[At-Large] [Governance] Fwd: [Internet Policy] Fwd: [WG-Strategy] Seeking roll back of the IGF Leadership Panel

Suresh Ramasubramanian suresh at hserus.net
Fri Nov 26 06:03:54 UTC 2021

Two considerations here that Wolfgang raised are valid

  1.   The decision and policy making has moved into several industry / inter government / multi stakeholder groups, some formed for the purpose while others predate IGF.  Key stakeholders from various organisations go there rather than come to the IGF. So a bridge between igf and these organisations is needed.
  2.  The post office analogy is somewhat simplified. Recruiting senior and experienced people who have the contacts, the background and the experience of communicating to government, industry and civil society leaders is necessary. The ability to do this is however not automatically conferred by rank alone so the insistence on appointing only C suite officers or their equivalents is puzzling.

From: Governance <governance-bounces at lists.igcaucus.org> on behalf of parminder via Governance <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2021 11:10:21 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org <governance at lists.igcaucus.org>; At-Large Worldwide <at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org>
Subject: [Governance] Fwd: [Internet Policy] Fwd: [WG-Strategy] [At-Large] Seeking roll back of the IGF Leadership Panel

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject:        Re: [Internet Policy] Fwd: [WG-Strategy] [At-Large] Seeking roll back of the IGF Leadership Panel
Date:   Fri, 26 Nov 2021 10:57:21 +0530
From:   parminder <parminder.js at gmail.com><mailto:parminder.js at gmail.com>
To:     internetpolicy at elists.isoc.org<mailto:internetpolicy at elists.isoc.org>

Contrary to Evan's view, Wolfgang considers the IGF to be extremely successful, and it is in this path of its spectacular evolutionary success that the Leadership Panel (LP) is placed as a kind of necessary and very useful development ..

Not just the past, but the two also fundamentally disagree on there future expectations from the LP... Evan thinks that the LP will somehow magically address and solve pressing digital policy issues, about solving which he (like me) is very eager. Wolfgang is clear that the LP is "not the "new Internet policy makers", they function like a "post office", bringing the messages from the multistakeholder IGF to the intergovernmental negotiation table and vice versa".

Since whatever little support the LP has focuses on this "messages" and "post office" and "bridge' function, and it is also the crux of Wolfgang's argument, let me focus on it.

It should be noted that UN SG wants a star cast for the LP, and calls for only CEO and deputy CEO levels to apply... These are big-ego people very fond of expressing and touting their views... These are just not the people who act as message carriers and post office - an archetypical description of bureaucracy's function, enough of which exists and links between the IGF and decision making bodies. (If you want you can work on improving that part which is what meets the role and objective description you provide for the LP. Not a group of CEOs.). Therefore there is a fundamental, and in my view, fatal, dis-junction between the HR description and institutional objectives sought. May you please explain this.

 I would invite you to expound your views with clear practical examples. To help that, lets take that a LP has been set up with an hypothetical membership of the ministers of France and Indonesia, a Senior VP of Microsoft and CEO of TCS (Indian software major), and CEOs of ISOC and APNIC, and ok let me not speculate on civil society leaders chosen (but believe me, their egos can be bigger than those of industry CEOs).

Lets say one of these IGF Leaders is at an important global meeting, and is introduced as such , as being a part of IGF's Leadership Group/ Panel. Wolfgang, please try to give us some concrete examples of what s/he might do, in nature of a "post office" and carrier of messages from the IGF, and back...

Would s/he hand over and describe, say the outcome document of an IGF's Best Practices Forum... Lets take the example of the BPF on data and new technologies ... I dont see a minister or an industry CEO (or ISOC CEO) setting aside her/ his views on such a globally hot topic like data, and share some lame as well as politically controversial views from this BFP's outcome paper<https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/filedepot_download/9655/2393>. But I am happy to hear from you your description of what would likely happen in such a scenario, which is the embodiment of your main argument in favour of LP. And if the LP person is just to hand over the outcome paper to the meeting or read its summary (which s/he cannot do other than in a selective manner, given her/ his inevitable own strong views on data etc), why is this function not much better done by the bureaucracy, which does it best (and knows where to stop). So if you may, just add 2-3 more people to the IGF sect or the UNDESA's IGF desk ...

But sure, Wolfgang, pl you illuminate us how such a thing will actually fold out -- using a hypothetical as above, or another of your own ... Speaking in abstract in terms of messages and post offices and bridges means nothing .. We are at a serious fork in the evolution of institutions of digital governance. So, please lets get real.

