Inclusive preparation process backed for UN-created Internet Governance Forum
All interested parties, whether governments, civil society or the private sector, should be able to continue to guide preparations for the second meeting of the United Nations-established Internet Governance Forum later this year, participants agreed at a meeting today in Geneva.
Most of the nearly 200 participants at the meeting, which also reviewed last year’s inaugural Forum in Athens, called for preparations to begin as soon as possible so that they are in place for the Forum meeting in Rio de Janeiro in November.
“The purpose of this open consultation,” said Nitin Desai, the chair of the meeting and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Internet Governance, “is to take stock of the Athens Forum and to make an assessment of the extent to which it met expectations, to be forwarded to the Secretary-General.”
The Forum, which is not a decision-making body, was set up by UN Member States at the 2004 World Summit on the Information Society to carry out policy dialogue on Internet governance, and is designed to bring together not only governments, but academia, civil society, the private sector and members of the Internet community as well.
During today’s meeting, participants voiced differing views about the role of the Forum, such as whether it should reach agreed conclusions and policy recommendations or whether it would work better as a platform for exchanging information and ideas and best practices.
“This… definitely is not an executive process, it's not even a negotiating process,” Mr. Desai said. “But it must have a structure, a format and an outcome which is capable of influencing things, which can lead to real results at the ground level.”
The Forum should be able to tackle policy questions, Mr. Desai said, including the question of Internet core resources. “It cannot be negotiated here because this is not a negotiating forum,” he said, “but to the best of my understanding, it's not off the table. There is nothing which is off the table.”
The Forum is expected to meet again in May to prepare for the Rio de Janeiro session. The 2008 and 2009 sessions will be held in India and in Egypt.
Last year’s Forum in Athens dealt with freedom of expression, access, multilingualism, cyber-crime and a host of other issues. One of the key issues raised during the four days was the tension between relying on market forces and focusing on the “public good” nature of the Internet.