Panel on Public participation in internet governance considers applicability of Aarhus Convention
In a panel entitled “Public participation in internet governance, emerging issues, and good practices”, panellists Anriette Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Pavel P Antonov, board member of BlueLink, emphasised the potential for ICTs to inform, involve and empower people.
In a panel entitled “Public participation in internet
governance, emerging issues, and good practices”, panellists Anriette
Esterhuysen, executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications
(APC) and Pavel P Antonov, board member of BlueLink, emphasised the potential
for ICTs to inform, involve and empower people. The panel, held on Monday, 12
November, largely focused on the potential of the Aarhus Convention – the
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Aarhus Convention on Access to
Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters – to be adapted to the internet governance process.
The panellists considered some of the differences between
the two processes, including that civil society fought for the Aarhus
Convention, internet governance is more of a global issue and is in a more
advanced stage and that Aarhus is obligatory for the government.
Anriette Esterhuysen explained that the Aarhus Convention
could be used as a prototype — that its purpose would be to accommodate
participation, encourage greater transparency and improve access to
information. She said that an agreement could be used to put soft-powered public
pressure on standards, and that a mechanism is needed to fund public
participation in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Currently there is
nothing legally binding. Pavel mentioned that a significant strength of the
Aarhus Convention is that it uses the capacity of national governments that
Anriette and Pavel also posed questions to the audience.
Comments from the audience included a desire to find
mechanisms to involve real people – citizens – in the IGF process. Another
person expressed hope that a framework can be created at the IGF to create some
accountability for the players. A representative from ICANN said that this is
already possible within ICANN and that they are wide open to Aarhus Convention
idea and want more people to participate. Anriette responded that if this was
the case, as a citizen of South Africa, she would have good internet access
The general assessment of the panel was that there is a need
to create a mechanism for internet governance participation and that this
should be brought together in a framework – e.g. a soft instrument, memorandum
of understanding or something else.