[AfrICANN-discuss] The CSTD WG on IGF, Multi-Stakeholderism, and Short Deadlines

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Mar 22 11:04:43 SAST 2011

CSTD WG on IGF, Multi-Stakeholderism, and Short
*Sam Dickinson* <http://www.circleid.com/members/5044/>

One of the many Internet governance discussions currently taking place is at
the CSTD Working Group on improvements to the IGF, which is due to have its
second and final meeting on 24 and 25 March 2011. Despite an unpromising
beginning, with only governments on the Working Group (WG), it is now a
multi-stakeholder environment, with the technical, business and civil
society represented at the WG and genuinely welcomed by governments to
participate in the WG's deliberations. The resulting discussions have been,
and will continue to be messy, but equal participation of all stakeholders
is a positive sign of the recognition that Internet governance is now firmly
established as a multi-stakeholder process.

*The birth of the CSTD WG*

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) created the Internet
Governance Forum (IGF) as an open space where different stakeholders could
meet to develop a comprehensive agenda of Internet governance. The IGF was
initially given a mandate for five years, after which, the possible
continuation of the IGF was to be reviewed by UN Member States.

The five-year mandate ended in 2010 with the September meeting in Vilnius,
Lithuania. Since IGF 2009, feedback on IGF's continuation has been sought in
many ways, culminating in the July 2010 formation of a special CSTD
(Commission on Science and Technology for Development) Working Group (WG) on
improvements to the IGF. This WG is to report to the CSTD at its 14th
session meeting in May 2011.

*The evolution of the CSTD WG*

Open consultations for the WG were held at the IGF 2010 in Vilnius,
Lithuania, and in Geneva on 24 November. On 6 December, the Vice Chair of
the CSTD met with CSTD Member States to decide on the composition of the WG.
At that time, given that the meeting was only attended by government
representatives, it is unsurprising that they decided that the WG would be
composed only of government representatives from 15 CSTD member states, as
well as the five host countries of the first five IGFs.

Given the IGF was created as a multi-stakeholder forum, where all
stakeholders are equal, when news got out about the WG, there was strong
criticism from non-government stakeholders about its purely governmental
composition. In response, at a second meeting in December 2010, after what
was reportedly significant discussion about the composition of the WG, there
was at last consensus amongst the member states to include five
representatives from the technical and academic community, the business
community and civil society, as well as five representatives from
intergovernmental organizations. These groups of five representatives from
various stakeholder groups are not members of the WG, but were invited to
"participate interactively" with the WG in its deliberations. The full list
of representatives can be found in the summary report of the February 2011
meeting <http://www.unctad.org/sections/un_cstd/docs/UN_WGIGF2011d04_en.pdf>.

Traditionally, if a non-member state wishes to speak in a UN meeting, the
member states must first agree to let non-member states speak. In addition,
being allowed to speak is not the same as having an equal say in the
contents of the report. An early positive sign was the Chair of the WG
involving the non-government representatives in the WG's initial work,
requesting feedback on the draft outline of the report. The technical and
academic community contributed and published the submission on the ISOC
website <http://www.isoc.org/isoc/conferences/wsis/docs/cstd_20110131.pdf>,
as there was no general publication of submissions on the CSTD website.

But despite the invitation to submit a response to the draft report outline,
given the uncertainties of how non-government can participate in the room of
a UN meeting, the non-government representatives to the CSTD WG entered the
first meeting of the expanded multi-stakeholder CSTD WG in Montreux last
month with a small degree of apprehension. I was one of the five
representatives of the technical and academic community to the CSTD WG. What
follows is my personal account of the CSTD's work since February.

*Montreux: a pleasant surprise mixed with a dash of frustrating politics and
lack of knowledge of IGF*

The Montreux meeting, held on 24 and 25 February 2011, was a pleasant
surprise to all of the non-government representatives I spoke to. There was
no separation of government from non-government representatives. Instead, it
was a case of "pick your own seat" from the large rectangular formation of
tables in the room. Even our name badges weren't separated by a colour-coded
scheme. (Although I did notice that the governments had laminated "flags" —
UN-speak for what ordinary folk would call "name tents" — while we
non-government representatives had plain cardboard ones). A number of the
governments, including those not normally associated with supporting
multi-stakeholder participation in Internet governance, formally welcomed
the participation of non-government stakeholders in the WG. There was no
"governments speak first, then others can speak afterward" procedure in
place. There was no separation of government and non-government input into
the compilation document of responses to the draft outline of the report.
There was also agreement that the IGF should adhere to the Tunis Agenda and
remain a non-decision making forum.

However, the fact that there were only 10 contributions to the draft report
from a total of 20 governments and 20 representatives from intergovernmental
organizations, business, technical and civil society flagged that all was
not well. Of the 10 submissions received by the CSTD WG, only four came from
governments: Finland, Portugal, Sri Lanka and the USA. Five submissions came
from the multistakeholder groups (three from civil society, who had a harder
time coming up with a single view on the issues under discussion) and the
tenth submission came from an intergovernmental organization, UNESCO (United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The reason for
the lack of submissions, from some governments at least, was an objection to
the outline of the draft report. Given the outline of the draft report was
also the proposed agenda for the two-day meeting in Montreux, the
day-and-a-bit-long agenda bashing debate was ultimately about what issues
should be in the WG's report. It was also a sign of distrust amongst
participants, as some government representatives believed that the Chair of
the WG, and even the CSTD Secretariat staff, were working behind the scenes
with some governments prior to the February meeting. The feeling of being
left out of negotiations meant that some government representatives'
behaviour, while seeming at first to be downright disruptive, was in fact a
plea to have equal participation by all.

