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Jeremy Malcolm, Murdoch University, Australia


What worked well:

  1. The translation service was excellent and truly a boon to the meeting.
  2. Almost all substantive (but not procedural) issues were well covered.
  3. The IGF Community Site at igf2006.info was very well received.

What worked less well:

  1. The meeting was structured as a conference, without the decision-making capacity needed for it to fulfil its express mandate to, inter alia, "Identify emerging issues, ... and, where appropriate, make recommendations".
  2. The activities of the Secretariat and Advisory Committee were greatly lacking in transparency, with important decisions being made without notice to stakeholders, let alone affording them the opportunity to participate in those decisions.
  3. Lacking formal working groups, the IGF relies on "dynamic coalitions" to carry forward the task of generating practical outcomes, yet has no mechanism by which to receive the output of those coalitions, no guarantee that they were produced in an open and collaborative process, and no voice with which to ratify them.

Suggestions for improvements:

  1. My three principal suggestions concern the structure of the IGF and will be addressed under the next heading, but specifically relating to the format of the meeting in Rio I request:

    * Fewer panelists in the main sessions.
    * Consolidation of similar-themed workshops.
    * Workshops and main sessions not to be held concurrently.
    * A plenary session for discussion of procedural and organisational issues.
    * Plenary sessions for discussion of the output of dynamic coalitions.
    * Seat plenary sessions in table groups with time for small group discussion.
    * More reliable Internet access.
    * More affordable food.
    * No proprietary formats for documents and Webcasts.
    * The official, host country and community Web sites be combined.
    * Publicity be given to the [email protected] mailing list.

Other comments suggestions:

My three main suggestions are as follows:
 

  1. The development of criteria by which dynamic coalitions can be recognised by (or affiliated to) the IGF.  Recognition would imply being able to host workshops in the future, to be listed on the IGF's Web site, and to put their output to a plenary session.  The criteria that such coalitions would be required to satisfy should include membership that is free and open to any interested member of any of the four stakeholder groups, open publication of its proceedings, and some form of procedurally democratic internal governance.  The criteria developed should eventually be ratified by a plenary session of the IGF, as per the next point.
  2. In order for the IGF to be in a position to fulfil its mandate, it will be necessary for procedures to be developed within which for the output of dynamic coalitions recognised by the IGF to be received by the IGF in plenary session with a view to the development of consensus around them.  It is for this reason that I suggested in response to the preceding question about the next meeting, the use of table groups, and that plenary sessions be scheduled for discussion of the output of dynamic coalitions, as first steps towards the formation of a deliberative capacity for the IGF that would allow it to fulfil its mandate.
  3. There has been no word of whether the Advisory Group appointed for the first meeting is to remain in place.  Any future appointment process should be conducted by a multi-stakeholder nominations committee making its recommendation to the Secretary-General.  The principles by which the nominations committee should recommend appointments would be the same as those used by the Secretary-General himself; for example geographical and gender diversity, save that these criteria would be made public as too would the list of nominees for appointment.  As a secondary issue, the operations of the Advisory Group should be made more transparent which includes (at a minimum) that it should make regular reports of its activities, or (preferably) that its mailing list archive should be made public.

Synthesis:

  1. It was well-prepared and unbiased, although sketchy in some areas - perhaps unavoidably.  However no reference was made to it, as far as I am aware,  by anyone during the meeting.  For all the difference it made, it could have been that nobody even read it, let alone read the individual contributions upon which it was based.
  2. I think that it is still worthwhile to prepare something of that sort to assist those who do not have time to read all contributions in depth.  However, it should be explicitly used by session moderators as a starting point for discussion, and contributors to the documents referred to in the synthesis paper should be given preference in selection for panel membership.  Otherwise, there is no point to written contributions being made.