[governance] [JNC - Forum] [bestbits] Civil society transparency

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Sun Jun 7 02:18:35 EDT 2015

On Sunday 07 June 2015 10:30 AM, Roberto Bissio wrote:
> Dear Parminder,
> There are many mechanisms for CSO accountability.
> NGOS accredited to the UN have to regularly report on funding, bilaws,
> authorities and activities.
> Further, an INGO accountability charter
> exists: http://www.ingoaccountabilitycharter.org/
> Social Watch was a member, until we could not afford the membership
> fee, which is unfairly burdensome on poorer organizations from the South. 
> Some fee is required if you are to assess the reporting of the
> organizations. Otherwise everybody declares what it wants and the
> transparency is meaningless.


This is the reason that what is sought is a simple no cost statement of
voluntary declaration of (1) interests, and (2) objectives and (3)
funding sources, very much on the lines of the basic requirement that
you mention below, and I would add as per your note "affiliations to
networks or institutions "  (somewhat like theEU transparency register
<http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/homePage.do> .)   And
this with no fee or costs to those who enter the register -- the project
should be run on independent funding by whoever runs it, and I have
offered to help raise resources. And it being an online activity, the
project requires very little resources.

While in any case required for civil society, such a practise becomes
even more important in the IG space where (1) there is a special - even
'equal footing' - claim to be on policy tables ,  and (2) where the
geo-political investments  as well as corporate investments into CS
spaces by far exceed any other area.   Funding sources of both JNC and
BestBits have been publicly questioned in the recent past, on these very
lists. What better way to go forward than having basic transparency
declarations instituted to that there is a better basis for minimum
cooperation and working together as we go forward. In this regard, it is
important to recognise that for good or bad, or maybe that is just some
unique characteristics of a civil society space which is both in the
making in some way, and otherwise unique in some other ways, political
divisions have been especially deep within the IG civil society space.
(The reasons for this are structural, although repeated efforts are made
to lay the blame on individual behavioural causes, and thus escape the
real political basis of the differences .)  I know that these things are
not unknown in other areas, but still - stated very roughly - a better
mainstream conception of civil society is generally obtainable in other
areas. All these characteristics of the IG civil society space make
instituting some basic transparency guidelines - on a voluntary basis -
important for healthy development of civil society in the IG area, whose
political role in the emerging digitally-mediated society is going to be
extremly important. This should be a common commitment to ourselves, in
all humility with regard to the increasingly important political role
that civil society in the IG space plays.


