This input is made on the behalf of IT for Change, an NGO based in India (www.ITforChange.net )
We are of the view that the issue of rotation of members of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) should be seen within and prefaced by an examination of some wider questions regarding the MAG. These questions relate to the very purpose of the MAG, and its effectiveness to meet this purpose. Background issues that frame the reconstitution of the MAG
The nature of MAG is not clearly defined by the Tunis agenda, and its present form is mostly a matter of a convenient arrangement by those who have exercised power in deciding on this issue. This may have been quite well-meaning, as a part of a cautious approach immediately post-WSIS. However, the above stated fact of the ambiguity of the Tunis Agenda should allow us to keep open the options of what exactly does MAG, and even IGF, mean – or better still, what or who is the IGF. In any case, section 73 b of the Tunis agenda mentions that the IGF could have ‘a lightweight and decentralized structure that would be subject to periodic review'. Section 74 encourages the UN Secretary General to ‘to examine a range of options for the convening of the Forum’. The present structure of the Forum represents one such option, but the Tunis Agenda leaves other options open, and these should be examined in light of whether, and to the extent to which, IGF may be fulfilling the objectives of setting it up. After two meetings of the IGF, such a review is in order. Such a review alone will enable us to make judgments about an appropriate structure for the MAG.
To us it appears unlikely that either the IGF was meant to be just an assemblage of people who gathered at its annual meeting, or that such an assemblage by itself can fulfill the purpose and objectives of the IGF. The IGF has been given a set of clear mandates; it is difficult to understand how a mere open assemblage of people can be given a mandate. What would be the meaning of ‘mandating such an assemblage’? Besides, many of the specific mandates given by the Tunis agenda expressly can NOT be fulfilled by a group without some clear structure, and a set of some stable processes about it.
This leads us to believe that, in the light of the Tunis Agenda, the only way the IGF can be visualized must consist of some organized structure and processes apart from the annual meeting. And this ‘organized structure’ cannot just, and exclusively, be for organizing the annual meeting (as MAG works at present), but be such as to be adequate to meet the objectives and the mandate of the IGF, while the annual meeting itself remains the key body that legitimizes and provides the primary substance for the overall activity and outputs of the IGF.
Apart from a direct reading of the Tunis agenda, an examination of the context in which IGF was formed also gives clues to what it should be able to achieve, and consequently what its structure should be. The text on IGF appears in the second part of the section on ‘Internet Governance’ in the Tunis Agenda, where after dealing with some specific issues in Internet Governance, from section 55 onwards, it moves on to the actual mechanism of IG, and the context of institutional requirements for global internet related public policy issues. We know that this part came out of some inconclusive agreements and mostly contains text of which the main purpose is to leave open future possibilities for appropriate global arrangements for this very important area.
The IGF was also mandated to meet some of the important requirements in this area. In assessing whether the present arrangements representing the IGF are adequate and appropriate we must examine the question; have they at all enabled us to make any progress towards plugging the gap in terms of global Internet policy mechanisms and resolutions (such a gap is recognized by section 60), and addressing the fact of the limitations of the legitimacy and representative-ness of the present mechanisms (to which allusions are made at various places in the Tunis Agenda).
It is not worthwhile to speak about MAG’s reconstitution without examining these issues – for we must know, reconstitution for what, and in what direction. All further decisions in this regard need to be framed within an open and thorough discussion on these issues, which we implore the MAG to take up with all stakeholders.
In absence of such an engagement, one will have to conclude – though it may be taken as an extreme view, we feel it politically necessary to express it – that IGF and the MAG may only end up aiding the legitimization of the status quo in global Internet policy making. WSIS was a seen as a process both to create new public policy spaces in the IG arena, and seek democratization of the existing ones, and IGF must take this WSIS agenda forward.
MAG - as the structure that determines much of what IGF is and what its outputs are - must be adequate to this task. This first of all requires appropriate decision-making processes and powers for the MAG. We saw how MAG was paralyzed in the relatively simple task of selecting speakers for the IGF’s annual meeting at Rio. This calls for some introspection, and seeking both the political will and the right processes to make decisions that are necessary to enable IGF to fulfill its mandate. In the working of the WGIG we know that a multi-stakeholder group when it takes its political task seriously is capable of producing much useful output. IGF and MAG should not give up before they have started to produce any useful results. Specific Inputs on the issue of rotations of MAG members
In light of the above points, we are of the view that MAG’s role and nature should be re-examined before going for its reconstitution. Meanwhile, in terms of the specific issue of rotating the members of the MAG the following inputs are offered:
1. One third of MAG members should be rotated every year.
2. Forty is a good number for total number of members for the MAG.
3. This number should be equally divided between the three stakeholders recognized in the Tunis Agenda – government, civil society and the business sector. (IGF should move towards using the term ‘business sector’ rather than the ‘private sector’, since this sector prefers to recognize itself as the business sector. More importantly, the different usage of the term ‘private sector’ in the US, and consequently in some existing IG structures, than its normal usage in the UN system, creates great confusion. This confusion has often led to improper recognition of constituencies and legitimacies in IG discourse.)
4. It is not right to give representation to the ‘technical community’ as a separate, fourth, stakeholder group. Expertise is important but the stakeholder grouping is as per interests represented, and we are unable to understand what separate ‘interests’ does the ‘technical community’ represent. Adequate expertise should be spread across all stakeholder groups, and this can be a criterion that can be kept in mind while making the final selection.
5. Stakeholder representatives should be selected based on appropriate processes of self-selection by stakeholder groups. We do appreciate that it is difficult to recognize any one stakeholder entity, or even a given set of them, as completely representing the whole of that particular stakeholder group. This complicates the process of selection, especially in the case of civil society and business sectors, and makes for some scope for the final selecting authority exercising some amount of judgment. However, the exercise of such judgment should be done in a completely transparent manner. Deviations from the self-selection processes of stakeholder groups should be kept to the minimum and be defensible, and normally be explained.
6. All stakeholders should be asked to keep in mind the need to adequately represent diversity in terms of gender, geography, and, where applicable, special interest groups.
7. We find interesting the recommendation of a few members of the technical community in an earlier post that “AG members should be chosen on the basis of how large and diverse a community they connect to (which is different than "represent")”. We very much agree with this, and will like to further explore the implications of this criterion.
8. As for Special Advisors, if they have to be continued, their role needs to be clarified. It is also important that there is enough diversity in terms of geography and of the constituencies they may ‘connect to’ which unfortunately is missing at present.
9. There should be a single chair for the MAG, which is nominated by the UN Secretary General. The host country may be allowed to nominate a deputy chair.
10. We very much agree with the UN Secretary General’s communication seeking greater transparency and flow of information between MAG and the various interested groups. We note with great appreciation that MAG has taken some steps in this direction – chiefly, issuing of a summary of proceedings of its closed door meetings, and recently, in this thread of discussions on rotation of MAG members, sharing the full proceedings of its online consultations. However, we see no reason why all MAG proceedings cannot be made completely open with full transcripts made available. Only such discussions where individuals are discussed, as in case of selection of speakers for IGF meetings, may be excluded. Other exclusions may be sought with clear and specific reasons, which themselves should be disclosed.