Elon University

Main Session: Desirability of Continuing Global IGF Meetings

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45 of 47 speakers endorse continuation, as expected

Session description: The focus of this two-part session on the closing day of IGF 2009 was a discussion of the “desirability of the continuation of the forum.” It was expected far in advance of this meeting that only the governments of China and Saudi Arabia would contest the continuation, and that is precisely what happened. The other 45 speakers at this event endorsed IGF continuation in one way or another. The Internet Governance Forum process was established by the World Summit on the Information Society, a global gathering of stakeholders facilitated by the United Nations that had its beginnings at the turn of the century. Those attending the 2005 WSIS meeting in Tunis established an agenda for the discussion of the future of Internet governance. A Working Group on Internet Governance was formed and the plan was put into motion to hold five annual global Internet Governance Forums. The first took place in Athens in 2006. Paragraph 76 of the Tunis agenda states that there should “formal consultations with Forum participants” – an assessment of the value of the IGF process – to ascertain whether it has impact and should be extended beyond the initial five-year mandate. The first four IGFs are complete with this meeting in Egypt, with only one more scheduled – in Vilnius, Lithuania, in September 2010. If it is extended, the plan is to have a sixth international IGF in Kenya in 2011. This event was just one part of a long, formal review process being facilitated by the United Nations.

Cerf Speaking IGF 2009Internet protocol inventors first  to speak; both endorse continuance
November 18, 2009 – This discussion, moderated by Sha Zukang, under-secretary-general of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Markus Kummer, executive director of the UN’s IGF Secretariat, was opened to anyone who wished to participate in defining the continuing value and role of the global IGF. Those who wished to participate submitted their names, and 47 speakers were given three minutes each to state their case. Some who wished to speak were not allotted a spot, due to time constraints.

Among the first first 10 speakers were four who were key to the entire event – two Internet pioneers, a leader of the Internet governance process in Africa and a leader of the delegation representing China, one of the few nations whose leadership has always questioned the need for the IGF.

The session was started with separate presentations by Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, the co-inventors of the Internet protocol.

“I know that there have been many different hopes and expectations for the IGF,” said Kahn, “but in one fundamental aspect, I believe that the IGF has been quite successful, and that is by providing a means for discussion of issues and exchange of views by individuals and organizations from all over the world. The IGF has provided a neutral venue in which important Internet issues can be discussed, not only in the sessions but by the personal contacts in the halls and in between the sessions. I believe they are an integral part of the forum. I believe the IGF plays an important and valuable role, and it should definitely be continued.”

Kahn went on to suggest that future forums allow for discussion of subareas of interest to help “move the discussions forward by addressing a broader set of potential areas than are now being addressed.”

Vint Cerf appeared by pre-recorded video which you can watch here. His visage appeared to loom large over forum attendees on the large conference hall’s five gigantic large-screen projections – one the size of a stadium Jumbotron. He filled the room in a way that no other speaker could match. He spoke about transnationalization of Internet ethics and the importance of IGF as a forum for discussion to best resolve things.

“The only way that we are going to deal with international difficulties,” he said, “is to have a more common framework in which we agree as to the activities that are considered to be societally unacceptable. I believe the Internet Governance Forum can play a very important role in surfacing different views of these kinds, and perhaps allow us collectively to discover venues in which these matters might be best resolved.’

He said it is best that the IGF remain a body in which discussions are heard but no decisions are made. “Although some people have criticized that, in my honest opinion, this lack of decision-making is what makes the Internet Governance Forum such an important activity for all of us,” he explained. “This nondecision-making effort allows many of the opinions that might be in conflict with each other to be heard, and it allows us to come to some conclusions about constructive steps forward.”

He encouraged people “to participate in and to continue to support these meetings that take place annually, and use them as a tool for making the Internet a better, safer and more effective place in which to conduct our global affairs.”

Kenyan says ‘yes’ to IGF, China delegate says ‘no’
The third speaker was Samuel Poghisio, minister for information and communication in Kenya, the selected site for the sixth IGF meeting, if there is one. He noted the positive changes in Africa, thanks to the international, national, regional and subregional IGFs. “We are able to identify local-level Internet governance issues that then form the building blocks for the regional level,” he said. “We believe it is important for us to continue the constructive discussions and the debates and open exchange of ideas. However there are a number of things that need to be changed. One is the allocation of adequate resources to the IGF Secretariat to enable it to function. Two is the support for regional and national IGFs with clear mechanisms of inclusion and integration of the global IGF.” He confidently added, “We look forward to hosting you all at the 2011 IGF.”

Chen Yin, the head of the China delegation to IGF and the tenth speaker, noted “shortcomings” of IGF.

“The current IGF cannot solve in substance the issues of unilateral control of critical Internet resources,” he said. “The developing countries lack resources for participating in IGF meetings and the development agenda has been downplayed. The issues discussed in IGF duplicate the work being explored and covered by other UN agencies and international organizations. Therefore, without reform to the IGF, it is not necessary to give the IGF a five-year extension. We support the views of Saudi Arabia and other developing countries in their proposal to set up an ‘enhanced cooperation’ mechanism within the UN framework.”