> While it makes sense to demand accountability from organizations
> involved in the top levl of international advocacy, there are too many
> situations in the world where this could mean another additional and
> unfair request, on top of the many requests of regular reports that
> most countries have to grant incorporation. Demanding more from CSOs
> when neither governments nor corporations have to meet similar
> requirements seems unfair to me. But maybe it makes sense to have a
> list explaining wether the members are incporprated, where and under
> what title (for profit, non-profit, etc) and affilitiaons to networks
> or institutions they want to declare or wether it is an individual or
> an informal grouping. Do remember that it is an human right (right to
> association) to form groups of any kind, and they are (or should be)
> deemed as "innocent" until proven guilty. Too many states turn the
> table around and presume that associations are illegal until they
> register and demonstrate they are "clean". We should not unwillingly
> support that trend.
> best,
> Roberto
> On Sun, Jun 7, 2015 at 4:20 AM, Michael Gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com
> <mailto:gurstein at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Ian and all,
>     The reason why there is a request for disclosure is so as to know
>     the background or context from which opinions/positions/actions
>     emerge.  It is the same argument I think, as that concerning real
>     identity vs. anonymity as per the current Facebook controversy. It
>     is an extremely useful and in some cases essential item of
>     information to know who (the identity) it is that one is
>     interacting with.
>     My own feeling on the issue is that unless there are strong and
>     persuasive arguments in favour of anonymity then knowing the
>     “identity” of who (or what) ever one is interacting with is a
>     basic requirement. I don’t know that it has ever been an issue in
>     our various IG discussions but if it did arise my guess is that
>     most would opt for people using their “real” names/identities for
>     their contributions.
>     If the above is the case then I think that by extension we can
>     give some content to what we mean by “real identity”. 
>     To some degree the components of the “real identity” required for
>     effective communication/interaction will vary from context to
>     context—for romantic purposes age, appearance, gender would likely
>     be necessary; for financial contexts formal elements as might be
>     required or contracts such as citizenship, financial and credit
>     information are part of that “real identify”. 
>     I would argue that in our IG context “real identity” should
>     include a knowledge of the financial/contractual contexts (i.e.
>     who is paying the piper) from which individual participation is
>     being presented.
>     M
>     *From:*bestbits-request at lists.bestbits.net
>     <mailto:bestbits-request at lists.bestbits.net>
>     [mailto:bestbits-request at lists.bestbits.net
>     <mailto:bestbits-request at lists.bestbits.net>] *On Behalf Of *Ian Peter
>     *Sent:* June 7, 2015 6:03 AM
>     *To:* parminder; governance at lists.igcaucus.org
>     <mailto:governance at lists.igcaucus.org>; BestBitsList;
>     Forum at Justnetcoalition. Org; A general information sharing space
>     for the APC Community.
>     *Subject:* Re: [bestbits] [governance] Civil society transparency
>     Hi Parminder,
>     Following from the discussion, here is what I think is possible
>     and realistic in this space.
>     Firstly, I think the question of transparency and disclosure of
>     conflicts of interest is important.
>     However, I don’t think people need to declare interests to involve
>     themselves in discussion here or in any of our open mailing lists,
>     and the real concerns start to arise only when people are seeking
>     office as civil society representatives.
>     Here, most of the office bearing exists in the various coalitions
>     – APC, Best Bits, JNC, NCSG, IGC. I would urge each of these
>     groups, when holding elections, to require candidates to register
>     any conflicts of interest. I know Best Bits is moving to elections
>     for its Steering Committee again soon, perhaps it could formulate
>     some sort of basic disclosure requirement for its purposes? And I
>     guess JNC must be moving towards holding its first elections for
>     SC replenishment soon?  And IGC could easily add such a
>     requirement for its candidates for co cordinator elections
>     (presumably late this year).
>     But these are requirements for individual groups, and the form of
>     such is for each group to determine. I think however that such a
>     requirement would be a good idea.
>     As regards CSCG – our calls for candidates are for appointments to
>     outside bodies, and I agree that some form of disclosure of any
>     conflicts of interest would be a good idea. Currently it would
>     appear that our next task would be MAG replenishment (and a small
>     one at that), probably early next year. I will suggest to the
>     members that we should require some sort of basic disclosure
>     statement. But that of course is up to the members (APC, BB, JNC,
>     NCSG, IGC) to determine.
>     I’m not sure we can go much further. But if some work can be done
>     on a simple model of a form of disclosure, that would be good.
>     Ian Peter
>     *From:*parminder <mailto:parminder at itforchange.net>
>     *Sent:*Sunday, May 24, 2015 5:31 PM
>     *To:*Ian Peter <mailto:ian.peter at ianpeter.com> ;
>     governance at lists.igcaucus.org
>     <mailto:governance at lists.igcaucus.org> ; BestBitsList
>     <mailto:bestbits at lists.bestbits.net> ;
>     mailto:forum at justnetcoalition.org ; A general information sharing
>     space for the APC Community. <mailto:apc.forum at lists.apc.org>
>     *Subject:*[governance] Civil society transparency
>     Ian, and reps of civil society networks on the Civil Society
>     Coordination Group (CSCG) ,
>     I propose that CSCG sets up a civil society transparency project,
>     somewhat on the lines of the EU Transparency Register, pl see
>     http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/homePage.do .
>     It should in fact go beyond the EU initiative which is a general
>     one for all lobbying groups, whereas we here are concerned with
>     civil society which should set the highest example of transparency
>     and accountability. The 'register' can have self filled
>     information on objectives of an organisation, principles followed
>     by it, if any, its funding, partners, and so on....
>     This is at present just my proposal, but I hope one or more civil
>     society networks in the IG space can own it and push it... CSCG
>     would be well placed to run this project as a neutral space so
>     that there is no accusation of bias that any such initiative is
>     being employed for partisan purposes. In any case, a simple
>     initiative for openness, transparency and accountability can
>     hardly be partisan.
>     The register can have optional higher level features whereby a
>     group/ org can declare its means of public accountability, whether
>     and how its internal governance is done, how matters can be taken
>     by with their oversight bodies, like board etc, and whether they
>     have any means whereby they respond to public question on their
>     work, etc.
>     For such genuine cases where such transparency can harm an
>     organisations work, or security, such organisations, and only such
>     organisations, can be exempted employing a clear process and set
>     of criteria.
>     Remember, both the UN report on improvements to the IGF and the
>     NetMundial Statement highlight the issue of transparency. I also
>     recently read in these lists how we should make bridges with the
>     OpenGov movement which is almost wholly about this one thing. Time
>     we begin practising what we preach.
>     I look forward to hear responses to this proposal..
>     parminder
>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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