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Dr. Francis Muguet, Chair WSIS-SI WG, co-chair WSIS-PCT WG, member WSIS-Finance WG, WSIS-Edu.


Taking stock and the way forward

All stakeholders are invited to send us their comments and views on the Athens meeting and make suggestions with regard to the preparation of the meeting in Rio de Janeiro. You may wish to address topics such as the preparatory process, the logistics of the meeting as well as its format and content. In order to facilitate the assessment of the feed-back we suggest that you fill in the Web based for and put your comments in the following broad categories.

What worked well?

The symbol of the location of the first IGF  in Athens, cradle of the democracy.

The first round of talks after the opening ceremony was unusually frank.

The atmosphere created the possibility of informal exchange of informations.
The Greek government provided gorgeous buffets, as well as diners.

What worked less well?

Political issues :

The absence of H.E George Papadatos, WSIS Rapporteur, who proposed the idea of the first IGF in Athens, and who was very well acquainted with Civil Society, broke the continuity of the WSIS process, as far as Civil Society was concerned, It prevented the Greek government to play a major political role in the IGF organization.. Greece plays only the role of an event organizer.   

The current IGF process and the IGF event in Athens were not enough held and organize with a faithful spirit to the WSIS texts that were never strongly recalled  to the participants. The organization of the IGF meeting was not articulated along the very precise points of the IGF mandate.
In this sense, it can be felt that the current IGF process is betraying its mandate determined by the WSIS.

In particular it must be recalled that according to the WSIS texts :
78.../.. The UN Secretary-General should also:
2. establish an effective and cost-efficient bureau to support the IGF, ensuring multi-stakeholder participation.

A bureau has not been yet established so far, only a secretariat, which is diplomatically completely different. It is not up to the existing secretariat to decide whether a bureau should be established and how it should be done. It is up to the United Nation members to press the new UN Secretary General to fulfill this WSIS decision, as expeditiously as possible.

A very important point of the mandate of the IGF has been deliberately brought off the spotlight.
72.We ask the UN Secretary-General, in an open and inclusive process, to convene, by the second quarter of 2006, a meeting of the new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue called the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The mandate of the Forum is to:
g)Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations.

No serious efforts were made to identify emerging issues during the IGF, and the name of last session was a misnomer.  The last IGF session was a most welcome effort to involve young people, but it was not a session targeted at identifying emerging issues as mentioned in the IGF mandate.  For the record, so that it could be taken officially into account by the MAG,  I intervened in this last session and mentionned those issues. It was suprising that the speakers of the sessions were not aware of the WSIS texts and of the IGF mandate.

It was replied to me that currently the IGF cannot make recommendations, because no rules of procedures have been determined towards that goal. It is rather clear that the very reason that a bureau is mentioned in the WSIS texts, and not an office, is that precisely it is the task of a bureau to determine and to deal with procedural issues.

The creation of Dynamical Coalitions seem to have caught the IGF secretariat off guard, and in fact, after Athens,  the IGF secretariat did not make any serious effort to organize, recognize, and empower the coalitions.

Network and web site issues.

The IGF web site was locked, allegedly because of a security bug that could not fixed during the entire conference, preventing many workshop organizers to update the IGF site with their workshop schedule.

The computer network, entirely based, even for the cybercafé, on wireless technology was overloaded and erratic.  No computers at the cybercafé were running Free Software operating system, not because of the incapacity of the technicians, but because it was not indicated in the specifications of their services, by the IGF organizers.

The WIKI of the IGF where participants were invited, after the IGF meeting in Athens, to submit proposal of Dynamic Coalitions never worked properly, the proposals of Dynamic Coalition ( eg the Linguistic Diversity coalition ) on the WIKI were never taken into account, and finally the WIKI was closed recently without notice.

Logistical issues.

The location was ill-chosen, in a luxurious palace with exorbitant prices. I was informed that for  some diplomats of small european countries, that the price was above their regulations and have to ask special authorization.
It created bad feelings among some governmental delegates from developing countries, who were witnessing that some members of Civil Society could afford to stay at the Divani Appollon palace, when they could not.
For most part of the Civil Society, it was a real obstacle, creating yet another divide.

There was no easy public transportations from the Divani Appollon palace.

Suggestions for improvement in view of the second IGF meeting?

Political issues :
It is hoped that the host country would take a stronger political role as a facilitator between all stakeholders, and that the same well trained diplomatic team that participated to the WSIS process would oversee the organization of the next IGF, taking into account the WSIS best practices.

It is hoped that the next IGF meeting would be better articulated along the precise points of its mandate, and in particular that a specific session would deal with the identification of emerging issues, meanwhile that United Nations members would take the opportunity to make a formal request to the new secretary general to form Bureau for the IGF.
The Bureau should be multistakeholder with a broad and inclusive membership.
The current MAG, which is not mentioned in the WSIS texts, should not be considered as as the basis of the Bureau, because, at least, as far as Civil Society is concerned, Civil Society members of the MAG have not  been selected towards this purpose. 

Concerning the outputs of the overall IGF process, in particular, the IGF meetings and of the dynamical coalitions, it was proposed in Athens that those outputs be formatted along a very effective process familiar to all internet architects :: RFC ( Requests for Comments  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_Comments  ).
It would be indeed a fitting diplomatic innovation to adopt this format to deal with internet governance. 
This RFC process was also proposed independently by the representative of Indonesia, during the IGF in Athens.

Furthermore, it is suggested that willing governments involved in the next IGF meetings and any other willing  government,  alongside civil society and the business sector,  should implement a web platform to manage those RFCs, that would be called  RFC IS4D Information Society for Development ( name suggested by Eurolinc).  

Since the themes of the IGF meeting in Athens  overlapped with many of the themes of the actions lines as coordinated by ECOSOC, and implemented by various organizations such ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, etc... it would be appropriate that the organizer of the next IGF meeting should  invite the representatives of ECOSOC, ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, etc.. to make report and held workshops at the next IGF meeting, and should organize a satellite Forum after the IGF meeting on topics of the Geneva plan of action and of the Tunis agenda.

Concerning enhanced cooperation, nothing prevent the United Nation members to suggest to the new UN Secretary-General, to use the IGF forum as a cost effective tool to convene all stakeholders and to catalyze the enhanced cooperation, that has not started yet, 

It is hoped that the local Civil Society would be better involved than it was the case in Athens.

Logistical issues.
The conference center should be a public conference center, and not within a Hotel.
It should be conveniently located nearby affordable hotels and easily reachable with public transportations.

To compensate with Athens, it is suggested that all computers in the Cybercafé be running GNU/Linux operating system in the next IGF meeting. 

Many workshops lacked translation in Athens, because of the cost. It is suggested that local volunteer students be called upon to help Civil Society workshops for translation purposes.

Since the travel costs to fly to Brazil,are going to constitute an obstacle for many usual WSIS Civil Society participants, as well as new participants. It is suggested that Brazil should provide some financial assistance, and should partner with the European Union that has promised to provide financial assistance through the channel of the WSIS Civil Society Bureau.

Did the synthesis paper, which gave an overview of all contributions received and which was translated in all UN languages, meet a real need? Should a similar paper be prepared prior to the next meeting?

There is a crucial need of a synthesis paper, the problem is that the content of the specific synthesis paper for Athens was not enough targeted at the real problems of Internet Governance,. It did not reported, in a fair fashion,  critical opinions and therefore was of little practical use, and in fact it was never used as a reference in any discussion, so far I know in Athens.