Digital Single Market
Digital Economy & Society

No one model, but one common issue and a suitable forum in 2014


Do you think that the current multi-stakeholder model has enough legitimacy – both regarding process and stakeholders - given the fundamental impact of the Internet on our societies? There is no single "current multi-stakeholder model". There are a variety of Internet governance institutions all describing themselves as multi-stakeholder, but with quite different (and by no means equal) approaches to implementing multi-stakeholderism. There is a need for the assessment of individual Internet governance institutions against a set of consensually agreed criteria of multi-stakeholderism, and this is a task that the Internet Governance Forum could legitimately perform through a multi-stakeholder process, pursuant its mandate in paragraph 72(i) of the Tunis Agenda. Such criteria may include: • agreement of all participants to work to collective goal or common purpose • openness and inclusiveness in seeking input/views from all interested parties • documents and materials made freely available on line to all parties • clear, equitable processes for developing outcomes which provide consideration of all inputs/views • respect for all participants involved How can capture of the process by vested interests be prevented? The "open door" model of multi-stakeholderism is not sufficient to balance the participation of stakeholder groups that may have significantly different levels of power and resources to bring to the process. Rather this requires a more structured and actively facilitated model of multi-stakeholderism, drawing on deliberative democratic theory and practice, that seeks to ensure that all affected viewpoints are brought into the discussion, but that power imbalances are neutralised. This is the main justification for dividing stakeholders into groups such as "civil society" and "private sector". Whilst inevitably somewhat artificial, this facilitates the rebalancing of the power relations between groups so that the process is not captured. Where does the model need to be improved? Again, there is no "the model". ICANN needs to be improved in completely different ways to the IETF, the ITU, the IGF or the OECD. But in general, work needs to be done on clarifying the relationship between governments and the other stakeholder groups. There is yet no broad consensus as to how the differences between the stakeholder groups should be reflected in differentiating their roles within multi-stakeholder processes - most specifically, whether, and if so how, governments should continue to exercise some form of overall policy leadership. This is a difficult point to sell to the Internet community - and not without reason, given how completely governments purporting to be champions of global "Internet freedom" have failed in that role. How do you think that discussions and solutions to these challenges should be designed? The May 2014 Brazil Internet governance summit could be a suitable vehicle to reach a new, post-WSIS accord between all stakeholders on the appropriate criteria of multi-stakeholder Internet governance, provided (as we hope) that the summit itself is conducted in an open and inclusive manner. See further

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Vessela Karloukovska's picture

Hi Jeremy,

Thank you for your response! Yes, the status quo on IP & IG has many faces & facets; I've referred to it as a model for easy reference but not meaning it to be a compact entity. But you make this very clear in your post. On the question of preventing vested interests from taking over, I wonder if dividing the various stakeholders per categories is enough to overcome stakeholder asymmetries. There should probably be deeper checks & balances allowing stakeholders to understand each others' authenticity & their motivation to be sitting at that discussion and not another, for instance.

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