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