[governance] Civil society transparency

Norbert Bollow nb at bollow.ch
Mon Jun 1 06:29:35 EDT 2015

On Sun, 31 May 2015 21:04:25 -0700
Jeremy Malcolm <jmalcolm at eff.org> wrote:

> On May 31, 2015, at 12:00 AM, Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch> wrote:
> > Given that the initial set of pointed questions were sparked by the
> > initial Bestbits meeting having been part of a formal "capacity
> > building" programme funded in part by the US and UK government,
> That is 100% false. None of the budget for that meeting was funded by
> any government grant

Sure. In view of the various circumstances (including in particular the
presence of a Google representative at the meeting) I have never had
any reason to harbor any doubts that the disclosures about the funding
for the formal budget of that meeting might potentially have been
insufficient, or that they might potentially have been untruthful.

The transparency/disclosure concerns were always about something else,
namely that (1) the other main organizer/leader of Bestbits besides you
had, according to the best available information, pursued this at least
during the 2012 phase as part of a formal, partly US government funded,
capacity building program, and that (2) it appeared that at least one
of the other people who were invited to become part of the initial
Bestbits steering committee have been partners of this "capacity
building program", and that (3) none of this had been disclosed to
Bestbits participants at the relevant times.

(Note: I wouldn't have objected to point '(2)' if it had been disclosed
in a timely manner and with a credible assurance that indeed it was only
one of the partners of the capacity building program who was invited to
the initial Bestbits steering committee.)

> and there was and is never any such capacity
> building program behind Best Bits. The draft report from an
> independent researcher that you read suggesting otherwise was
> categorically incorrect and I can only hope was subsequently
> corrected. 

I'd expect that in the public online version which is in the filename
marked "final draft", any errors pointed out by the interviewees will
have been corrected. 


This document states inter alia:

"the digital media rights sector both in the U.S. and elsewhere
continues to suffer limited resources [...] Recognition	of such
challenges is often why donor organizations step in to try to help.
This happens by way of entrepreneurial NGO actors approaching donors,
or donors approaching NGO actors to address a perceived gap in a
sector’s capacity to address important policy issues effectively. Yet
donor involvement—a necessary precondition for policy advocacy
organizations seeking sustainable capacity—also triggers conflict in
policy advocacy fields. [...] this paper explores some of the tensions
and also benefits of what will be referred to as “intermediary”
organizations’ involvement in helping to build the capacity of an
emergent policy	advocacy sector: the Internet freedom advocacy
sector that addresses Internet governance and human rights in a digital
media context. The paper features early-stage case study research on
a specific intermediary actor in this field: the Internet Freedom and
Human Rights (IFHR) program launched in 2012 and coordinated by Global
Partners & Associates (GP&A) in the UK with its Washington, DC partner,
the New America	Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI).
The IFHR program enjoys support for this work from several donor
organizations interested in digital rights issues, which include the
Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the Media Democracy Fund,
the British and Dutch governments, as well as the U.S. State
Department. GP&A, founded in 2005 and based in London, serves as the
primary grantee
Working within a short time frame, the program has succeeded in forging
strong alliances with its local partner organizations, working together
with them and other NGOs at regional and international forums to
produce useful policy proposals that have garnered widespread support.
[..] While working continuously with these partners, the IFHR program
also organized three large regional meetings for NGOs, scholars and
activists working on Internet freedom issues. These meetings occurred
in the fall of 2012, in Kenya, Azerbaijan and Brazil. Furthermore, the
IFHR program had a significant presence at the World Conference on
International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai, in December.
The Azerbaijan meeting [...] piggybacked on the 7th Internet
Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku, Azerbaijan 6-9 November 2012. Being
that the IGF is a UN-led, multi-stakeholder annual meeting,
established to discuss public policy issues related to the
Internet, the IFHR program saw it as an opportunity to convene
with many Internet governance and Internet rights NGOs at once.
They did so a few days before the start of the IGF, in a large
gathering called Best Bits.(*) To IFHR program staff, this was a
significant achievement (especially due to the preponderance of
disparate perspectives), as the Best Bits meeting resulted in a clear
consensus amongst those present, and an ensuing statement, which was
later quoted by the US government (Puddephatt, 2012). Interviews
with IFHR program staff suggest that to them, the occasion
demonstrated the true potential for global coalition building, a
main goal of the IFHR program."
(*) At this point there is a reference to an endnote which says:
"http://bestbits.net/ ;	from interviews we learned that the term
“Best Bits” was suggested by Dr. Jeremy Malcolm, senior policy
officer for Consumers International’s “Consumers in the Digital
Age” programme:

If in spite of all of the above, you still believe that your claim is
defensible that "there was and is never any such capacity building
program behind Best Bits", please arrange for disclosure of the true
facts about the role and activities of the IFHR program in relation to
Bestbits, which would in that case have been misunderstood by the
researchers, and explain how that misunderstanding would have come


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