Stakeholder legitimacy

This page links to information and documents about IGF 2016 Workshop, Finding ways to build confidence in stakeholder legitimacy, 10:45 – 12:15, Friday, 9 December 2016, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

  • “Sched” link
  • Discussion document [PDF] – this contains an overview of why it’s important to consider how to strengthen stakeholder accountability, as well as details of the questions to be discussed

Online editable documents for each of the four breakout groups

Please note that anyone interested in the topics, but unable to attend is free to add their thoughts to these documents. Please just be careful not to delete anything already there. If you would like to comment on someone’s existing discussion input, please use the “comment” facility in the Google docs.

  1. Is there a need to prove the legitimacy of stakeholder groups and their members, and if so, what are ways that legitimacy can be established?
  2. Stakeholder groups and their configurations
  3. Levels of stakeholder representation (individuals through to aggregated groupings)
  4. How do stakeholders manage the participation of entities or individuals that are not deemed to have a high level of legitimacy in a process?

 

How to not look like a newbie at an ITU Council meeting

Note: I am attending the ITU Council 2016 meeting as a member of the Australian delegation; however, any of the views I express in this blog post are entirely my own. This post does not reflect the official Australian position, nor is its content endorsed in any way by the Australian government.

ITU Council can be a daunting experience for newbies and old timers alike. As well as the formal etiquette and procedures (such as a confusing array of document types) there are the things that nobody ever tells you. This is a guide to some of that hidden etiquette:

  1. The first time you take the floor, congratulate the Chair on being elected. You must do this, even if your first intervention doesn’t happen until the second week of the meeting.
  2. Don’t take a selfie while you’re sitting behind your country’s flag. If you really must take a selfie, make sure you don’t do it while you’re on the big screen showing the webcast of the meeting.you-are-on-camera
  3. Decide what approach to take when the person next to you/in front of you/behind you is making an intervention and you appear on the big screen as well. Will you look directly at the person making the intervention and look interested? Do you prefer to appear to be taking notes studiously? Or are you so cool that you don’t care that you’re appearing at twice life size on the big screens at the front?
  4. If you haven’t figured out how to turn your phone to silent mode, do. Not everyone may appreciate your taste in music. And not everyone may appreciate hearing that music when you leave the room and your phone rings. And rings. And rings.
  5. Take your earpiece off before you turn your microphone on to make an intervention. Else, a high-pitched squeal will pierce the ears of everyone else in the room. And they will not thank you for it.
  6. Learn how to effectively smuggle liquids into the Popov meeting room by hiding them in your bag. If you carry them openly, the bouncers[1] at the door are likely to prevent your entry.
  7. Make sure you have the Geneva “three kiss” protocol perfected. It’s not one kiss. It’s not two kisses. It’s three. And absolutely no hand kissing, unless you want to look like a time traveller from the 19th century.
  8. Learn how to use the cheap coffee vending machine correctly. First, insert 1CHF, then choose the sugar level, and finally choose coffee type. The order is not logical, but this is Geneva. Accept it.
  9. Before you begin your serious intervention between coffee break and lunch, don’t forget to thank the Member State that just paid out for the coffee and croissants. Especially if that country is an ally or your country hasn’t paid for a coffee break in a long time.

[1] The bouncers are there to ensure that only suitably accredited people enter the room.

Gender equality: still an uphill battle in international forums

Note: I am attending the ITU Council 2016 meeting as a member of the Australian delegation; however, any of the views I express in this blog post are entirely my own. This post does not reflect the official Australian position, nor is its content endorsed in any way by the Australian government.

A step forward for gender equality

For the first time in its 151-year history, ITU Council has women in both its Chair and Vice Chair positions. Julie Zoller, USA, is Chair while Dr Eva Spina, Italy, is Vice Chair. There has been a female Chair of Council once in the past ( Lyndall Shope-Mafole, South Africa, 1999) but this is the first time both lead roles have been filled by women. In addition, the Secretary of the Plenary Meeting and Steering Committee is also female: Doreen Bogdan-Martin (ITU secretariat).

In her opening statement as Chair, Zoller stated:

“As we begin the 2016 session of Council, I would like to thank you for the confidence you have placed in me and in the vice chairperson of the Council, Dr Eva Spina of Italy.  You have elected us from among the 48 councilors, which is a vote of confidence for our leadership and a sign of progress for gender equality.  This is the first time that both the chair and the vice-chair of Council are women, and we are making history together.  I would particularly like to thank my administration as well as my beloved region, the Americas, for your support.

She also, unlike many of her male counterparts who have often urged Member States to reach positions of compromise that makes everyone equally unhappy, suggested a more positive approach to the Council’s work:

“We must lead by example and commit to bring forth the best results, with everyone equally happy. “

The election of women to the two key positions of Council is amazing progress, given at ITU Plenipotentiary 2014, none of the top elected positions (Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, Directors of the three sectors) were won by women.

