Evaluating Multistakeholder Mechanisms to Address Internet Governance Issues

3 September 2014 - A Workshop on Other in Istanbul, Turkey

Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions

The evolution of Internet governance principles frameworks and accountability mechanisms has been the focus of considerable discussion in 2014 and has emerged as an important focus of this year’s IGF . Some governments have highlighted concern about Internet-related public policy issues for which they cannot identify relevant existing mechanisms. However, before concluding that new mechanisms should be created to address these issues, alternative options must be sought to ensure that changes would contribute to enhancing the security, stability, privacy, resiliency and interoperability of the Internet, and to economical and societal benefits.

Workshop speakers examined how governance/operational problems can be addressed in a manner that continues to safeguard the security and stability of the Internet. Highlights of their comments include:

Evolution of the Internet affects our conceptions of multistakeholderism – Virtually all of the workshop speakers echoed what emerged as an overarching theme: the Internet has evolved since the WSIS process was launched nearly 10 years so, and so too, have our conceptions of what constitutes Internet governance and appropriate multistakeholder mechanisms. They underscored the importance of examining existing Internet governance mechanisms, assessing and evaluating their effectiveness in addressing current and emerging challenges, identifying gaps, and considering how mechanisms might be enhanced – or even changed – to address emerging challenges. Fundamental elements of the multistakeholder model should not be altered, however, stressed Baher Emat, Vice President, Stakeholder Engagement Middle East, ICANN. These elements include inclusiveness, transparency, and bottom-up participation.

Evaluation of mechanisms, by necessity, must be ongoing – The speakers further concurred that the evaluation of multistakeholder mechanisms will never really be “completed” because the Internet itself continues to evolve. We must resist the urge for a “final solution.” Such an approach would undermine the flexibility needed to enable the Internet to serve as platform for innovation and economic growth. “This is a process of evolution in which we are all creators. But rather than a survival-of-the-fittest evolution, we are creating multistakeholder mechanisms that are fit for people,” said Joy Liddicoat, Human Rights Specialist, Association for Progressive Communications.

Phil Rushton, Standards and Numbering Policy Strategist, BT, described the work of the CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation in developing a spreadsheet detailing 24 very broad areas of issues associated with Internet governance and its plans to conduct a review of the mapping exercise that the CSTD WG on Enhanced co-operation to identify possible governance gaps. In the subsequent Q&A session, Rushton was asked if the CSTD is the best and only place for an evaluation of governance mechanisms. Would it be more effective for different communities to undertake their own evaluations? He proposed that to truly realize progress and better understand the adequacy of governance mechanisms, such evaluations should take place at the national, regional, and international levels working separately and ultimately coordinating their efforts.

Improve mechanisms at national and regional levels as well as global level – National and regional entities will take their cues from how discussions evolve in global forums, such as the IGF as well as at entities like ICANN, the CSTD, and the WSIS Review process. Thus, if we are to truly bridge the digital divide and build a responsible Internet governance process, it is imperative to foster discussions about multistakeholder governance mechanisms from the grass-roots up through the regional level.

Global forums embrace the multistakeholder model -- Indicative of how Internet governance discussions have evolved is the focus in recent years on safeguarding economic, cultural, and social rights. Related to this, the multistakeholder model has been referenced in a growing number of international forums. For example, the UN High Commission Report on Human Rights specifically calls for multistakeholder input to develop an appropriate response to surveillance and privacy challenges.

Key to evaluating multistakeholder mechanisms is understanding the linkage between the “ICT-Internet world” and “other worlds” – Rushton delved into some interesting revelations from the CSTD’s compilation of examples of enhanced cooperation. He cited the example of Interpol – an entity typically associated with combating criminal activity. But it is an entity that, while not central to the Internet governance debate, nevertheless has an impact and a role. In order to evaluate whether multistakeholder mechanisms are evolving to address changes in the Internet governance space, we must understand such linkages, according to Rushton.