Currently, the MAG Chair at a global meeting limits herself to describing the process functions and the greatness of the IGF .. Show us a picture of IGF leaders getting 'substantive' in their outside communication, and I'd show what is fatally wrong with the LP idea.

Let us know how a groups of Leaders will actually perform the function you lay out, and why that function is not better performed by strengthening the bucreaucracy link between IGF and others, it being to my mind an archetypical bureacracy function.


On 26/11/21 9:46 am, parminder wrote:

I have views on both Wolfgang's and Evan's responses to our letter, and their position vis a vis the new IGF Leadership Panel.

What however completely passes me is how anyone can agree with both Evan's and Wolfgang's positions, as some have some... Unless, no offense, but one is just desperate to somehow agree with whatever is happening, and looks difficult to change.

Evan's and Wolfgang's positions come from fundamentally opposed premises, and have fundamentally different expectations from the Leadership Panel. In fact there positions like in two opposite extremes from mine, or in other words mine is actually somewhere in the middle. I therefore find it difficult to in the same email argue against the two positions.

Meanwhile, I'd request those supporting both positions to help me understand how both can be right. Thanks.

Evan considers the IGF to a bubble removed from world's reality, something which has entirely failed. It is so dead or nearly so, that Even is happy if it can be given a last squeeze, everything being otherwise so dismal, that something good may come out.. He himself says he is not sure, and I am paraphrasing, if his medicine is worse than the cure. He just thinks that the IGF is all talk, ineffective, etc, and anything outcome- oriented is better than that. He seems to have applied no mind to what that outcome- oriented would be, how it would work, and what kind of outcomes can be expected (obviously, not all outcomes are describable.) I consider it kind of desperate kind of view, which, my apologies, but does not deserve any serious consideration among people who concern themselves with long term nature and implications of governance institutions. It is quite like, and as desperate as, crying out, all this bloody liberal democracy just doesn't work, bring in a good dictator inside, we would at least see some action!

This is despite that I normally have quite respected Evan's views, agree with him that the IGF has become an insiders bubble, and had a disease needing cure, etc. He is completely wrong that in indicated that we as letter writers have any intention to perpetuate the status quo, live off it, etc, which I think he need to know more about how much we fight the status quo every day, including the IGFs. He is also wrong that no alternatives are offered; we so regularly offer them, and we were also one of the most active members of the CSTD WG on IGF improvements.

To sum; I take Evan's critique to be of an outsider, who has rightly seem a lot of problems with the IGF, but not been invested enough, nor thought through the new Leadership Panel's nature and likely implications, whereby his statement of the problem is fine, but accepting the Leadership Panel as a solution to try out way off .. Since he himself says he isnt sure if the uure is better than the disease, I think he confirms my summing of his position. I read it as genuine expression of desperation with the current IGF, which I considerably share, and nothing more -- nothing that can really be taken serious about the actual discussion here, about the new Leadership Panel ..


On 25/11/21 5:37 pm, Winthrop Yu via InternetPolicy wrote:

Not that i disagree with what Wolfgang is saying here, but i am more fully in accord with the comments on this by Evan and Roberto on the At-Large list. (We have a forked discussion.)


On 25 Nov 2021 7:18 pm, Carlos Afonso via InternetPolicy wrote:
Careful and relevant considerations by Wolfgang.

A lot is still on the discussion table regarding how this HL will work and relate to the overall IGF community. One option is to discard it, another is to keep it and make sure we participate in the process from the beginning.

[]s fraternos


On 24/11/2021 16:47, Wolfgang Kleinwächter wrote:

I disagree with the letter, signed by Parminder and Milton. I do not share their arguments. I believe, that Parminders and Miltons proposal, to "urge civil society and technical community, to refrain from sending any nominations for the IGF Leadership Panel" is very counterproductive, undermines the future role of the IGF and weakens civil society engagement in Internet related public policy making at the global level.

The IGF is indeed a unique experiment in the UN system. Its key purpose is to broaden the participatory base of digital policy making. Since 2006 it has enabled a broad variety of voices to be heard, including those voices otherwise marginalized.It was (and is) a kitchen to cook new ideas. Discussion without barriers. Bottom Up. This was the intention. It has worked, but it did have also its limits.

As a member of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), which proposed the establishment of the IGF in 2005, I think we were very right to create the IGF as a "discussion plattform" (forum function) without any decision making capacity. The fear was, that if the IGF becomes a negotiation body, this will kill free and frank discussions. And indeed, the informal nature of the IGF did open "mouths and minds" of all stakeholders.