And then the alarming inevitability of a sexist joke

But there is still much to be done. Even well-meaning men still frequently display an inherent bias against women. This was demonstrated after Zoller and Spina were elected, with the usual “jokes” about gender bias now happening in the other direction (after a century and a half of men in those positions, three women this year apparently equates to a takeover by women). Such comments were meant to be funny, but offended a number of the women in the room.

Inherent sexism is still a widespread issue, even in places that advocate gender equality

The comments in the opening plenary reflect the inherent sexism that still exists in many men (and indeed, in many women, too). It’s this inherent sexism that is the biggest barrier to successfully achieving gender equality in ITU and elsewhere. As long as three women in high-up positions are considered so unusual that it warrants an official blog post but the regular appointment of all men to similar positions is considered situation normal, a state of real gender equality is still a long way off.

This is a not a problem specific to ITU. It is a problem with many other UN agencies, too. Two weeks ago, I was frustrated by the number of all-male panels (also known as ”manels”) at the CSTD 19th Session in Geneva. When I raised the issue on the second day with a member of the secretariat, the response was that they had invited a woman (one??) for the first day, but she hadn’t shown up. In other words, the token woman was to blame – not the fact that there hadn’t been more effort on the part of the organizers to consider gender balance when developing the panels. In frustration, when the last manel occurred, not knowing how else I could lodge my objection (calling out the manels on Twitter wasn’t effective) I decided to protest by not live tweeting the discussion. If men were not going to involve women – even when some of the discussion was about the gender divide – then why should I, as a woman, give them legitimacy by tweeting their one-sided conversation?

I am also aware of female delegates on government delegations being pawed and being the targets of attempts at sexual coercion by senior members of other government delegations at UN meetings and associated social events. These cases often go unreported, as the women don’t want to cause a diplomatic incident between their country and that of the perpetrator.

It also is a problem outside the UN. At the most recent ICANN meeting, a member of the community stated that she had been sexually harassed by another member of the community. Due to a combination of circumstances that I won’t go into here, the ombudsman was not able to continue the investigation. But what was extremely telling about the prevalence of inherent sexism in the community was the way that many members of the community (mostly men) made fun of, and continue to make fun of, the details of the claim. I had a previous experience with the person alleged to have harassed the woman, but had said nothing when it happened because, to be honest, as a woman, inappropriate touching and comments happen pretty much daily, and at a certain point, it just becomes too tiresome to point out to each and every man who behaves in such a way why his behaviour is inappropriate. There were only so many times that I could handle being told I can’t take a joke/am imagining things/frigid/a slut before I decided it wasn’t worth the effort of challenging these bozos any more.

Unfortunately, if I had chosen to challenge the person at ICANN way back when it happened to me, he may have adjusted his behaviour and it may have prevented the young woman at the latest ICANN meeting feeling she had been placed in a difficult situation. But I didn’t, and now, if other women are harassed, having seen how this latest woman was made fun of, they may also think twice about reporting the behaviour.

What’s the way forward?

Gender equality is a very complex topic, but here are a few ways to help counter the specific issues I’ve discussed above.

  • No more token women. No more blaming of token women who don’t show up for panels and reveal the true “manel” focused nature of the panel selection process.
  • No more celebration when a woman or two manage to break through the gender barriers to reach positions of authority. Let’s stop treating such situations as out of the ordinary and start expecting them to be routine.
  • Shame manels. Submit them to this Tumblr blog.
  • Recognize that none of these excuses can in any way justify a manel.
  • Call out inappropriate behaviour each time it happens. Men, too, should call out other men who behave inappropriately. Men (and women) who have internalized sexist attitudes need to be made aware of their biases every time it happens. Ignoring it will just allow it to continue.
  • Stop defending all-male management by saying “there were no qualified women”. Start making sure women have the opportunity to progress their careers. Understand the reasons women find it difficult to rise through the ranks at the same rate as their male counterparts (career interruptions to have children, cultural expectations that women not be as assertive as men, etc.)

 

IGF 2015 on fire!

IGF 2015 in João Pessoa got off to a red-hot start, literally and figuratively. The first shuttle buses of the day at 7:45 am were filled to capacity, with the informal Day Zero of IGF now no less important than the rest of the week. 21 sessions were held on Monday, 9 November, on topics as diverse as Italy’s Internet Bill of Rights, gender and the Internet, and the United Nation’s 10-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10).  Many sessions were so crowded that it was standing room only. Despite this, the corridors of the IGF venue were filled with yet more participants catching up, meeting for the first time, and debating topics on a more personal level.

IGF has even fired up the residents of João Pessoa, with taxi drivers now adding a new topic of conversation to their repertoire. After a conversation about the importance of the Internet, one taxi driver paused thoughtfully before asking an IGF participant, “Is IGF important at a global level?”  Well, clearly the 1800 or so people who’ve descended on João Pessoa over the last couple of days think it is.

Putting out a small fire caused by an overheated light.

Local host staff put out a small fire caused by an overheated light.

Day Zero ended with a literal fire, when a light became overheated. The local host staff quickly and calmly evacuated the building. Sometimes, it really does take an actual fire to stop Internet governance enthusiasts from talking all night.

Everyone is back again tomorrow to continue the heated discussions on a variety of topics.