Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Multistakeholderism in Internet Governance (IG)

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This topic doesn't seem to have attracted too much of this community's attention although strands of it have surfaced in some of the postings. The notion of multistakeholderism (as a form of deliberative democracy it was suggested in one of the postings) is central to IG, to my understanding covering both the process and the more institutional form of representation. No procedures are implicit in it other than it being open, transparent, balanced, inclusive & accountable. With the plethora of entities (state & non-state) involved to varying degrees & with varying decision-making power, some argue that policy decisions are hard to emerge from the complexity of having to engage in such a large number of policy fora & that policy decisions may be prone to the subjugation of minority to majoritarian interests, or by vested interests.

So given this tangle of factors & players, what is your opinion on:

  1. Preventing the capture of the process by vested interests;
  2. The legitimacy of the current multi-stakeholder model;
  3. The critical factors for the improvement of the current model, and ones that would actually determine IG outcome.
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Unlike the Internet, governance of the Internet is a pretty slow-moving development and perhaps it should not be rushed. Last week policy makers, civic society groups, corporates, academics, and other delegates converged in Bali (Internet Governance Forum) to discuss the mandate of the World Summit on the Information Society and public policies relating to Internet governance and to advise the United Nations-Secretary General as a multistakeholder forum. International society is made up of interacting forces involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society and it is important for the IGF to continue and improve its interaction and communication with other Internet governance-related entities and to support, expand and diversify participation of stakeholder groups in order to further global policy dialogue. Simply put, in today's world economic, institutional, stakeholder-based and citizen-based partners depend on each other. Thus, what is needed in an increasingly globalized world such as the Internet are agreed norms and standards. If stakeholders themselves are involved in the discussion and in the creation of an agreement, there is a higher likelihood that the agreement will be implemented and that stakeholders will be held accountable. On the other hand, there has been some criticism of multistakeholderism based on the argument that in multistakeholder situations lobbyists become legislators waiving the rights set up by democracies and nobody else has a vote and as a result multistakeholderism is sometimes seen as a coup d'état against democracy by lobbyists of a democratic system. Yet again, minority views should never be silenced and minority itself should not be excluded from any way in decision. Democracy implies that the minority should always be free to state its case, so that people can hear both sides before deciding who is right. If consensus cannot be achieved, the majority vote of a quorum should prevail and the decision should be equally valid.

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Thank you, Iaonna, for your thoughts on the question of multistakeholderism. I find them very pertinent. Indeed, multistakeholderism can only work and be accepted on its merit of including and involving all voices. Vested interests stand behind lobbyists and unless they enter in stark conflict of interest, such interests probably have a legitimate right to be there. Interests naturally have their role to play in agenda-setting and in any policy/political setting for that matter. They influence which issues are ultimately brought up in the public sphere - it would be naïve to believe otherwise. The question is how do we want this to take place. The risk is allowing them to highjack the set-up due to their weighting. I think that this is where efficient process comes in. A good process should stand as a barrier against such possibilities by strengthening all prerequisites for transparency. Could it even go as far as to allow to the greatest extent possible to check how authentic the different stakeholders are e.g. how honest they are; do they have a hidden agenda and is there consistency between what the organisation says in the public arenca and what it does in actual fact.

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Group managers
MARTINEZ GONZALEZ Cristina European Commission DG CONNECT/02 Head of Sector 'Integration of Regulation, Policy and Research"
KARLOUKOVSKA Vessela European Commission, DG CONNECT Stakeholders Unit Policy officer
AGARWAL Prabhat European Commission DG CONNECT Policy Officer
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