Magazine article Information Today

WSIS Internet Governance Forum Takes Shape

Magazine article Information Today

WSIS Internet Governance Forum Takes Shape

Article excerpt

A new term has been added to the litany of Internet-governance attributes developed during the multiyear World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). In addition to "multilateral," "democratic," and "transparent," the soon-to-be-launched Internet Governance Forum (IGF), mandated by WSIS and to be held later this year in Athens, Greece, will add the term "multi-stakeholder" to the list.

But what does that mean?

Those attending the Deliberations on the Formation of the Internet Governance Forum meetings in Geneva had their first taste of a multistakeholder forum. Not only were members of the private sector, civil society, and even the press sitting in any seat they wanted alongside the official delegations of sovereign states, they were also speaking "on an equal footing."

The U.S. delegation described its vision for the new forum as an event where expert panels would speak for a couple of days a year on a few high-priority topics. As such, it should require only a planning committee and a lightweight governing structure. The EU, Canada, and others described their ambitions for the forum in the same light, with Quebec weighing in separately with a similar, but unique, position.

Regarding topics for this fall's first meeting, the EU proposed a focus on spam and multilingualism, two items that topped a pre-meeting survey. Developing nations pushed for an agenda that would focus on the summit's overall ambitions of building infrastructure.

Brazil, Cuba, China, and Pakistan (on behalf of more than 100 other developing nations) seemed to cling to earlier notions that the new forum would end up having some clout. But mostly, they seemed concerned that this new forum, which WSIS designated to help developing nations, might actually leave them out.

As nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, and the private sector joined in, the discussions grew even more interesting, with proposals about the possibility of creating meaningful outcomes by using Internet technology as the main driver for dedicated project work.

But still the fear persisted that developing nations will not be fairly represented in the IGF and will not have an equal voice in its planning and execution.

The deliberations on the forum's formation--though not designed to achieve consensus--stalled over questions about how the new IGF event would be organized. …

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