[Governance] IGF Leadership panel: My personal stance

Suresh Ramasubramanian suresh at hserus.net
Sun Nov 28 15:58:56 EST 2021

The UN is more than a talk shop but has more than enough mandate to convert discussion to action. That the discussion is generally multilateral and inter governmental rather than Multistakeholder is ..

The igf has no such mandate or powers. And nor is it likely to acquire them.

Keeping with the big tent approach but making it more focused, attracting more and relevant stakeholders and less ridden with the same politics that have plagued sections of civil society engagement for decades would undoubtedly be useful.

Whether a brand new “leadership group” would accomplish this is rather doubtful, but whether or not it’d be as good or as bad as the current situation is an open question to me.

From: Governance <governance-bounces at lists.igcaucus.org> on behalf of Mueller, Milton L via Governance <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Sent: Monday, November 29, 2021 1:24:29 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Subject: Re: [Governance] IGF Leadership panel: My personal stance

Dear Nnenna:

Thanks for making your views clear. I haven’t seen you in a long time, so I had no idea you were so involved in the UN’s Digital Cooperation initiative. I understand and appreciate your perspective. Let me try to explain why I do not support the Leadership Panel, using your bullets as a starting point:

  *   After 15 years of IGF, I, personally would like to see it take on more policy engagement, beyond the "talk, conversation, sharing experience" status in which it is at the moment. Wolfgang and Jovan's points provide enough background

I think everyone wants this. But policy engagement will not be enhanced by plucking 10 “important” people out of the thousands who attend and contribute to IGF and telling them to do policy engagement. Policy engagement at IGF will happen when the stakeholders who have policy problems bring them to the IGF for help with their resolution and harmonization. That’s the problem we need to fix. If the policy making world does not engage with the IGF, if they do not see it as a vehicle for making things better, no small, artificially designated group of “leaders” is going to bring them in.

  *   I also do  not think that the IGF Leadership panel will prove to be a silver bullet, but it is worth a try.

It’s good you have realistic expectations. I would not seek to prevent you from giving it a try, but I do think it diverts attention from the real problem, which I explained above. And it does pose risks of undermining the whole premise of equal-status participation.

  *   The process that led to the Digital Cooperation Roadmap, which gave birth to the IGF suggestion was fully mutlistakeholder.

The problem with the Digital Cooperation Group is exactly the same as the problem with the Leadership Panel. A bunch of “high-level” leaders were assembled by the UN on the premise that they would do our thinking for us and show us the way. Most of us ignored it. Whatever its pretenses, this group has no real authority over any part of the internet, nor do they bring to the table the capital investment or labor or coding power that builds and sustains the internet. The Group articulated some nice, very broad norms, but a UN group of that sort simply writes reports, it has no authority to require anyone to follow its suggestions.

There is a bigger problem here, which I would like to put in front of you. It is that the UN system is largely impotent with respect to Internet Governance. Artificially designating some “high level” people as leaders will not change that, and cannot change that. The UN is itself nothing but a “talk shop.” But I support talk shops, and as a really good talker, you should too. To denigrate IGF by calling it a talk shop is to denigrate the entire UN. The world needs places for focused dialogue. Being a talk shop is not at all a bad thing.

Dr. Milton L Mueller

Georgia Institute of Technology

School of Public Policy

Internet Governance Project<https://internetgovernance.org/>

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