He said if IGF is to continue it should be required by the UN to “focus on how to solve the issue of unilateral control of critical Internet resources.” This is a reference to US control of IANA and key Internet architecture. He added that: voices of developing countries should be increased in IGF; development issues should be the first priority; IGF should be financed through the regular UN budget, with financial assistance for people from developing countries wishing to participate in IGF meetings; the Tunis Agenda should be followed “rigidly” and the “reformed IGF should not duplicate the work and mandate of other organizations; a bureau with specifically balanced representation from “parties and geographical regions” with terms and rules should be set up by the UN; that the extension of the IGF should be reviewed every two or three years.

The only other official response that was clearly to the negative regarding the continuation of the IGF came from Abdullah Al Darrab, deputy governor of technical affairs for the ICT Commission of Saudi Arabia. He spoke in the fifteenth position, saying, “This forum should be the arm that helps enhanced cooperation…it should start with another path other than the path of the IGF.”

Many speakers said the IGF should continue to operate under the support of the UN’s IGF Secretariat, led by Nitin Desai and Markus Kummer, two diplomats who earned high praise throughout the proceedings. Those who supported continuance of IGF as it is now configured encouraged further development of multistakeholder participation and asked that the IGF Secretariat retain independence from other UN structures, such as the ITU.

The representative from Switzerland, one of the largest contributors to the trust fund that supports the work of IGF Secretariat and also supports participation by stakeholders from the developing world, invited all other stakeholders to contribute to the fund.

Other participants in the session about the continuance of IGF past its initial mandate who agreed the IGF should be extended in one way or another included: Rajesh Chharia, president, Internet Service Providers Association of India; Felipe Costi Santarosa, head of the information society division of the Brazilian ministry of external relations; Akram Chowdhury, member of parliament in Bangladesh; Malcolm Johnson, director of the International Telecommunication Union Standardization Bureau; Talal Abu Ghazalah, chairman, United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development; Ferry de Kerckhove, Canadian Ambassador to Egypt; Maria Häll, of Sweden, representing the European Union Presidency; Mogens Schmidt, UNESCO; Masanobu Katoh, of Fujitsu and Keidanren, a technology industry association in Japan; Rod Beckstrom, CEO and president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers; Bill Graham, global strategic engagement for The Internet Society; Waudo Siganga, World Information Technology and Services Alliance (tech industry group) vice chairman for Africa and chair of the Computer Society of Kenya; Ayesha Hassan, senior policy manager for e-business, IT and telecoms for International Chamber of Commerce BASIS; Richard Beaird, coordinator of international communications and information policy, U.S. Department of State; Vladimir Radunovich, DiploFoundation; Parminder Jeet Singh, IT for Change, India; Andrew Miller, member of the UK Parliament; Konstantin Kladouras, chairman of the ETNO (European telecommunications operators association) IGV Working Group and head of regulatory strategy group; Olga Cavalli, adviser for technology in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina; Lambert Van Nistelrooij, member of the European Parliament; Leisyl Franz, vice president for global public policy, TechAmerica; Mactar Seck, UN Economic Commission for Africa; Johan Ekman, bureau member, Council of Europe, European Youth Forum; Peter Voss, head of division, international policy for ICT, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Germany; Anupam Agrawal, chair, Kolkata Chapter of the Internet Society, India; Bertrand de La Chapelle, Délégué Spécial pour la Société de l’Information, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes; Ana Cristina Amoroso das Neves, head of international affairs, Knowledge Society Agency (UMIC), Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Portugal; Willie Currie, communications and information policy programme manager, Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Giacomo Mazzone, World Broadcasting Union; William J. Drake, senior associate, Centre for International Governance Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva; Thomas Schneider, coordinator international information society international affairs, Federal Office of Communications OFCOM, Switzerland; Charles Mok, chairman, Internet Society Hong Kong; Y.J. Park, professor, Delft University of Technology; Zahid Jamil, senior partner and barrister-at-Law, Jamil & Jamil; Sue Baxter, head of EU & International Competitiveness Unit, Department for, Business, Innovation and Skills; Gao Xinmin, vice president, Internet Society China; Lillian O. Sharpley, Numbers Resource Organization (AFRINIC communication manager); Wolfgang Benedek, representing the civil society organization the Internet Governance Caucus; Jyrki Kasvi, member of Parliament and the vice chair of the Committee for the Future, Finland; Heather Creech, director of global connectivity, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Canada; Frédéric Riehl, chair, UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development.; Christina Arida, director of telecom planning and services, National Telecom Regulatory Authority, Egypt.

To view preliminary comments on continuation, go here.

To view the UN video of the first part of the session, go here.

To read the UN transcript of the first part of the session, go here.

To view the UN video of the first part of the session, go here.

To read the UN transcript of the second part of the session, go here.

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