IGF 2022 WS #411 Move Fast and Fix Policy! Advocacy in an era of rapid change

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (07:30 UTC)
Caucus Room 11

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Constance Bommelaer, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Mira Milosevic, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Paola Galvez, Government, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: CATHERINE WANJIRU MUYA, Civil Society, African Group


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

This session will address the question of what processes and mechanisms need to be created so that diverse stakeholder groups can efficiently provide input on the growing array of digital policy being proposed. It will also explore the different modalities that might be employed to make sure that different stakeholders are able to provide meaningful input that can strengthen responses to complex policy issues. A specific policy angle this session will address is how to make sure that stakeholder groups that are typically under-represented in digital policy discussions such as news media, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and human rights advocates are able to engage meaningfully. Participation in policy dialogue can be challenging for these groups as they are often under-resourced for this particular type of engagement. However, their input is vital to make sure digital policy is both effective and is beneficial to broader social progress. Key policy questions for this session include: - What processes and mechanisms need to be created so that diverse stakeholder groups can efficiently provide input on the growing array of digital policy being proposed? - What can be done to ensure the perspectives of under-represented stakeholders are included in digital policy discussions? - What skills or knowledge are essential in order to meaningfully engage in conversations around the development or implementation of new legislation impacting the digital space? - What practical tools and tips can help digital rights advocates be better prepared to proactively advocate for digital policies that respect human rights and democratic values?

Connection with previous Messages:


16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: The topic addressed in this workshop is directly applicable to SDG #16, which aims to promote sustainable development through effective, accountable, and transparent institutions. Identifying best-practices and effective models for localization of emerging global digital norms is one way to ensure that countries around the globe are developing strong institutions that protect international protected human rights. In particular, this session will help advance targets 16.6 (Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels) and 16.7 (Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels) by promoting mutlistakeholder governance at the regional and national levels.


Over the past year alone at least 48 countries have proposed laws or new policy directives aimed at regulating social, economic, and political engagement online according to research from Freedom House. These include laws related to content moderation, data protection, and disinformation among other topics. Change in the digital policy landscape appears to be accelerating as governments and policymakers feel compelled to develop and implement laws as quickly as possible. However, the rapid pace of change can pose challenges to robust multistakeholder engagement and input as it has become increasingly difficult for diverse stakeholder groups to provide meaningful input at the national, regional, and international level quickly. This is exacerbated by the growing range of digital policy proposals as well as the fact that even small changes in one policy area can have ripple effects in other, seemingly distant areas. Moreover, policy discussions are often dominated by just two stakeholder groups–government and “Big Tech.” Without broad-based multistakeholder engagement there is a higher chance that new policies will be poorly conceived or, in a worst-case scenario, infringe upon internationally recognized human rights. This workshop will examine how to adapt and strengthen digital rights advocacy tactics in a context of rapid digital policy change. It will bring together advocates from diverse stakeholder groups (media, the technical community, civil society, and the business sector) to discuss how they are grappling with this challenge. In particular, it will focus on how to make sure that often under-represented stakeholder groups such as news media, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and human rights advocates are able to provide meaningful input. The speakers will share concrete examples of what specific strategies and tools they have used to quickly provide input on a broad array of policy proposals. They will also discuss what steps governments need to take to facilitate broader multistakeholder input. The end result will be a set of strategies to address the challenges as well as recommendations for civil society, governments, and the local business community to productively undertake multistakeholder governance.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcome of this session is a better understanding of how stakeholder groups–particularly ones typically underrepresented in digital policy development–can provide meaningful input on the vast array of policy proposals currently being discussed. This is important in order to make sure that new digital policies are effective and that they also uphold internationally recognized human rights guarantees. Knowledge on how to do this is particularly important in countries which have had traditionally less digital policy expertise and engagement. The insights gleaned from the roundtable discussion will be captured and incorporated into a forthcoming policy paper developed by the session organizers, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to help build capacity among policymakers and other stakeholders to assess the human rights implications of technology-related laws and legislation (e.g., 5G, data privacy, digital content moderation). CIMA, CIPE, and NDI collectively facilitate the Open Internet for Democracy Initiative (https://openinternet.global/) which seeks to build the capacity of digital rights advocates to effectively advocate for digital rights that are essential for democracy to flourish online.

Hybrid Format: The session will be designed so that participants both on-line and in-person can participate on equal footing. We will have an on-site moderator and a couple on-site speakers, as well as speakers who are participating virtually. We will also have a virtual moderator who will be assisting the main moderator so that any engagement online can be acknowledged. The hybrid nature of the event is important to us because it will result in a more diverse pool of participants from around the globe. We will also be using social media to promote the session and broadcast learning from the session to a wider audience, including those who might not be able to participate at the time of the session.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


On Friday, December 2, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), the Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) hosted a hybrid roundtable discussion, “Move Fast and Fix Policy! Advocacy in an era of rapid change.” 

