Outcomes of IGF 2013 second preparatory meeting

igf-2013-logoYesterday, I blogged about how public input was disappearing from the IGF open consultations day. Today, I’ve put together overview of what IGF 2013 may look like, given the consensus decisions reached in the MAG meeting of 23-24 May 2013. I’ve also included some discussion of how the MAG reached those decisions. It was too long to publish in a single post, so I’ve split it into three parts:

More information on IGF 2013

The local host website is now available and contains information about the venue, accommodation and visas:

The IGF website has published the transcripts from the May preparatory meeting:

The IGF website hasn’t yet published a summary report of the May preparatory meeting. I’ll post that link when it becomes available.

IGF 2013: Why so many theme and format changes?

igf-2013-logoFor the first time in years, the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) as a whole seemed ready to embrace change. This is probably a response to a number of developments:

  1. The CSTD WG on IGF improvements issued a report recommending, in essence, that IGF be responsive to stakeholders’ needs as the Internet environment continues to change.
  2. WCIT showed that many Member States still have serious reservations about the current Internet governance ecosystem. It’s becoming increasingly clear to even the least perceptive of Internet governance folk, that unless the community finds ways to address such issues in friendly forums like IGF, unhappy Member States will increasingly press for intergovernmental venues, like the ITU and UNGA, to address their concerns.
  3. UNESCO’s WSIS+10 review in February and ITU’s WTPF in May both showed that it is in fact possible to have open and frank discussions about differences of opinion without any side feeling like they’ve lost the battle.
  4. With WSIS+10 only a couple of years away, everyone with any connection to the original WSIS action lines is aware that failure to achieve the original WSIS goals could result in the United Nations deciding on a new plan of action with unwelcome side effects on the current Internet governance ecosystem.
  5. Pending the outcome of the WSIS+10 process, IGF’s second mandate of renewal is due in 2015. IGF must be seen to be relevant and responsive if it is to be renewed.
  6. After seven IGFs, the forum has matured enough that people feel able to experiment without fearing that failed experiments could lead to IGF’s demise.
  7. Given, over the last few years, IGF has been slightly short of funds needed to execute everything everyone wants it to do, MAG members are aware that developing a more attractive sets of themes and more flexible set of forum sessions may once again attract donors.
  8. Workshop proposals for IGF 2013 have also been creative in their formats for discussion.

Even China, which was rather passionately arguing to keep the critical Internet resources theme and dump the human rights/freedom of expression theme, was on board with the larger set of changes.

Will the changes work?

In all probability, newcomers to IGF will find wider array of session types just as confusing as the old IGF format (with up to 11 parallel tracks!) And there is a large possibility that more technically or operationally minded participants will find the new focus on high level issues related to multistakeholder enhanced cooperation and Internet governance principles a bit esoteric. But if the IGF website documents the program well, and if the daily onsite orientation sessions are effective, the various stakeholders, with their wide range of interests, will find their way to sessions that meet their needs.

Of course, not all the new ideas that the IGF 2013 MAG has decided to include in the Bali meeting will work. But the fact that a major UN-hosted event is willing to try so many experimental approaches is something we should all support.

The changes are particularly commendable when you consider that IGF 2013 is trying to attract governments who have never attended an IGF before. The previous IGF formats were already a bit of a stretch for governments used to more formal intergovernmental meetings. The addition of more non-traditional meeting formats in upcoming IGF will no doubt ratchet up the discomfort factor for some governments. But, with any luck, the inclusion of topics directly responding to governments’ calls for greater involvement in Internet governance##enhanced cooperation, Internet governance principles, combatting cyber threats-will more than help governments overcome their fear of non-hierarchical and informal session formats.

IGF 2013 is about building bridges. If the skeleton program that came out of the May preparatory meeting is any hint, IGF 2013 will help members of the Internet governance ecosystem to build some very innovative bridges, indeed!

IGF 2013 program

igf-2013-logoI’ve put this together from the MAG meeting discussions in Geneva last week, so please take the outline below as a rough outline rather than a canonical agenda:

Day 0 Pre-events
Known pre-events High-level government roundtable organized by the Indonesian local host,
GigaNet conference,
Regional IGF roundtable.
Possible pre-events A roundtable on the theme of the Day 2 Main Session topic, “The Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development”. This is due to the fact it’s not possible to have workshops before the first main session. The roundtable would instead form input to the first main session.
Capacity building event. It may pick up some of the workshops proposals related to capacity building that have not been approved for the main program.
Day 1
Opening ceremony Formal opening with dignitaries
Opening session A focus on building bridges and the role of governments in the multistakeholder Internet governance model. Brazil’s draft “Opinion 7” from WTPF is to be a starting point for further work on developing discussions for this.
Day 2
Main session (morning) The Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development (picking up from the older IGF themes of access and diversity)
Main session (afternoon) Human rights, freedom of expression (picking up from the older IGF theme of openness)
Short afternoon or evening taking stock session 30 minutes for participants to digest the day’s events. This is one of the new formats the MAG is choosing to experiment with in Bali.
Day 3
Main session (morning) Legal and other frameworks related to spam and cybersecurity (picking up from the older Security theme). The session will attempt to address issues that were raised as issues of concern by some ITU Member States during last year’s WCIT.
Main session (afternoon) Open forum. Anyone can raise any issue related to Internet governance. The list of potential topics for people to think about will include all previous IGF topics, including CIR. This is one of the new formats the MAG is choosing to experiment with in Bali.
Short afternoon or evening taking stock session 30 minutes for participants to digest the day’s events. This is one of the new formats the MAG is choosing to experiment with in Bali.
Day 4
Main session (morning) Internet governance principles, multistakeholder enhanced corporation
Closing session Emerging issues. This harks back to the closing session format of the first IGF held in Athens.

