Parliamentarian Challenge: A Round Table between Parliamentarians and Other Stakeholders Nominet

30 September 2011 - A Main Session on Internet Governance for Development in Nairobi, Kenya


An increasing number of parliamentarians have attended IGF meetings and engaged in dialogue in workshops and plenary sessions. Many of these have questions and concerns associated with feedback and comments from their constituents and from media reports. They need to understand issues to be effective in the legislative dialogue.
The session will seek to provide an opportunity for the parliamentarians to enter into dialogue with experts from other stakeholder groups. We will encourage parliamentarians to put forward issues for discussion and seek to bring together relevant experts from a wide range of stakeholder groups and different countries and geographical regions for a focused discussion on how to respond to the parliamentarians’ challenges.



A brief substantive summary and the main events that were raised:
• The Hon James Rege, Member of Parliament, Kenya (Chair)
• The Rt Hon Alun Michael, Member of Parliament, UK
• Robert Shlegel, Member of Parliament, Russian Federation
• Arda Gerkens, Former Member of the Dutch Parliament and Member of the Working Committee on Copyright and Government IT Expenditure, currently a Political Advisor
• Sabine Verheyen, Member of the European Parliament from Germany, Member of the Culture, Education & Media Committee
• Eric Joyce, Member of Parliament, UK (from the floor)

Short introductions from the panel identified a number of issues of specific interest to them and their parliament:
• Public interest in the management of infrastructure
• Human rights, right to privacy, security
• Protection of personal data
• Access to a safe and secure Internet
• Electronic identity and identification
• E-government and e-democracy
• Intellectual property and copyright
• Combating child abuse, shared international understanding of terminology on issues such as extremist views, race (and other forms of) hate speech, trans-frontier trafficking
For Parliamentarians there was a real need to develop understanding and ensure well-informed policy decisions. The framework of multi-stakeholder discussion helps in this process and the parliamentarians all agreed on the need for improving understanding and developing ideas with other stakeholders. As such the IGF provides an ideal forum.
The discussion, with interventions from people from the Netherlands, India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Kenya and the UK focussed on the following issues:
• No one entity or community can answer all the diverse issues associated with the Internet: the IGF has a very important role here. The Internet is a tool, and like many tools it can be dangerous if not used properly: the IGF has also got a role in helping people understand how to get the best from the Internet safely.
• Parliamentarians and governments have a role to protect the citizen. Crimes like the theft of IDs, the theft of citizens' money, child sexual abuse, and incitement to hate are all things that most countries agree are illegal, but they're harder to police. The IGF needs to help build an international consensus and understanding to support and protect the citizen worldwide. This needs to be seen in the context of securing human rights on the Internet, a major priority for the parliamentarians.
• The role of the parliamentarian with the development of e-democracy.
• While some new laws have been needed, a lot of the existing legal base is directly applicable. But there needs to be education and awareness-raising for the police and judges.


Conclusions and further comments:
Panel and speakers agreed that there was real advantage in parliamentarians engaging in discussions in the IGF, contributing to the debate and developing their understanding, and not as “experts” delivering advice. In fact a major motivation for engagement was identified by one MP as helping improve their understanding of complicated and diverse issues.
This engagement will also help parliamentarians understand the cross-border and diverse nature of the questions. As one parliamentarian put it, the role of MPs in this forum is “to listen, to talk, to exchange, and to take all these points of view” and “the Internet is not something virtual where we have to find laws and special things but we have to transfer in an intelligent and good way the common rules for our daily life, for that's what our societies decided what's right and what's wrong for us.”
We are addressing behaviours, rather than the technology. So we need to look at legislation that is more about human beings and behaviour and then look at the way that they're applied and interpreted, whether by the courts or by partnership approaches to crime prevention, which actually a much more effective way of doing things than thinking that everything has to be done through the detailed lines of legislation and a very bureaucratic approach to these things.
The engagement of members of parliament is important. Their role is very clear: not just to contribute or pontificate, but to listen and to participate.

The parliamentarians welcomed the Kenyan innovation of a high-level event on the day before the IGF started, providing a dialogue between Ministers from many countries, parliamentarians and world-leading experts. It was recommended that this be made a part of the IGF for future years. This could usefully be followed early in the IGF with a session for parliamentarians to identify issues that are coming up in their parliamentary and public debates as discussion points with other stakeholders.