[AfrICANN-discuss] IGF Nairobi - Success of the Multi-stakeholder Model

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Thu Oct 6 10:43:17 SAST 2011


if you were at this session in Nairobi please share your stories with
africann community where we have several MAG members. should even more
interactivity be included at workshops? how?

 IGF Nairobi - Success of the Multi-stakeholder
By *Keith Drazek* <http://www.circleid.com/members/5898/>
[image: Keith Drazek]

A funny thing happened in Nairobi last week… I showed up for an Internet
Governance Forum (IGF) panel discussion on the use of the Internet during
times of political and social unrest, and a truly multi-stakeholder dialogue
broke out. It turned out to be my favorite session during an incredible IGF
week that, thanks to our Kenyan hosts, exceeded every expectation.

The session, formerly known as "The Internet in the Post-Revolution Phase —
Challenges of Political Engagement and the Safety of Citizens" was cancelled
for reasons unknown. Perhaps it was a conflict of schedules, or maybe the
topic was deemed by the organizers or certain governments to be too
sensitive for the official agenda. Fortunately, for whatever reason, only
the panelists and moderator were told the session was no longer on the
updated daily schedule, because more than 60 interested participants from a
wide range of backgrounds showed up, eager to listen, learn, contribute, and
participate in an emotional and timely exchange.

The full meeting room had a good vibe about it, but after ten minutes of
waiting for the moderator or panelists to arrive, it became apparent a
change or mistake had been made. Was it a swap of room location (of which
there were many), or timing, or something else? Whatever the reason, after
fifteen minutes, we realized we were on our own.

The gathering was at a minor crossroads… would it break up before it got
started, leaving disappointed attendees, or would we somehow make the best
of the situation? To his credit, Robert Guerra from Freedom House spoke up
and suggested we take advantage of the time and obvious interest in the
room. As our de-facto and benevolent moderator, Robert kicked things off.
The rich and rewarding dialogue that ensued re-affirmed the real value of
the multi-stakeholder model and demonstrated how much we benefit from a
free-flowing dialogue among those truly interested in a secure, stable and
universally available Internet.

Individual IGF attendees from Egypt, Tunisia, and Cote d'Ivoire described
their own first-hand, personal experiences of how the Internet and social
media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, were incredibly positive tools for
good, enabling communication and freedom of expression among like-minded
people. They talked about the Internet as a tool and platform for free
coordination and open dialogue during times when authorities attempted to
repress those basic rights. It was riveting and heart-warming stuff.

Also discussed were the very real concerns about the use of social media by
those same regimes to target and retaliate against those engaged in
activities deemed inappropriate or unacceptable. Representatives from
Facebook, Freedom House and other groups engaged in a free-flowing dialogue
on concerns about authoritarian control of critical Internet resources
during times of political upheaval.

We heard from individuals from Haiti and Japan about how the Internet and
social media had helped coordinate responses to devastating natural
disasters, and how much more users of social media might do and must do to
mobilize further reconstruction efforts.

Several government officials encouragingly discussed the critical issue of
human rights and the value of the Internet as a medium to ensure the free
flow of information and expression, and the need to ensure the Internet
remains available to all.

The session ended up being the most vibrant and positive exchange of views I
experienced at IGF Nairobi. It was a remarkable example of
multi-stakeholderism; we had representatives from business, government,
civil society, academia, and yes, even actual Internet users. We had
participants from dozens of countries, from both industrialized nations and
the developing world, and from countries experiencing exciting changes and
significant challenges. Women and men engaged on equal and respectful
footing, and we had excellent participation from Kenyans, our wonderful

As the meeting wrapped up, I felt compelled to speak for the first time — to
sincerely thank the participants for sharing their personal, profound, and
sometime painful experiences, and to recognize that an amazing event had in
fact taken place, without a panel, and with an effective and respectful
volunteer moderator. I said I believed that future IGF meetings should
introduce more opportunities for free-flowing dialogue among participants,
without always relying on the traditional structure of paneled

For me, in that single session, the IGF proved its worth as the best model
for Internet governance. I can't imagine that incredible, dynamic,
multi-stakeholder session taking place in any other international arena. Had
any such meeting been cancelled in other governmental structures or
institutions, it probably wouldn't have taken place at all, and what a
missed opportunity that would have been. Thanks to all who contributed that
day… let's keep it going!

*By Keith Drazek <http://www.circleid.com/members/5898/>, Director of Policy
at Verisign, Inc.*
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