Other sessions happening throughout the four days of IGF

Open forums
Requests have already been received from ITU, UNESCO, ICANN, NRO, and the IETF.
For the first time, smaller organizations will also be able to request open forum slots. Slots for smaller organizations, however, may be reduced to 30 minutes.
Dynamic coalitions
To be guaranteed a slot, though, dynamic coalitions must produce a report of their activities over the past year.
Capacity building/orientation sessions
These morning sessions on each day of the program will help newcomers understand how IGF works and give insight into the topics on the agenda for each day.
Workshops can “feed” into main IGF 2013 themes, or be standalone discussions on other Internet governance issues. There was discussion of encouraging “flash sessions” for workshop proposals that the MAG didn’t believe could sustain 90 minutes of discussion. However, I’m not sure from the discussions in Geneva whether flash sessions will go ahead.
Roundtables will be organized as a way to help better channel “feeder workshop” discussions and outcomes into main session topics. This is one of the new formats the MAG is choosing to experiment with in Bali.

Overarching IGF 2013 theme: building bridges

igf-2013-logoThe IGF 2013 theme was really an outcome of the first preparatory meeting held in February. It was partly prompted by the Internet governance community’s desire to heal inter-stakeholder group relations after the decision by a number of States to not sign the ITRs at WCIT was spun as an example of yet another “developed versus developing countries” roadblock. It was also the result of the more positive collaborative tone expressed during the UNESCO WSIS+10 review meeting immediately before the February IGF 2013 preparatory meetings.

Following the discussion of Brazil’s draft “Opinion 7” at the WTPF only the week before the May IGF preparatory meetings, there was continued support amongst MAG members to uphold the “building bridges” theme. The theme agreed to in full is:

Building bridges: Enhancing multistakeholder collaboration for growth and sustainable development


IGF 2013 themes: critical Internet resources out, human rights and freedom of expression in

The open consultations day began with China’s representative on the MAG reading out a multi-page document already available to all on the IGF website. In short, the submission strongly stated that it was necessary to maintain management of critical Internet resources as a sub-theme for IGF and that inclusion of human rights/freedom of expression in the main themes for IGF 2013 was inappropriate. China maintained that stance throughout the preparatory meetings, resulting in others at the meeting working hard to address China’s concerns:

  1. On freedom of expression
    • It was pointed out that there had been over 30 workshop proposals submitted on the theme of human rights, so it would be remiss of the IGF not to give human rights topics the attention the Internet governance community wished such topics to have.
    • It was noted that the CSTD WG on IGF Improvements had recommended that IGF be more responsive to evolving priorities emerging from international debates.
    • Similarly, it was noted that the UN Secretary General’s report renewing the IGF’s mandate had referred to the fact that the IGF hadn’t given enough attention to human rights issues.
  2. On critical Internet resources (CIR)
    • It was noted that while the topic wasn’t on the list of IGF sub-themes, it was included as one of the workshop main tracks, so it was certainly not being dropped as one of the overall themes of IGF.
    • It was noted IGF was attempting “evolution, not revolution” and that older issues like CIR were still there, but that the discussions have advanced, and older issues are being framed in more nuanced ways.

The representative of China on the MAG clearly had a very strict mandate from his superiors to get CIR on the agenda and human rights off the agenda, because he was utterly tenacious in arguing his case right until the last moments of the MAG meeting. However, nobody else in the room supported his position.

In the end, with time slipping away, Markus Kummer, interim Chair, proposed that because of the need to let the UN Undersecretary General know what the IGF 2013 themes would be (to begin the formal process of issuing stakeholder invitations to the event), he would submit a report stating that there consensus from all but one MAG member to the proposed main theme and sub-themes. The Chinese representative asked if his alternative proposal for IGF 2013 main themes be included in the report. Kummer agreed that was certainly possible and that he would talk to the Chinese representative after the MAG meeting to follow up with this.

Summary of main themes to be addressed in IGF 2013 main sessions

Below are the themes that Kummer will send to the Undersecretary General. I’ve divided the consensus-minus-one themes for IGF 2013 into two groups, to make it easier to see what’s old and new. Please note that the final report from the meeting hasn’t been published yet, so I’ve based it on the wording from the transcripts and from a post by Izumi Aizu to the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus mailing list.

  1. Evolutions of older IGF themes (old theme names in italics):
    • Access and diversity: Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development
    • Openness: Human rights, freedom of expression, and the free flow of information on the Internet
    • Security: Legal and other frameworks: spam, hacking, cybercrime
  2. New themes prompted by their recent rise to prominence in multiple venues:
    • Internet governance principles
    • Principles of multistakeholder cooperation
    • Enhanced multistakeholder cooperation

Next up: IGF 2013 program