My comments during discussion @IGF10 on CSTD working group on IGF improvements

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A comment I made in an open consultation at the IGF 2010 in Vilnius has been tweeted somewhat out of context, which is of course in the nature of tweets. Here is some background.

The context was a lunch time session at the IGF with the chairperson of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development. In May 2010 CSTD passed a resolution to convene such a group. The Chair gave a short presentation on the constitution of the group, what it will do, what schedule it will follow.

He said that the composition of the group will be multi-stakeholder (like the IGF MAG – multi-stakeholder advisory group) and that it would operate like the WGIG (Working Group on Internet Governance).

I commented from the floor saying 3 things:

1. That it was amusing that we had slipped out of IGF mode and into UN mode
(e.g. people were reading prepared statements and were addressing one another by country name rather than personal name, as in “France said …”)

2. That I supported the proposal already made by a participant who spoke on behalf of the government of Finland. Their proposal was that the General Assembly only decides whether the IGF continues, or not. Not how it continues. This was in response to the Chinese government comment that they believe the GA should make both decisions in one go. Finland proposed that the CSTD working group reports its suggestions to the CSTD who, after discussion, will propose a resolution on IGF improvements to ECOSOC.

3. That the working group will have contentious issues to discuss and
that the only way in which they will reach agreement is if they can work with a format that at times would allow them closed sessions in which they can thrash out differences in opinion.

It was informal consultation… so I was speaking in my individual capacity, not as APC… but a lot of other people were reading prepared statements so it felt quite formal and I can see why tweeters assumed it was a formal input from APC.

Normally in the IGF this does not happen. People would not assume an
individual is expressing a formal organisational position unless they
say so explicitly.

What I meant was that I agreed that the group should operate like the WGIG: which was the proposal in the presentation from the CSTD chair made at the beginning of the session. The WGIG had open meetings, but also closed meetings. As with the MAG, ensuring that reporting on the work of the group gives others a clear sense of what it is doing will be challenging, but essential.

Parminder Jeet Singh and I are probably the only two civil society
people that were at the CSTD this year when governments were drafting a
resolution to ECOSOC on IGF continuation. They were in deadlock until
the very end, working into the early hours of the morning night after night. The eventual resolution, which included the establishment of this multi-stakeholder group on IGF improvements, was only achieved when the chair of the drafting group took the governments who were in strong disagreement with one another into another, closed room, locking them in there until they agreed on text.

I realise that not having a fully open process is contentious.. but I
being practical. I know for a fact that if governments don’t feel they have some privacy they will not feel ownership of the process and the recommendations of the group when it goes to CSTD will not be taken seriously.

Many governments in the CSTD had already totally disregarded all the ‘open’ inputs on the IGF that were discussed this year (e.g. the evaluations, survey results, etc.) for this reason.

kierenmccarthy tweeted: “APC asks for a closed decision-making group for the future of the IGF. Bit odd. Has the APC got used to its priviledged status?”

Kieren, you should explain what you mean by ‘privileged’ status. It would be interesting to know.

With regard to the CSTD, APC will have a chance to make formal input into the IGF improvements working group once it starts its work some time in October. Whether this formal input proposed a completely open process or not will be up to the APC members and staff who participate in drafting this statement.

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