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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Internet Governance Forum: Stakeholders seek more 5 years


Most participants at the recently concluded Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt were in agreement that the process should continue beyond 2010, even as some key stakeholders were vehement about its extension to another five years.

ITRealms Online recalls that IGF was instituted at the end of the two-phased World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunisia in 2005. The initial concept of IGF was to be a multi-stakeholders approach to continue discussions on outcome of WSIS, most of which centred on the need to have a governing pattern that could be acceptable to the greater number of the global internet community.

The five-year mandate to IGF initially is expected to expire next year, but with this development, may be extended till 2015.

At the global 2009 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which held between November 15 and 18 with calls from participants to extend the Internet Governance Forum beyond its current mandate.

The United Nations (UN) Department of Public Information in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online, affirmed that with more than 1800 participants from 112 countries, the 2009 Forum saw the largest attendance record since its inception in 2006.

The participants reflected the diversity of internet users and came from governments, international organizations, the Internet community, the private sector, civil society and the media. The deliberations presided over the Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mr. Tarek Kamel, examined ways to improve Internet access by all and promote local content and cultural diversity by making certain that the safety of the Internet and fight cybercrime; manage key Internet resources such as the root server system, technical standards, interconnection and telecommunications, the domain name system and Internet protocol addresses.

Participants also discussed new issues related to the continued growth of social networks, and the ensuing governance issues that are emerging, in particular, the need for new approaches regarding privacy and data protection, rules applicable to user-generated content and copyrighted material, and issues of freedom of expression and illegal content.

Parallel to the main sessions on these issues, more than 100 workshops, best practice forums, dynamic coalition meetings and open forums were held around the broad themes of the main sessions and the overall mandate of the IGF. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Sha Zukang, who led formal consultations with Forum participants on the “desirability of the continuation of the Forum”, argued the centrality of the principle of inclusiveness and the need for continued discussions on public policy issues related to the Internet in some form.
According to him, a report on these consultations would be presented to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who will then communicate his recommendations to the General-Assembly. High ranking government officials who took the floor at the opening of the meeting agreed that the IGF should continue to meet beyond 2010, underlining the fact that IGF had proven its usefulness.

They equally supported the continuation of the Forum by reiterating in closing statements by representatives from all stakeholder groups, including state officials, many of whom said they were already looking forward to the meeting which Kenya hoped to organize in 2011.

However, in his closing remarks, the chairman of the 2009 IGF meeting, Mr. Kamel, said he witnessed wide consensus on “the need for the continuation of the IGF process with the legitimacy provided by the U.N. umbrella as well as the dynamic nature of the event,” which was very clear in Sharm el-Sheikh, thus the exercise needed to continue.

A summary statement distributed at the end of the meeting, it was noted that many speakers emphasized the usefulness of the IGF as a platform for dialogue, free from the pressures of negotiations. Most of the speakers who supported improvements would like the IGF to refocus its attention on certain points such as international public policy issues; capacity-building; participation by developing countries; improved transparency; improved communications; improved remote participation; creating a data base for best practices; more visibility for outcomes, and possibly the ability to make recommendations.

While many other speakers supported a continuation of the Forum as it is, that is, to continue the IGF as a multi-stakeholder platform that brings people together to deliberate on issues, exchange information and share best practices, but not to make decisions, nor to have highly visible outputs.

Yet, others who supported the continuation of IGF along similar lines to its current form, called for some changes, ranging from small improvements to major changes in its functioning, such as adding provisions that would allow it to produce outputs and decisions on a multi-stakeholder consensus basis.

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