Peter Major, the Chair of the CSTD Working Group on improvements to the IGF, reported the process and the summary of the recommendations.
He first described the mandate which was for the CSTD to establish an open and inclusive manner a Working Group which could see, compile and review imports from all UN Member States and all other stakeholders and improvements to the IGF with the aim to give recommendations for improvements without changing basic features of the IGF, that it is multistakeholder and director and it is not a decision taking Forum. The original members of the WG were only governments, but representatives of Civil Society, Business, Academia and International Organizations were added to make it a multi-stakeholder composition.
Following five main points were presented in the final report as recommendations:
I Shaping the outcomes of the IGF meetings
II Working modalities including open consultation, MAG and the Secretariat
III Funding of the IGF
IV Broadening participation and capacity-building
V Linking the IGF to other Internet governance-related entities
The report was submitted to the CSTD Annual Session in May and accepted. It would be discussed during the UN General Assembly this year.
Peter then described the substance of the recommendations as follows:
I Shaping the outcomes of the IGF meetings
Develop more tangible outputs
Improve the visibility: IGF outcomes and accessibility should come with enhanced communication strategy and tools to making available the relevant documents to all the relevant stakeholders and the media.
II Working modalities
Improve the overall preparatory process of the IG
Improve the structure and working methods of the MAG
Strengthen and expand the Secretariat with all the implications it may have
III Funding of the IGF
Encourage and increase voluntary financial contributions,
Enhance accountability and transparency
Acknowledge the host country's support and in‑kind support from other countries, organisations and the UN.
IV Broadening participation and the capacity building
Expand and diversify participation
Enhance broader participations
Improve accessibility of the IGF
Enhance all stakeholders' understanding of the IGF and Internet Governance issues.
V Linking the IGF to other IG related entities
Ensure the relevance and inclusiveness of the annual IGFs,
Support enhanced communication
Empower the MAG and IGF Secretariat to consistent outreach.
Peter added that the WG had no provisions for implementation and he personally regrets that the WG had not thought of it or had not dealt with it extensively. He then proposed to the MAG to create a Working Group to translate recommendations to actions. He concluded in stressing the importance of the implementation.
Wolfgang, Kleinwacther, one of the members of the CSTD WG, echoed with Peter that the WG was a very good experience and innovation for the United Nations because it is not easy for an Intergovernmental body like the UN to deal with a multistakeholder group. He told producing 39 recommendations was very encouraging and we are on the right track, but it is only the first step and much more has to be done.
He emphasized that the IGF is in a competitive environment with the forthcoming ITU conference in Dubai in December, the World Telecommunication Policy Forum in Geneva in May 2013. He also added the WSIS+10 process as another competitor to IGF. He cautioned that if IGF does not produce what people expect, then it would lose the momentum and would go to another place. He also mentioned about the outcome of IGF and suggested even though IGF is not a negotiation body, there is a need to produce concrete outcome. Wolfgang also suggested giving greater role to the MAG, including the creation of a Working Group for implementation.
He also emphasized the MAG’s legitimacy from the UN Secretary General and its multistakeholder nature, and suggested to put IGF and MAG for the discussion about the enhanced cooperation than the second Committee in the General Assembly.
Mervi Kultamaa, another member of CSTD WG, from the Government of Finland, shared her reflection. She emphasized that the amount of contributions the WG had received from across the stakeholder groups was huge and said it really reflected the interests that people had on the IGF. She then mentioned about the dynamics of the multistakeholder participation as her second take-out of the WG. While there was some mistrust among WG members in the beginning, which stemmed from the fact that the nongovernmental participants were just “invitees”. However, she said that finally it was accepted that everyone would work at equal bases. The different stakeholders didn't work in their own silos. She pointed out that it was the nongovernmental actors that brought the government members back to reality. She concluded that the multistakeholder approach is definitely the way to go if we want to achieve something in the future.
