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In the quest of a Multi-stakeholder Policy Dialogue

The Tunis Agenda recognized the need of a new space for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue, and give us some orientation on how to build such a space: The Internet governance forum should be convened by the UN Secretary General to create a new space for “multi-stakeholder policy dialogueâ€? (para.72). It is supposed to be “multilateral, multi-stakeholder, democratic and transparent (para. 73); it “…would have no oversight functions and would not replace existent arrangements, mechanism, institutions or organizations, but involve them and take advantage of their expertise. It would have no involvement in day-to-day or technical operations of the Internet.â€?(para. 77)

It is clear and undeniable that the principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency and democracy should be the foundation of this new space for dialogue. To be inclusive, and became a truly multi-stakeholder space, the forum needs to recognize and welcome all stakeholders, and let them participate on an equal footing at all levels of the discussion. Beyond the “modelâ€? we want to replicate, it is important to recognize and follow these values.

A truly multi-stakeholder, transparent and open process let everyone participate in the critical tasks, and these tasks include the agenda and rule of procedures setting. Therefore, if we are going to have a bureau or any kind of committee to perform these important tasks, it should be composed in a way that: (1) represent the views and interests of all stakeholders, (2) conduct their work under open and transparent mechanisms and (3) have no preeminence for any of the stakeholders involved.

Setting up the rules of procedures is, consequently, a critical challenge. In this regards, WSIS rules of procedures should not be considered as a starting point. These rules were tailored for a different kind of forum, and are not suitable for a much broader, inclusive policy dialogue. The nature of the IGF is different than WSIS, and hence, this should be reflected in the rules.

There are many examples of how the WSIS strict rules would undermine the results of the IGF: The input received by a large group of stakeholders was limited to the observer role they have had during WSIS. Some of these stakeholders were very representative of the internet community, and, even when the Tunis Agenda recognized the importance of their ongoing roles in coordinating technical matters and their expertise, the process did not recognize them as a sui generis stakeholder, and did not allocate a specific time to hear and consider their thoughts on the different matters. Fortunately, members of the Civil Society and the Private Sector were kind enough to donor some of their scare time for this purposes on that opportunity.

There were also many organizations and members of the civil society that were precluded because of the rules. Just as an example, the first hours of the last PrepCom in Geneva were used to discuss the situation of an organization that was excluded because they refused to declare their funding sources.

These examples show some of the reasons why we should not use UN rules beyond the multi lingual capacities. A much higher degree of flexibility is desired to promote an open and inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue. These Consultations on the Convening of the IGF provide a good example of how a multi-stakeholder forum should be put in place.

The openness and inclusiveness of the process should also be a guideline when considering the mechanisms of participation. Physical presence excluded many stakeholders, especially those coming for less developed countries. This is why we ought to assure mechanisms of remote participation, namely, on-line discussion forums, e-mail discussion lists, wikis, podcasts and webcasts, just to name a few. Physical presence should not be a requirement to fully participate in the different debates that may arise.

IGF meetings should be done mainly through internet based mechanisms and one yearly meeting. This meeting shouldn’t take more that 3 or 4 working days, to cope with financial constrains and assure broad participation.

It would be also important to promote some financing mechanism to assure the participation of those who are in a disadvantageous position, i.e. those who come for less developed countries. The investment and promotion of capacity building programs is necessary to assure a well balanced participation in the long range, and this is why it should be one of the main topics addressed in the IGF discussions.

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