It might be the 10th global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) happening in Brazil in November 2015, but a small country in the heart of Europe – Bosnia and Herzegovina – just joined the global internet governance landscape on 1 October 2015 with its first national IGF (#BHIGF).
Different stakeholder groups and individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina are active in their own fields of expertise, but there has always been a lack of inter-stakeholder collaboration – and it was about time for us to join the dialogue on internet governance in regional and global spaces, through a coordinated national initiative.
How it all started
The national IGF initiative started three years ago when a small group of individuals and enthusiasts from BiH, attending other IG events, felt the need for such an event on the national level. The time was still not right for it, however.
Three years later, One World Platform (OWP), a civil society organisation present in regional and global internet governance policy spaces for years – as a promoter of human and internet rights through a gender perspective, as a member of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), one of the largest international civil society organisations with a representative in the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group, and as part of the organising committee of the first Southeast European Dialogue on Internet Governance) – renewed the efforts of organising the first national Internet Governance Forum in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHIGF).
The date was set for 1 October 2015, in Sarajevo.
It was a great encouragement that on the international level, the BHIGF initiative was supported from the start by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and APC.
After SEEDIG and EuroDIG meetings in Sofia, Bulgaria, the OWP team met with the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and established solid collaboration, with the agency as co-organisers of BHIGF 2015 representing the government.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognised the value of such a multistakeholder space for dialogue on internet governance and the overall event for 2015 was held under their auspices. We use this opportunity to thank Mr. Nebojša Regoje, the head of public relations at the Ministry, for his continuous support throughout the BHIGF process.
Along the way, as the voice of BHIGF was getting louder, we were honoured to have gained diverse support from distinguished international organisations such as the Council of Europe supporting the event and giving the opportunity to young students from BiH to participate in the event, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Internet Governance Forum Support Association, DiploFoundation, RIPE NCC and CORE Association.
The Forum was held under the overarching theme: “Internet for All – Opportunities and Challenges within Internet Governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, as a one-day event.
The pre-session “Get to know and engage with ICANN!” was held only for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina by Andrea Beccalli – Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Europe from ICANN.
BHIGF was opened with a welcoming speech by Aida Mahmutović from One World Platform on behalf of the organisers, followed by keynote speeches by: Deniz Yazici on behalf of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media; Silvia Grundmann, head of the Council of Europe Media and Internet Division; Andrea Beccalli, Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Europe from ICANN; and Nebojša Regoje, head of the Office of Public Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH.
The keynote speeches were followed by two working sessions:
“ABC’s of Internet Governance” moderated by Vladimir Radunović from DiploFoundation and co-moderated by Aida Mahmutović from OWP, with panellists Nebojša Regoje from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of BiH, Ljiljana Zurovac of the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Athina Fragkouli from RIPE NCC, Mario Janeček from the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Srđan Rajčević of the Agency for Information Society of Republic Srpska, and guests from the region: Iliya Bazlyankov, Bulgaria – CORE Association, Dušan Stojčević, Serbia – RINDS, Nataša Glavor, Croatia – CARNet. The session rapporteur was Feđa Kulenović.
“What do you mean by Internet Rights” moderated by Valentina Pellizzer from OWP, and panellists: Silvia Grundmann – Council of Europe, Smari McCarthy – OCCRP and IMMI, Desiree Milošević – Affilias, and Mario Hibert – University of Sarajevo. The session rapporteur was Hana Ćurak.
* This is a short overview on the sessions. For more information on the two sessions please visit: http://oneworldplatform.net/en/bh-igf-en/
The Forum was closed with joint conclusions by Emir Povlakić from the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Valentina Pellizzer from OWP.
Objectives of the Forum
- Raise awareness and promote better understanding of the internet as an open platform for all stakeholders (government, business sector, civil society, technical community, academia, media).
- Contribute to a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities that stakeholders have in internet governance. Do we need a national strategy?
- Create a framework for discussions on the role of the internet in empowering the exercise of human rights and promoting the rule of law and democracy.
The focus was on explaining internet governance as such, mapping the priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina, understanding the need to get actively involved, to hear different stakeholder perspectives in the country as well as best practices from our guests – experts from the regional and global landscape. The human rights and internet rights session was focused on key issues from our everyday life, which include online harassment, accessibility, surveillance. There was also discussion of mechanisms and possibilities for the state to protect its citizens in cyberspace without crossing the line of privacy, as well as the rapid development of technology and the state’s capacity to keep up with the pace.
Having in mind different individuals within cyberspace, the discussion also focused on various risks that these different (digital) identities face (minorities, women, LGBTIQ, people with disabilities).
BHIGF 2015 truly represented a space for open, inclusive and informal dialogue for all interested stakeholders (government, business sector, civil society, technical community, academia and media) interested in sharing, shaping and contributing to strengthened internet governance in BiH, with strong encouragement for gender-equal participation, which the following statistics will show:
The final number of registered participants was 140 in total.
The number of participants that showed up at the Forum was 109 – 57 male and 52 female.
Government – 39
Civil society – 23
Private sector – 6
Academia** – 35
Technical community – 10
Media – 6
Continuing the BHIGF process as an imperative
The first Internet Governance Forum in Bosnia and Herzegovina placed us on the global internet governance agenda. The panellists and audience agreed upon one major issue: contextualisation.
During BHIGF panels we constantly reminded ourselves that internet governance topics have to be relevant for the social and political issues that our country is currently dealing with. The state’s political context per se (two entities and a district that have different laws and constitutions) made internet governance dialogue challenging.
One of the traits of the internet is globality, but all regulations should begin at the national level. The panellists and audience also agreed upon inclusion of media literacy and internet literacy in educational system agendas.
Even though there is an ongoing debate about the lack of women in regional and global internet governance policy spaces (such as in the global IGF), BHIGF provided us with a somewhat different picture. The number of women and men on panels and in the audience was equal.
This event was fruitful and inspiring in terms of topics that need to be tackled for next year’s events. By this we don’t only mean the next BHIGF but all the other surrounding conversations, roundtables and dialogues between different multistakeholders that need to happen.
As an overall conclusion we can point out that these different stakeholders do not have the opportunity to meet and have a dialogue on topics that relate to internet governance, and this is why it is important to realise that we have a collective responsibility in the world of internet governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we should not run away from it.
The BHIGF now has the responsibility to become only the first of a regularly held event, and is now looking forward to deepening collaboration with existing supporters, while welcoming new ones.
Until BHIGF 2016 we invite you to stay in touch with us and give us your feedback and propose ways for multistakeholder collaboration. Contributions can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Some of participants in the forum represented more than one stakeholder group
** Academia includes students