist in all other Internet governance institutions. Under whatever name, the IGF requires formal subcommittees in which intensive democratic deliberation can take place, both in person and online, and which have a clearly defined process by which their outputs are presented to the IGF's plenary body for approval by consensus as assessed by its bureau.
The other most striking contrast between the IGF and other Internet governance institutions is that the latter conduct their business predominantly online throughout the year, with their face-to-face meetings as more of a formality and an occasion for recap and review. The anachronistic working processes of the IGF are largely responsible for the limited impact it has had within the Internet community. The development of an active and empowered online community for the IGF should therefore be the first priority of the reformed institution.