An excerpt from my forthcoming five minute video presentation to the IGF:
So what needs to be done to address these problems of legitimacy and effectiveness? Here’s an organisation chart that provides some ideas.
There are five main institutions represented here. The IGF means the forum sitting in plenary, as it does in the main sessions at Athens. The Secretariat and the Advisory Council exist already, though they will need to undertake some changes that I’ll make reference to shortly. But we’ll spend most time looking at the two new institutions that I propose; the Working Groups, and the Nominations Committee.
The Working Groups will be composed of any members of the IGF who wish to focus on a particular issue area. This is similar to what workshops do now, but workshops aren’t designed to exist for the long-term, nor necessarily to produce any tangible output. Working Groups will, and they will need to structure themselves to facilitate that, by appointing a chair and establishing facilities to work together on-line as well as at annual IGF meetings.
The Nominations Committee on the other hand has the sole purpose of deciding who should be appointed to the Advisory Council, appointing them for two-year terms. Any member of the IGF who wishes to volunteer to work on the Nominations Committee should be permitted to do so.
You will notice that the IGF is not at the bottom of the chart but at the top. This is because the IGF as a whole should have the final say on any decisions made by its subsidiary bodies, such as the decision of the Advisory Council to approve a new Working Group, or the proposal of a Working Group to put forward a particular code or resolution.
Now it is true that the IGF as a whole does not have a defined membership, and that is represented by the cloud-like shape in the diagram. It is for that reason that both the IGF, the Working Groups, and the Nominations Committee, should make decisions by consensus rather than by voting. This is because consensus does not require proportionally equal representation among the stakeholder groups.
In fact many bodies already involved in Internet governance, including the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) operate in a very similar manner; the IETF using the phrase “rough consensus” to denote that unanimity is not required.
The Advisory Council is a little different. Because the Nominations Committee can ensure that there is equal representation on the Council from each of the stakeholder groups, it can fall back to voting if it is unable to reach consensus. However aiming for consensus is still important to ensure that the various stakeholder groups do actively collaborate rather than just pursuing their own narrow interests.
Having a multi-stakeholder Nominations Committee determine the composition of the Advisory Council will also allow us to make it smaller and more efficient, because its legitimacy is not derived from a claim to be representative on its own account, but rather from the consensus of all stakeholders. Being accountable to the Nominations Committee, and thence to the IGF at large, will also force the Advisory Council to make its operations more transparent, bringing its discussions out from behind closed doors and private mailing lists.