[discuss] /1net Steering/Coordination Commitee

Jeremy Malcolm jeremy at ciroap.org
Mon Dec 30 03:10:36 UTC 2013

On 30 Dec 2013, at 8:39 am, michael gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com> wrote:

> Thanks Suzanne and perhaps I should add some additional information at this time.
> As I made the community aware, that element of CS constituted under the framework of the “CS Coordinating Committee” (CC:CS) chose to proceed in relation to Inet and elsewhere in exclusion of the Community Informatics community (CI); in processes without transparency or accountability; and with some question as to the appropriateness of the outcomes of their internal nomination and other processes.

It is a shame that Michael's disagreement with the core civil society groups and networks involved in Internet governance has come to this, because his contribution in the past has been rather valuable.  I also note that others have already intervened to correct falsehoods that Michael had posted.  But to avoid people being further misled, I think it is worth intervening again to set a few facts straight.  I'm not posting this message on behalf of anyone but myself, and in particular I will defer to Ian Peter who is the chair of the coordination group if he can correct any of this.

The civil society IG coordination group came into existence out of a need for civil society groups to work together to nominate representatives for various forums; originally for 1net and Brazil events, but certainly with thoughts of IGF MAG as well in the future.
It comprises liaisons from all the major civil society coalitions and networks that together include a large majority of known civil society organisations participating in Internet governance discussions.  Currently included (in no particular order) are the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Diplo Foundation, Best Bits, the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group of ICANN (NCSG), and (pending new coordinator elections) the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus (IGC).
The way in which the coordination group works may be loose and informal, but this is because it works by trying to develop consensus, rather than through voting.  As all we are trying to do is to gather input from our constituent networks and reach a selection that is consensually agreeable to most, this involves quite different mechanisms of transparency and accountability than if a voting process were used.  Although Michael may not like this, on that point he is a noisy minority.
The coordination group has been reaching out to other civil society networks that could expand the group with their own liaisons, if they fulfil a basic set of criteria. These criteria themselves remain open for discussion, but as a working draft the following factors had been proposed:
Is a coalition which is globally representative - all regions covered?
Is it non-commercial and public interest oriented (as opposed to business)?
Would it more properly fit under technical community, business or government in its categorization?
Is a large part of this coalition's members already covered by one of the existing  members?
The internal governance of the coalition is adequately transparent and accountable to its members.
Michael Gurstein has been participating in at least two of the existing member networks (IGC and Best Bits) and channelling his suggestions to the coordination group in that way.  There has been no evidence or allegation that his input has ever been disregarded or overruled. On this basis, some existing members in the coordination group felt that Michael's group did not meet the draft criteria.
Nevertheless Michael's community informatics network was invited to to express its interest in joining the coordination group and Michael did so on 22 December in an email that contained the following language: "I think that it is not unreasonable to assume that any delay after COB tomorrow GMT is a “no” and I will be informing the CI community and others of your decision after that time.
We may or may not be making a similar approach to the academic community but that has no bearing on this matter here.
These are, BTW not issues of collegiality or of personality but of very serious politics and the decision that you folks make will have quite serious ramifications both for yourselves, for CS in IG, and perhaps even for IG itself. 
From what I understand the CI community in its significant diversity, scope and ultimately I think depth is now quite focused behind the Declaration and whether or not you folks act appropriately and responsibly, CI and the Internet Justice movement is not going to go away."
Ian's response to this hardly-veiled threat stated "We do not think it is appropriate to make such a decision without due consideration, including considering a number of other organisations who would have equal and perhaps better cases to make as regards joining a co-ordination group which must be kept to a manageable size.
Accordingly, and because any decisions we make here can have substantial ramifications, we have decided to delay any decisions on expansion of membership of the co ordination group until they can be considered properly. In the current circumstances of limited availability for many people, that will be after we have completed the Brazil committee nomination processes in mid January".
The community informatics network is essentially the remnants of a network of telecentres that is itself divided across a couple of mailing lists, and has mainly a local focus.  It is incorrect to state that only through the community informatics network can the interests of marginalised communities be represented in the coordinating group.  There are many other civil society organisations that work with marginalised communities, for example through APC and others of the coordinating group members, that are not part of the community informatics network.
As well as opposing the coordination group process, Michael was also one of a few members who similarly attempted to disrupt the Best Bits network by demanding that it adopt a formal representational organisational structure that most participants had indicated that they did not want.
1net, which does not even have a steering group yet, is not in a position to determine how civil society should self-select its representatives.  Although we do not claim it to be perfect, nevertheless there is an overall rough consensus within the core civil society groups involved in Internet governance discussions to support the coordinating group process as the vehicle for selection of representatives.  1net has no basis to second-guess this by affording Michael Gurstein an extra place at the table, just because he doesn't like the coordinating group process.

Dr Jeremy Malcolm
Senior Policy Officer
Consumers International | the global campaigning voice for consumers
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