[IGFmaglist] Participation at IGF by MAG members

Bhatia, Virat virat.bhatia at intl.att.com
Fri May 20 09:38:10 EDT 2016

Dear Peter,
Many thanks for your email.
This is an important issue and we must try and close it at the earliest and with the best possible way forward.
Here is a brief description of the evolutionary perspective, and past discussions, followed by my submission on the issue.

1.      Discussion started in 2014

(i)      Before 2014 IGF in Istanbul, some MAG members (not all) served as speakers and/or moderators in main sessions and workshops. There was no rule limiting or preventing such participation. In 2014, during my first year in the MAG, the MAG imposed a self-restraint, ahead of Istanbul IGF for the first time.  Some of the reasons are already well documented in your mail.  Pros and cons were argued (as you have) and on the balance, the rule of “3+1” was agreed upon (maximum of 3 workshops and 1 main session), where a MAG member could serve either as a speaker and/or as a moderator.

(ii)    In part, the complete ban could not be  imposed in 2014, because, by the time the discussion on limiting MAG members participation as speakers and / or moderators gained ground, several MAG members had already committed to serve as speakers on approved workshops for IGF 2014.  Since MAG members were already committed, they could not withdraw at the last minute, leaving workshop organizers in a lurch.

2.      In 2015

In 2015 the rule continued to remain, but it was generally understood that MAG members could serve as speakers and/or moderators at main sessions and workshops within the rule of 3+1, but only as an exception. (E.g. no other candidate available to serve as moderator / speaker or last minute cancellation, etc.) At least that is how I understood the position and acted upon it.  Admittedly the rule may not have been followed in its letter and spirit in 2015.  However my impression is, that for the most part there was tremendous self-restraint shown by MAG members in 2015.
Several of us in the MAG who have been regular speakers and moderators, both for main sessions and workshops, have politely refused speaking opportunities, offered by workshop proposers and main session organizers in 2014 and 15.

3.      Now for 2016 ( my submission)

For 2016, I would recommend that we go with option 3 that you have suggested:
“A complete limit (ban) on MAG member involvement (probably with a let-out clause that would allow a MAG member to apply for dispensation in certain circumstance).”
If the MAG agrees, this can be implemented for both main sessions and workshops in 2016.
Main sessions:  Main session written proposals have not been finalized (perhaps not even written yet), so no MAG member stands committed as a speaker and / or moderator. Sufficient time for co-facilitators to find good alternatives between now and November 2016.
Workshops:  Since Workshop proposal evaluations have not begun yet, MAG members (if they agree) can recuse themselves, if a workshop proposer reaches out to them for serving as a moderator or speaker.
However, as option 3 (above) implies,  if there are unavoidable circumstances, where the MAG member in his wisdom decides, and the MAG agrees that an exception needs to be made, for either a main session or workshop, then the same can be allowed.
The above restraint (ban) is only for serving MAG members (during their tenure) as speakers and / or moderators at main sessions and workshops.    Once they rotate off the list, they can and must accept moderator /speaker roles for both main sessions and workshops.  In fact in some cases, they may be the best suited candidates
The restraint does not in any stop the MAG members from being co-facilitators or organizers of main sessions.  In fact quite the contrary.  The role of co-facilitators is completely different from that of moderators, as explained in the Working Group recommendations.

Again opting for restraint is my personal preference, and submitted for MAG’s consideration. Invite MAG members to weigh in.
Virat Bhatia

-----Original Message-----
From: Igfmaglist [mailto:igfmaglist-bounces at intgovforum.org] On Behalf Of Peter Dengate Thrush
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2016 6:08 AM
To: MAG-public <Igfmaglist at intgovforum.org>
Subject: [IGFmaglist] Participation at IGF by MAG members

Fellow MAG members,

With apologies for the delay, I’d like to return to a topic raised in our call last month - the public participation in events at IGF meetings by MAG members.

It appears there was a time when MAG members played an active part in not only proposing sessions of various sorts at IGF meetings, but chairing/moderating, speaking ( on panels and other formats) and generally taking a very public role at IGF meetings.

Over time, it has seemed more appropriate for MAG members to play a lesser public role. The possibility of a conflict of interest in proposing sessions which MAG members are involved in, even if they personally refrain from evaluating their own proposals, is one obvious reason for a reduced role.

When I joined the MAG last year, there were various comments made to the effect that MAG members should not assume public roles, but should encourage, coach and facilitate new talent to  emerge.

Last year, it appeared to me (entirely subjectively) that MAG members generally took a lower profile, but that was not uniform. Some MAG members appeared in a variety of public roles.

It seems to me we should have a discussion then come to a quick conclusion about the parameters of the public performance by MAG members.

The points on both sides of the issue are obvious: on the one hand MAG members are (typically) leaders in their communities, and have a good grasp of a wide range of topics, and serve well as speakers on topics they are familiar with, if not experts upon. One of the reasons for joining the MAG is to increase one’s involvement in these issues. For some if not many MAG members, active participation ( being in the published programme) is a pre-requisite for getting funding from employers or other parties. In other cases, it is the groups putting the sessions together that seek the participation of MAG members because of their high profile and expertise.

On the other hand, MAG members are leaders in their communities, and don’t need to increase their profiles. They could be using their positions to bring on new talent.The conflict of interest point extends across all formats - many worthwhile and interesting sessions are not approved for inclusion, and it weakens the IGF to have any appearance of favouritism. MAG members should do other things to enhance the profile of the IGF.

Doubtless there are more points, with many nuances around each one.

I suggest, for the purposes of the discussion that I now invite, that we consider three broad options;

(1) No Limits on MAG member involvement:

(2) Some limit (TBD after debate, but probably along the lines of the “Rule of 3” some have cited ( as if it were a rule);

(3) A complete limit (ban) on MAG member involvement ( probably with a let-out clause that would allow a MAG member to apply for dispensation in certain circumstance).

I look forward to some discussion on this, and then a move to closure.

I note that the Main Sessions draft produced by that WG takes the position that all Main Sessions need to be facilitated by MAG members ( a continuation of the same position taken in the 2015 paper.) I’d be interested in learning of the reasoning behind that.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.




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