The UNECE, the Council of Europe (CoE) and APC have been concerned about issues of information and participation in Internet governance since the World Summit on the Information Society and the Working Group on Internet Governance which informed it during 2005. They initiated discussions and held workshops around this theme at both Athens (2006) and Rio de Janeiro (2007) meetings of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF); in both cases drawing particular attention to the Aarhus Convention as a potential starting point for thinking about the principles and instruments that might apply. A “Best Practice Forum” on Public participation in Internet governance: emerging issues, good practices and proposed solutions, held during the Rio IGF, enabled participants to explore the possibility of a mechanism that would enable Internet governance institutions to “commit themselves in their activities to transparency, public participation … and access to information.”
During the Rio IGF a number of speakers expressed their support for the objectives of the initiative and there was considerable informal interest in the relevance of the Aarhus Convention both within the Best Practice Forum and beyond. More recently, during the February 2008 IGF consultation meeting in Geneva, the desirability of further work on this theme was emphasised by, among others, UNDESA and the Government of Switzerland. The latter urged that “in every forum and organisation [in Internet governance], there should be structures that allow the people, the citizens, the users to make them[selves] heard,” recommended further consideration of the application of the WSIS principles, and explicitly welcomed the UNECE/CoE/APC initiative.
To keep the momentum in this process, the CoE, on behalf of the three partners in the initiative, commissioned an exploratory report from Professor Souter on the “Concept and Possible Scope of a Code of Good Practice on Participation, Access to Information and Transparency in Internet Governance”. It was discussed at an open stakeholder workshop held in Geneva on 23 May 2008 which encouraged the development of this discussion paper for the Hyderabad IGF. This paper is a shortened and edited summary version of Professor Souter’s report.