Markus Kummer, CSTD WG member from ISOC, provided his observation as follows. He first took a step back to 2009 when there was a broad based consultative process on the IGF and the extension of its mandate. He noted that the result of the consultation was overwhelmingly positive. However, he continued, that some Governments put the finger on the identified weaknesses and questioned the outcome of the consultative process and wanted to change the nature of the IGF. He told that the CSTD WG had historic merits, kept the fundamentals of the IGF as a platform for dialogue with nonbinding outcomes in a multistakeholder setting.
He said the recommendation No. 1, Shaping the Outcome, was the essential recommendation. Funding is the core of the matter. He agreed with the report that the Secretariat is extremely small. So the idea to give more responsibility to the MAG is extremely welcome. He also cautioned that we should not forget that MAG is a voluntary organization and the members have their own limitations.
Markus then recalled the very beginning of the IGF from WSIS Tunis Agenda as shaky, Dynamic Coalition did not work that well, and some were opposing to the setup of Working Groups to carry out intersessional works. He said that the times they are a-changing and IGF has matured: Issues that we could not discuss at the first meeting can now be discussed; a meeting on enhanced cooperation was considered impossible in the early days, which we had this time. Markus pointed out the works of Secretariat depends very much on funding. He sees that industry on a whole has not come up with adequate funding for IGF.
Parminder Jeet Singh, a civil society member of the CSTD WG from India, shared his diverging views. He first agreed with other speakers that IGF is a path-making innovation. He considers it as a new innovation in democracy, IGF should be able to inform policy and also act as checks and balances.
With that framework, he expressed his disappointment to both the achievement of IGF itself and also the substance of the CSTD WG report. He first pointed out that the representation of underrepresented and marginalized people to IGF had been a big issue, but the WG failed to address this adequately.
He continued to the issue of IGF funding and argued for making it as UN regular budget, though his organization and India, among others, made this proposal at the WG, others maintained the current framework of donor-based model. He pointed out the risk of relying on private funding for public policy process as possible capture and the WG’s recommendation as a wrong model in going ahead in democracy. He mentioned that not going for the public funding at UN is the reason that there is no executive coordinator, strong secretary to support IGF.
Parminder said it is his duty to say very unpleasant thing because he brings it from the people who feel strongly about these, and these kinds of duties have not been filled up. He also expressed his disagreement with the WG report that the linkages with policy making spaces were not strong enough.
After the presentations from the panel, the discussion with the participants followed.
CSTD members from business, Jimson Olufuye from Nigeria and Marilyn Cade from USA endorsed most of WG report including the funding model and disagreed with the shift to the UN regular budget system. They explained that private funding is encumbered and putting it through the UN donors fund provides safeguards. Marilyn expressed she was not in favor of MAG for implementing the improvements, but suggested the Secretariat to be in charge.
A gentleman representing the United Nations, who was one of the cofounders of Arab IGF, a joint umbrella with the League of Arab states, shared his reflections. He shared part of the pessimism with Parminder. He asked what is hindering the public funding of the IGF? He asked to think about where is the missing link from the point of view of Governments that might be filled and therefore bring them in to the bandwagon. He also shared his view with Marilyn on the need to empower the Secretariat. He called for UN GA to institutionalize the IGF and provide regular budget mechanism for long term financial sustainability.
Markus replied, out of his experience of IGF secretariat for the first five years, while having regular budget and contract for the secretariat is very much welcome, making it as regular budget requires the UN GA to change the mandate of IGF which is a political decision. This means shifting the priorities of the UN which would be a big battle with little chance of success in the current UN situation. He therefore showed his support for current trust fund as being more practical and well-established in the UN context. He also added that MAG members can influence on these issues.
Parminder, being a civil society member, cautioned the problem of capture by private sector. He also pointed out the chicken and egg situation: if you don't become effective, you don't attract funds and vice versa, that's the disjunction we are facing for the policy making process.