[governance] Is this the same in Internet Governance?

michael gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Thu Mar 8 11:31:54 EST 2012

(to repeat an argument I made a while ago but which wasn't commented upon at
the time...
Perhaps an element of theory might be useful here... We talk rather blithely
of a "multi-stakeholder forum"... and rather emphasize the "multi" at the
expense of the "stakeholder" element but if we shift the emphasis, then the
question is what exactly to we mean by "stake"
There are several definitions but the most relevant one via
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stake is
a : something that is staked
<http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/staked>  for gain or loss  
 b : the prize in a contest  
 c : an interest or share in an undertaking or enterprise  
or according to Wikipedia "Equity stake
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_%28finance%29> , a share or interest in
a business or investment
"Stake" in this context would thus appear to be a synonym for "interest" and
so the question is what or whose "interests" are being represented in the
multi-stakeholder forum?
It is clear I think, what the private sector interests are; and the
government has it's own interests as the "owner" of a number of assets on
behalf of its citizens and as the primary arbiter (regulator?) of various
contractual (commercial and dare I, say social) obligations. Equally, the
techical community has an "interest" in (on behalf of its clients--mostly
private sector) to make sure that the techical underpinnings are facilitated
and not undermined.  (I have some questions/reservations about the
particular (independent?) stake/interests of academia in this regard but
I'll leave discussion to another time..
And that leaves "civil society"... representing the "stake" "interests" of
everyone else in the smooth functioning etc.etc. of the Internet.
The cost of participation by the private sector folks is infinitesimally
small compared to the value of the actual and potential "interests" that are
being discussed, and similarly for governments, and for the technical
community who in this analysis (and for financial purposes) should probably
be seen as a sub-set of the private sector.
Which again leaves CS as the odd person out.  They represent the broadest
set of "interests" but have immediate access to the most limited set of
financial resources to support their participation.  Crowd financing would
appear to be the appropriate path but for a variety of practical (and I
would argue theoretical) reasons that isn't going to work--the issues are
not sufficiently focussed or immediate, identification with the "interest"
involved is too diffused, there is an overall lack of organizing
intermediary structures in this area for CS and so on.
If this is beginning to sound a bit like various transition points in the
evolution of various historical representative democracies then so be it...
One of the first and most significant innovations in the creation of those
democracies was the determination to provide financial support on behalf of
the public to those participating in Parliamentary forums. Prior to that to
participate in Parliament required that you either have private wealth or a
significant financial backer... the move to direct payments to
Parliamentarians was precisely to allow those without such backing to
participate and was a major breakthrough in the rise of popular responsible
Without "public" support the IGF and whatever significance it might have
will be truncated and in the end will be discredited as a forum simply for
"stakeholdering" by "stake"holders with the "interests" of the many being
(financially) excluded in favour of the "interests" of the few.
Since ICANN now is the major imposer and collector of "tax" on the Internet
through its control of the naming process they should be obliged to provide
the resources through which a truly multi-stakeholder forum can be

 -----Original Message-----
From: governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org
[mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org] On Behalf Of parminder
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:35 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org
Subject: Re: [governance] Is this the same in Internet Governance?


Thanks for raising this very important issue. From the quoted article


"This is plutocracy, pure and simple. The battle for democracy is now a
straight fight against the billionaires and corporations reshaping politics
to suit their interests. The first task of all democrats must be to demand
that any group, of any complexion, seeking to effect political change should
reveal its funders."

It is our view, among civil society groups that I work with, that no one
should be considered civil society who doesnt reveal all funding sources, in
a completely transparent (preferably pro-active) manner, and is not ready to
answer all questions in this regard. 

What has been obvious to most for decades and centuries of devleopment of
democratic thinking, seems to be completely lost on a lot of the so called
IG civil society. There is this very dangerous talk of 'multi stakeholder
funding' against 'public funding' for policy bodies (what to speak of just
public interest civil society bodies). Since the civil society obviously has
no funds to spare, this is just a poorly-disguised call for corporate
funding for policy bodies. And this talk has flowered on this very list, and
we have kept quite, nay mostly been supportive. 

This is nothing other than the most powerful - plutocrats, referred in the
above quote - seeking to control the reins of policy -making and -shaping
bodies through control over their finances. And I have seen with horror how
easily civil society have fallen prey to this game, and openly supported
such moves. 

Even in the Working Group on Improvements to the IGF (WGIIGF) this game
played out, as one of the biggest contestations. Whether there should be any
global public funding at all for the IGF become a big sticking point. And
the final resolution was; no, IGF should entirely be supported by private
funds, whether of corporates, or by voluntary donations by countries who
have obvious partisan interests vis a vis global policy regimes. And what a
victory for civil society - that evil UN was able to be kept at bay. We can

So, who are we, of the IG world, to be surprised or feel wounded to read
such news items like this one - that special interests have been bank
rolling the so called civil society bodies. We have gone much further; we
have advocated and ensured that even policy bodies are exclusively financed
by private funds, so that what you cant do by your legitimate representation
in a policy developing system, you can do through control over its funds. A
brave new post-democratic world indeed. And we have been less than silent
accomplices in building it. 

One should have heard the long and strident arguments of our much valued
partners of the mustistakeholder brigade - you know who - against greater
transparency in IGF funding. However, these things look to IG civil society
as minor issues relative to that big demon - UN taking over the Internet.
(In the end though, and I give the credit largely to two government
participants - one from the North and another from the South - one of the
very very few real accomplishments of the report of the WG on IGF
Improvements is that it calls for full disclosure - on both sides, incomes
and expenditure - regarding IGF finances. )

Significantly, since an opposition to any UN funds for the IGF was
sweet-coated by the 'UN taking over the Internet' bogey, an alternative
innovative way of direct public funding of the IGF through routing of the
fees or taxes collected by the ICANN + system from the users was proposed,
but it was equally cynically shot down. So you see, the problem is not only
with UN's 'tainted' public funds - as some want to see it - it is against
any funding which is automatic and which doesnt give the rich and the
powerful discretionary levers of control over the global IG policy system.

Quite unhappily, there wasnt even any civil society support for this

In the circumstances, going back to the original article about corporate
money and politics, I think IG civil society has a lot to think about its
own conduct and outlook in this matter.


On Thursday 08 March 2012 06:12 PM, Fouad Bajwa wrote: 

We need to know who funds these thinktank lobbyists.



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