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Internet Governance 6 November 2012

IGF as a non-decision making body

IGF 2012 is officially opened. During the opening ceremony, Mr Wu Hongbo, Under Secretary General of the United Nations said that the IGF is a space where every voice has a say. This reminded me about a question I was asked few days ago: why does the IGF not make decisions?

The mandate of the IGF, as mentioned in the “Tunis Agenda”, is “to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet”. This is how the IGF was created: as a space for open, inclusive, democratic and transparent discussions on Internet related issues. Discussions in which all stakeholders – be they governments, civil society, private sector, technical community – “have a voice to say”. Should the IGF make decisions and, therefore, conclude with a negotiated document, this would most probably limit both the “freedom” with which people talk and the topics to be addressed. Because everyone would focus on negotiating the text of the final document (whathever form that may have: statement, recommendations, etc) and the depth of the discussions, that is now a characteristic of the IGF, would be lost.

Although there are no formal decisions made at the IGF, the Forum has the ability of informing and shaping the decisions that are being made within various Internet related bodies (like ICANN, ITU, European Union, etc). The open discussions in which all categories of stakeholders are involved at the IGF can result in ideas that are later on taken up by any of those decision-making bodies and transformed into policies. 

Taking all these aspects into account, I would say that the “non-decision making” feature of the IGF constitute one of its main assets. Should this change, the IGF itself would change. And maybe into something that we do not want…

But let me ask you: do you want the IGF to make decisions?

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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