Sunday, February 19, 2006

Conclusion of open consultations on Internet Governance Forum

19 February 2006
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The open consultations on the Internet Governance Forum concluded on 17 February 2006. Here are the official transcripts of the second day of the morning and afternoon consultations.

Pakistan, on behalf of G-77 and China stated that the World Society on Information Society (WSIS)
belongs to the series of U.N. summits that focused on economic and social development issues.

The primary objective of the summit in all its aspects, including Internet governance, was to create, and I quote, a people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented information society.

The group would like to reiterate that the Internet Governance Forum we intend to create must help realize this vision of a development-oriented information society.

Pakistan stressed the importance of having multi-stakeholder participation in the IGF from governments, civil society, and business from developing countries as well as international organizations.

According to the delegation of Pakistan, part of a development oriented approach to internet governance would be by "providing users with choice of different software models, including open source, free and proprietary software".

Pakistan called upon the chair to reconvene open consultations in a month to have more substantive deliberations.

The Chair noted there could be logistical problems in convening consultations in Geneva in a month as there were many other conflicting meetings.

Brazil supported Pakistan's call for an additional round open consultations. Brazil suggested early April as set of dates )after the ICANN GAC meeting in New Zealand at the end of March). Brazil's proposed a format for the IGF comprised of three bureaus, a government bureau, a private sector and a civil society bureau. Each bureau would have 15 representatives. The government bureau would have five regions with three representatives each.

Markus Kummer, Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Working Group on Internet Governance, noted the possibilities of a "steering committee" or a "programme committee" as potential bodies to determine the agenda of the Athens Internet Governance Forum.

Pakistan (G-77 and China) noted that there was no agreement nor discussion within the G-77 yet of a "steering committee or a program committee". Pakistan requested to hold consultations in three to four weeks to prevent clashing with the human rights commission.

Australia echoed Singapore's views that the IGF start small and evolve as the IGF is proven. Australia highlighted the preference by many delegations for so called "horizontal" or "cross-cutting" issues rather than "vertical" issues. In the delegate's own words,

Concerns has been expressed that issues are being put forward as priorities for discussion in the IGF which are not cross-cutting enough or are too readily being consigned to silos. I'm not quite sure that we would agree that Spam, security, and cybercrime, for example, are not cross cutting. They seem to raise implications in a range of areas and to warrant responses from a range of areas and institutions. But I do not really want to ponder on the meaning of cross cutting. I would observe that many issues lend themselves to be tackled in a cross-cutting manner from a multidimensional perspective, and we consider that is what is important. In addition, while there is a general statement that there are many cross-cutting issues, paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda also identifies particular functions and themes for the IGF which may not always be easily reconciled with this idea of cross-cutting issues.

The representative from the Worldwide Web Consortium noted their involvement in the web accessibility initiative which helped to define technology for people with disabilities. The representative urged the IGF to present its outcomes, in what ever format they took, to be presented in "open, non-proprietary formats that were used on the web everywhere else like HTML".

William Drake suggested that the structure of the IGF be fairly decentralized with a small administrative unit along the lines of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Chairman Desai concluded by stating that the IGF would be held either in October or November and the organizers would ensure that it would not conflict with major religious holidays. He indicated that under standard practice, the Greek government (the hosts of the IGF) would be asked to provide a chair for the Forum. The chair noted that the terms "program committee" and "steering committee" to draft the agenda of the Forum had caused confusion among certain delegations so for the time being the term used would be "multistakeholder group". The Chair noted that how this "multistakeholder group" would be constituted would need to be decided relatively quickly in ten days. Chairmain Desai encouraged participants to present their views directly to Markus Kummer who would then convey them to the Secretary-General. The Chair hoped to have a fully functioning "multistakeholder group" before the end of March. The Chair noted that "nothing could be ruled out" as a discussion them in Athens. He urged participants to present ideas for between three to five priority discussion themes to the IGF. He reiterated that the program committee not New York would set the Athen agenda.

Brazil offered to host the 2nd IGF in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

The Chair reiterated that the IGF awaited comments on two key issues,
the constitution of the -- possible constitution of the management -- multistakeholder management group, whatever it finally is called, and possible themes. I'm suggesting three simply because excluding the opening, there will be three plenary days available. But if three happens to become five, I'm sure there are ways one can be accommodated on that.

So on these two issues, if within ten days you can communicate with Mr. Kummer or anybody here who feels they still would like to rethink -- many of you have already given your views on this, but those of you who feel they want to go back and think

On the first day, I raised the question as to whether the IGF could consider open document formats in the context of government procurement policies and a proposed treaty on access to knowledge which has been raised by the friends of development countries at the world intellectual property organization.