An additional barrier to discussion of the IGF was the fact that a
significant number of the government representatives in the room were from
the local missions in Geneva, had never attended an IGF, and were relying on
briefings from others, who also may have never attended an IGF. This became
apparent through the suggestions made by a number of member states: it was
clear they had little or no idea of how the IGF open consultations worked,
how the MAG worked, and what the discussion in IGF main sessions and
workshops was about.

In addition, informal feedback from an informal discussion held between a
couple of member states showed that even the fundamentals of Internet
governance are misunderstood. Many of the government participants still
believe a lot of the old myths about Internet management that were
circulating in the early days of WSIS. (For example, the myth that all
Internet traffic passes through the root servers.) This was a wake up call
for me, and for other technical and business community representatives at
the WG: although for people like us — who are in the thick of Internet
management and governance every day — these myths seem well and truly
busted, for governments — who may have a high staff turnover, or who have a
rotational system that means staff only work on one particular portfolio for
a limited period of time — it is much harder to understand how the
distributed environment of the Internet works. The technical community, in
particular, has to continue its program of capacity building, with a focus
on improving governments' understanding of the issues.

What is disappointing, but not unique to the CSTD WG, is the fact that the
views presented by a number of the government representatives in the
Montreux meeting and in their submissions to the first and second
questionnaires are contrary to the views of other representatives from the
governments of the same countries in other Internet governance spheres. As I
noted in an earlier article on the ITU
the government representatives sent to meetings like the ITU, or other UN
meetings that touch on Internet matter, are often not the same government
representatives who actively participate in Internet governance and
management activities at ICANN, IETF, the RIRs or ISOC. Those who are
regularly involved in Internet governance discussions need to help close the
gap between these two opposing camps within the same member state(s). The
technical, business and civil society communities can help here by playing
matchmaker between the contacts in various departments who do not talk to
each other before attending separate Internet-related discussions. In this
way, accurate knowledge can be distributed more widely amongst government
bureaucrats and result in more informed discussions at meetings like the

*CSTD Mark II: The Geneva phase*

The second and final meeting of the WG is being held on 24 and 25 March 2011
in Geneva. The final agreement to a changed agenda and associated list of
non-hierarchical issues to be included in the final report in Montreux seems
to have increased active participation in the WG's deliberations. There are
currently 26 contributions
including a number of contributions from stakeholders who are not
representatives to the WG. There are now nine contributions from
governments, with additional contributions from intergovernmental
organizations too.

We have already lost one of two days of the first meeting to procedural
arguments, leaving very little time to state positions and negotiate on what
are the best ways to improve the IGF. Because of the need to allow time to
respond to the revised issues list agreed to in Montreux, there is now very
little time for representatives to read all 26 submissions, digest them
before the upcoming second meeting. Therefore, I have absolutely no idea how
we are going to reach agreement on a draft report during the two days of
this upcoming March meeting. I have even less idea how we will all agree to
a final report by the 1 April deadline imposed by the need to have the
report available in the six UN languages in time for its presentation at the
May ECOSOC intersessional meeting. Whatever goes into the report has to have
the consensus of everyone in the CSTD WG. Given some widely varying views on
what the IGF should be, and the very limited time we have to reach
consensus, it is possible that any report suffers from the same problems
that many of the ITU Plenipotentiary resolutions suffered from: a reduction
to the lowest common denominator contents that are so bland that nobody can
object to them, while also containing vague enough language to allow the
debate about what the report means to continue long into the future.

Multi-stakeholder deliberations are difficult. But so are government-only
deliberations. What was clear from the first CSTD WG meeting was that it was
often the non-government representatives who were actively moving between
representatives on the WG trying to find common ground. In many ways, the
non-government representatives have it easier than the government
representatives, who on the whole have to stick to the position statement
given to their superiors in the government hierarchy. But this flexibility
that non-government stakeholders in the WG possess can hopefully be used in
this second CSTD WG meeting to try and bridge these positions in ways that
perhaps would not be possible between governments who traditionally distrust
each other. We'll soon know if this is possible or not, with only a couple
of days until this second and last CSTD WG meeting.

*Interested in following developments in Geneva this week?*

Members of the technical community tweeted throughout the Montreux meeting
using the hashtags #CSTDWG and #IGF and will continue to do so at the
upcoming Geneva meeting. To read updates in real time, follow
@nnimpuno <http://twitter.com/nnimpuno>,
@patrikhson <http://twitter.com/patrikhson>,
and @tswinehart <http://twitter.com/tswinehart>.

*By Sam Dickinson <http://www.circleid.com/members/5044/>, Senior Policy
Specialist at APNIC*
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: https://lists.afrinic.net/pipermail/africann/attachments/20110322/7cbfa881/attachment-0001.htm

More information about the AfrICANN mailing list