I was also a member of the UNCSTD IGF Improvement Working Group (2012). In this group we agreed that the IGF should continue as a discussion platform, but needs more tangible outputs.

The outcome of the IGF are its (sometimes controversial) "messages". There are no "IGF positions": some stakeholders say so, others say so. It is a bottom up process. And this is good for a discussion platform.,

However, the digital world has moved forward in the last 17 years. Internet Governance isn´t anymore a "technical issue with political implications", it is a "political issue with a technical component". For many Internet related public policy issues new bodies have been created outside the WSIS process and dislinked from the IGF. In the 2020s, there are more than a dozen global negotiation bodies where issues like cybersecurity, digital economy, sustainable development or human rights in the digital age are disucssed. Those issues are on the agenda of the IGF since its beginning. But the reality is, that the policy makers in the new negotiation bodies, which are primarily intergovernmental bodies, are in many cases not informed about the IGF discussions. They even have very often no clue what was discussed at the IGF. There is neither a formal nor an informal linkage between the "discussion layer" (the multistakeholder IGF) and the the "decision making layer" (new intergovernmental negotiation bodies).

There is a need to bring the expertise, knowledge and ideas from the multistakeholder IGF to the intergovernmental negotiation table. And the IGF will benefit, if the diplomats report back - formally or informally - to the IGF sessions. The idea of the Multistakeholder Leadership Panel (MLP) is driven by this idea to build bridges.

The proposal for the Multistakeholder IGF Leadership Panel is the result of a years long multistakeholder discussion process, where all pros and cons of such a new unit were critically evaluated and considered by many different groups, including many civil society organisations. It was inspired by the UNCSTD work. It started with the UNSG High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (2018). It was developed by the Option Paper 5A&B (2019) and further specified in the UNSG Roadmap (2020).

Risks, which were articulated in various statements of civil society organisations, that a new unit will emerge outside the IGF and could lead to a competitive situation, duplication or overlapping of functions, with the potential to weaken the IGF, has been heard by the UNSG. My understanding of the multistakeholder leadership panel - with its very limited mandate - is, that it is part of the general IGF structure and rooted in the (broader) MAG. It is like an executive committee for the MAG and will make the work of the whole MAG more efficent and effective.  It makes the IGF stronger, more visible on the international scene and will open the door for a more enhanced bottom up cooperation among all stakeholders in global Internet policy making.  It is an IGF+. Members of the new Panel will act as ambassadors between the discussion and decision-making layers. They are not the "new Internet policy makers", they function like a "post office", bringing the messages from the multistakeholder IGF to the intergovernmental negotiation table and vice versa.

This is a unique opportunity for civil society. And civil society organisations, in particular from the Global South, should make use of it. Strong civil society representation in the multistakeholder leadership panel will contribute to build a human centric information society, based on the Civil Society WSIS Declaration (2003), the Tunis Agenda (2005) and the Multistakeholder NetMundial Statement (2014). And it will pave the way for a strong civil society voice in the process towards a "Global Digital Compact" (2023).

Best wishes


Below are links to our "multistakeholder statement" for the Option Paper 5A&B (2020) and the outcome from a multistakeholder expert seminar (2021) where a lot of civil society organisations where represented.

https://circleid.com/posts/20210304-framing-the-internet-governance-debate-long-road-to-wsis-2025 <https://circleid.com/posts/20210304-framing-the-internet-governance-debate-long-road-to-wsis-2025><https://circleid.com/posts/20210304-framing-the-internet-governance-debate-long-road-to-wsis-2025>

https://circleid.com/posts/20200426-cross-pollination-in-cyberspace-internet-governance-spaghetti-ball <https://circleid.com/posts/20200426-cross-pollination-in-cyberspace-internet-governance-spaghetti-ball><https://circleid.com/posts/20200426-cross-pollination-in-cyberspace-internet-governance-spaghetti-ball>

parminder via At-Large <at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org><mailto:at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org> hat am 24.11.2021 16:12 geschrieben:

Dear All,

Please find enclosed a letter addressed to the UN Secretary General appealing to him to roll back the decision for an IGF Leadership Panel.

The letter is co-signed by Dr Milton Mueller, on behalf  of the Internet Governance Project, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy, and Parmider Jeet Singh, for IT for Change, and the Just Net Coalition.

It is cc-ed to representatives of civil society and technical community groups requesting them to refrain from sending nominations for the IGF Leadership Panel, and thus legitimizing it.

The letter argues how the IGF Leadership Panel militates against the basic idea, objectives and structure of the IGF, and will weaken it.

Best, parminder

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