[governance] IGF workshop approval criteria

William Drake drake at hei.unige.ch
Sat Jun 16 04:28:32 EDT 2007


Since Adam sent the below to the list after a series of private exchanges
between us on the same, I'd like to give my view, with which he disagrees.


On 6/15/07 10:38 AM, "Adam Peake" <ajp at glocom.ac.jp> wrote:

> My guess is demand for workshops will be higher
> this year -- IGF's better known and more will

> Last year all workshop proposals were accepted.

> If demand for workshops is greater than the
> number of available slots --even after merging of
> like themes-- then it will be necessary to reject
> some.  I think demand may well exceed supply.
> Most likely group to do this accepting/rejecting
> is the advisory group. And I suspect the first
> criteria for judging proposals will be if the
> workshop has a real multistakeholder organizing
> team behind it.  Proposals from the caucus will
> be good, certainly would show broad civil society
> support, but involving other stakeholders will be
> essential. Regional diversity also positive.
> Just my opinion.

I believe it would a bit unfair and potentially problematic for many
CS-initiated proposals if the mAG opts this year to strictly require that
workshops truly have multistakeholder sponsorship in order to get approved,
on the following grounds:

1.  Precedent.  Irrespective of what it said on the website, many workshops
approved for Athens were not remotely multistakeholder in organization, in
that they were sponsored by intra-species collaborations, single
organizations (IOs, business, CS) or individuals.  Aside from Adam's message
to this list yesterday, two weeks before the submission deadline, there has
been no public indication from the secretariat or mAG that the nominal rule
so clearly ignored last time will be enforced this time.  To me, that's in
effect changing the game mid-stream with little notification, and people
might understandably have been proceeding on the assumption they didn't have
to worry too much about this.   Adam disagrees.

2.  Political Reality.  It would be nice to believe that all stakeholders
support the IGF serving as an open forum in which, per WGIG, any stakeholder
can raise any issue, and hence are prepared to support any workshop
initiative that is on an important topic.  But as we have seen in many ways,
most recently with the funding withdrawal threat, the actual support for
free and open dialogue on any and all topics is rather variable.  Some
stakeholders may view proposed topics through the lens of their strategic
postures, even though it's only dialogue and not a negotiation.  One can
readily imagine topics that CS groups might like to have discussed that
would have a difficult time winning co-sponsorship from industry,
technical/administrative groupings, or certain governments.  I for example
might have problems getting support from such quarters for a session on a
development agenda because it's misconstrued as necessarily implying the
same sort of 'controversial and divisive' negotiations that happened with
the WIPO DA (it doesn't).   The same might apply to resources as global
commons, don't know.  Conversely, many CS groups might be reluctant to sign
onto an industry workshop on the glories of telecom liberalization and
privatization, the COE convention as a boon to civil liberties, or whatever.
Moreover, international organizations and governments might have additional
constraints in considering co-sponsorship requests, e.g. turf
considerations, the need to stay within agreed mandates, fear of being
associated with a 'controversial' topic even if they like it, reticence
about signing onto something initiated by CS, and so on.  In sum, if now
strictly applied, the rule would seem to favor anodyne topics and framings
that all can support like capacity building or, for that matter,
openness/diversity/security/access, over some tougher issues that really
need to be worked through and that the IGF alone can provide space for.

3.  Sponsorship vs Dialogue.  To me, what really matters is the flavor of
the dialogue, whether the speakers are MS and multi-perspective, not whether
the formal sponsorship is.  I cannot see why the names at the top of a
proposal are more important than the names of the panelists and the actual
discussion that ensues.  And it it will be much easier to get government,
IO, or industry people lined up as speakers than it is to get the same
people to convince their minister, SG, or CEO to organizationally endorse a

Parminder would like CS mAG members to communicate his request for more time
to the mAG and the secretariat (I'm agnostic on that---the deadline was
announced some time ago).  I would request in parallel that they communicate
this request that the MS requirement be construed more with regard to the
speakers and actual dialogue rather than the sponsorship.



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