The objective of the session was to discuss processes and mechanisms for diverse stakeholder groups to provide input on proposed digital policies. The session aimed to explore different modalities to provide this meaningful input. Participants heard from two alumni of the Open Internet for Democracy Leaders Program, Paola Galvez (University of Oxford) and Catherine Wanjiru Muya (Article 19), as well as Mira Milosevic (Global Forum for Media Development) and Constance Bommelaer (Project Liberty’s McCourt Institute). Daniel O’Maley (CIMA) moderated. 


Key takeaways

This insightful one-hour discussion focused on the need for inclusive, participatory, and long-term approaches in the development and implementation of policies that impact the digital space. From this session, two main takeaways emerged:


Firstly, speakers agreed that successful policy change in an era of rapid digital transformation requires building a foundation of trust between all involved stakeholders. Recommendations for accomplishing this include establishing ongoing, meaningful engagement opportunities (avoiding one-off meetings and events), identifying neutral mechanisms and spaces in which to collaborate, and ensuring participants are informed and have access to the information they need ahead of time in order to provide meaningful inputs.


Secondly, when working on policy change initiatives, it is important to conduct a regional mapping of experts and stakeholders. Civil society in particular tends to be treated as monolithic, when in fact there is typically a diversity of opinions and perspectives among that stakeholder group.


Identifying the problem: knowledge gaps and disconnected legislation

Mira Milosevic, who leads an international network of journalism support and media development organizations, noted that amid the challenge of an accelerating change in the digital policy landscape, the media sector is facing a huge gap in capacity and knowledge. She points to a lack of experience, evidence, research, and understanding of different policies and decisions. 


Despite these changes in landscape, laws are being brought forward and collective action is contributing to policy spaces. And although some legislation can be beneficial for users in regards to privacy, Catherine Muya highlighted that legislation can either be cumbersome for editors or in countries with repressive governments could be harmful for news outlets -- especially freelancers without support.


During the question and answer portion, virtual and in-person audiences asked about the issue of speed in developing legislation. Throughout the conversation speakers addressed the process of engagement, but when you factor in course correction and feedback loops, how are stakeholders able to address a timely and speedy solution without letting policies fall behind? Milosevic acknowledged that there are no mechanisms in place to act quickly given that there needs to be more transparency from key actors such as platforms and big companies.The session left audiences with food for thought.


Tackling policy gaps through multi stakeholder approaches

Digital policy takes form in various countries with different governance structures, and there is no one-size fits all approach. Paola Galvez, a Peruvian lawyer, said that just because teams are working on understanding legislation, they have the adequate knowledge of the digital ecosystem and embrace multistakeholderism. “Building trust and having meaningful relationships with all stakeholders is key. I didn’t realize that at first, but when we tried to approach stakeholders to do roundtables and workshops, that’s very practical, but we need to take a step back and figure out how I am building trust with these stakeholders.”


Reflecting on existing fora

On the subject of building “trust,” Milosevic recognized that in order to help build trust over time, there needs to be a space for different stakeholders to come together on a permanent basis while recognizing confidentiality and safety of the issues discussed. Ad hoc and last-minute engagements are “not enough.”


Constance Bommelaer, whose organization ensures that digital governance is prioritized in development of new tech and embedded in the next generation of the web, pointed to the IGF as a multistakeholder example where representatives of civil society, consumer societies, youth audiences, and a diverse set of countries come together. She noted that it’s important to not only participate but also support and create impartial platforms such as the IGF where learning can occur. Catherine Muya quickly jumped in after this to agree that when contributions come from both civil society and the private sector, the government can take issues more seriously. She pointed to the time when a strong community of artists came together in Kenya to educate legislators on the impact of a copyright bill. 


Participating with a hybrid audience

In terms of participation, the session drew an online audience from a wide range of countries outside of Africa, including India, Philippines, North Macedonia, and Armenia. Questions both online and in-person came from a range of individuals from organizations that work with the private sector, civil society, and technology education. Guy Berger, former director of Policies and Strategies regarding Communication and Information at UNESCO, live tweeted the event to his network and highlighted Bommelear’s comments on transparency and compliance for existing regulation and Muya’s comments on the need for evidence-based advocacy to speed-up policymaking. In-person and online participants also noted that the title of the session intrigued them.