No single multistakeholder model addresses all challenges in Internet governance – Jandyr Santos, Jr., Head of the Information Society Division, Ministry of External Relations, Government of Brazil, described the NETMundial Internet governance meeting hosted by Brazil as breaking new ground through its practical and successful application of the multistakeholder model. The meeting demonstrated that a multistakeholder approach can be outcome-oriented. He proposed that the reason for the success of the NETMundial was that the goals and objectives of the meeting – specifically, producing a set of principles and a roadmap for Internet governance going forward – were clear from the outset. This lent predictability and transparency to the process so that stakeholders knew exactly what was expected of them in finalizing the two documents at the actual meeting. But there is no single multistakeholder approach to address the broad and complicated range of challenges in Internet governance, he acknowledged. The NETMundial meeting provided an innovative approach to tackle the complexities in Internet governance, according to Santos.

Building trust in existing mechanisms -- Mohamed El Dahshan, International Language Institute Helioplis, noted that it always will be tempting to create new mechanisms and new bureaucracies to implement them because of the perception that “new is better.” Rather than succumbing to this urge, we should focus on evaluating existing mechanisms and “be honest about problems.” Many international institutions that address Internet governance issues are “nested” within much larger governmental organizations and are not accessible to all stakeholders. Thus, the problem we face may not be the absence of mechanisms so much as stakeholder trust in existing mechanisms. He urged a clear dialogue to identify underlying trust issues, which should be more open to accountability reviews, more open to criticism, and more open to participation. Mohamed concluded that even though many mechanisms exist, responding to a multitude of existing needs and problems, many of them lack representativeness, accessibility, and more importantly, do not enjoy the universal trust of all stakeholders. A case-by-case assessment will be necessary to ensure their appropriateness.

Importance of Legitimacy – Santos underscored that the multistakeholder approach is less about people than about the process itself. “The issue at stake is legitimacy,” he said. The fact that the process provides channels enabling individuals to express their views and that all stakeholders are regarded as legitimate participants in discussions is the hallmark and strength of the multistakeholder mechanism.

Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions

Joy Liddicoat
• We should affirm the notion that we are in the process of change. Evolution of the Internet and multistakeholder mechanisms should be organic. The best of what we have now will help us grow into the future.
• Must continue to share best practices and thoughtfully consider what has worked and what was less successful. Sharing failures in constructive ways will help us to building better mechanisms going forward.

Baher Esmat
• A theme of IGF 2015 has been the need to create a more action-oriented process. In pursuit of this goals, it is important to support national and regional multistakeholder initiatives and process. It is important to support the establishment and continuity of these approaches.
• Developing robust national and regional initiatives will be key to engaging greater developing country participation in the IGF. We must work to ensure that developing countries have the tools, capacities, and resources to experience the multistakeholder model in their own countries.

Phil Ruston
• There is no one answer concerning “the best” multistakeholder mechanisms. Many mechanisms exist and we need to continue gathering evidence of their efficacy.
• We need to better understand the relationships between the ICT/Internet-centered world and other sectors whose own activities have an impact on governance of the Internet.

Jandyr Santors, Jr.
• We must continue to be creative, there is no single solution given the complexity of the Internet and the complicated challenges it creates.
• We must be ambitious and “dare to innovate.”
• We must ensure that transparency remains a central element of the multistakeholder model. This creates confidence in the process.
• Creating a predictable process also will generate confidence that the multistakeholder model and produce outcomes.

Mohamed el Dahshan
• In endeavoring to improve multistakeholder mechanisms, do not build new layers of bureaucracy.
• Need to be honest with ourselves to properly understand where improvements evolutions to multistakeholder mechanisms may be needed.

Estimation of the overall number of participants present at the workshop


Estimation of the overall number of women present at the workshop

about half of the participants were women

Extent to that the workshop discuss gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

was one of the main theme of the workshop

A brief summary of the discussions in case that the workshop addressed issues related to gender equality and/or women’s empowerment

In discussing how the Internet governance space has evolved to enable new organizations to effectively pursue human rights-related issues, Joy Liddicoat described the work of the Gender Dynamic Coalition. The Coalition took the lead in developing ground-breaking Feminist Principles for the Internet.

Reported by

Barbara Wanner