Path Forward For UN-Led Internet Governance Forum Discussed 26/02/2009 by Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate. That there will be a future for the international Internet Governance Forum seems likely, though the form its future incarnation will take is not. Delegates to an open consultation on internet governance this week began to sort out some base modalities on how to evaluate the progress of the United Nations-led discussion venue, as a deadline approaches to decide whether and how the group will continue. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multistakeholder dialogue that grew out of the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia in 2005. The group is tasked with discussion of public policy issues related to the internet, and particularly those issues for which there is no other intergovernmental body with the scope to address them. It is also meant to help find solutions “to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the internet,” according to the Tunis mandate. The original mandate of the IGF called for an evaluation process within five years, at the end of which it was understood that a decision on the future of the IGF would be taken. As this five-year mark approaches in 2010, the 23-24 February consultation was intended in part to help hash out ways to conduct the review process. The secretary general of the United Nations, who has final say in the matter, is meant to make his recommendations before the member states next year at this time. This open consultation process decided to focus on modalities for review, rather than substantive review, of the IGF. It also focussed on evaluations of the last and suggestions for the next internet governance forum, which are passed along to the Multistakeholder Advisory Group, tasked with helping to plan the forums. The advisory group is meeting on 25-26 February. The last IGF was in Hyderabad, India, in December. The next meeting will be 15-18 November 2009 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Way Toward The Review The meeting ended with IGF Executive Coordinator Markus Kummer issuing a call for contributions, comments, and even academic analyses – welcoming external input – with the intent to publish a summary paper of received comments in May. One of the discussions during the meeting had been whether a review of the IGF should be internal or external. Ian Peter from the Internet Governance Caucus, an organisation that represents civil society in internet governance, said that an external evaluation before internal evaluation was done might not be the most helpful but that external analysis could help bring in information the IGF secretariat does not have, according to the event transcript. Meeting Chair Nitin Desai, who is special adviser to the UN secretary-general for internet governance, said that ultimately objectivity of the data being analysed was perhaps the central issue. Key issues to be addressed include future funding for the IGF meetings, and funding for possible outside evaluations of the process if they are deemed necessary, Kummer said. “In order to be taken seriously we have also to make some proposals that not may be the same as before, but we have to say where matters could be improved,” he said, according to the unedited official transcript of the event. “One element in the evaluation of the value of the IGF has to be some understanding, not just that we had a nice meeting… [but also] some assessment of what difference did that make at the ground level,” Desai said, also according to the transcript. Evaluating Hyderabad, Looking Toward Sharm El Sheikh Human rights, sustainability, the participation of young people, and the new top level domain names at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers were talked about as possible new trends to be discussed at the next IGF in Egypt this year. Also coming up was a debate as to how the secretariat should manage workshops run by outside entities. Whether they should be run concurrently, rather than simultaneously, their length, and the number of languages in which to translate was discussed. Several delegations mentioned the possibility of translation into more than just the six official UN languages, but this was ultimately discarded as not practical. A delegate from Switzerland mentioned that cross-cutting discussions – in particular one on security and openness – were more helpful than isolated issue discussions, as they got closer to real-life situations and challenges. On security and safety, ways to combat child pornography – a perennial issue at the IGF, in part because there is no controversy about the need to fight the problem and no international forum for addressing it from a policy perspective – also came up. The human rights concept stresses the importance of openness and universal access, said Peter. The dynamic coalition on gender said during the open consultation that access to an open internet is “critical for women” to “facilitate the full realisation of their rights” and that this approach was the “only safeguard” for women to fully participate in the internet. Desai suggested the creation of a directory of policymakers in the area, so that it would be clear who to contact. Also a critical access issue is ensuring that “young people” are active in “both knowing how to use the technology and knowing how to explain the technology, its challenges, and its benefits to their parents and to their caregivers,” said Marilyn Cade, who chairs the Global Public Policy Committee at Information Technology Association for America, which supports the interest of the US innovation industry. With regards to the internet “we have more to learn from young people than young people have to learn from us,” said a delegate from El Salvador. Heather Creech with the International Institute for Sustainable Development discussed the “responsibility for managing the environmental footprint of the internet.” New trends in this vein include trying “to get data centres to use renewable energy and also reduce their emissions,” she explained. During the discussion on the environmental impact of computing, it was revealed that two Google searches is roughly equivalent to boiling a kettle for tea. Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Path Forward For UN-Led Internet Governance Forum Discussed" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.