[discuss] [governance] FW: FW: Towards an Internet Social Forum

michael gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Sat Jan 31 16:49:36 UTC 2015


A few comments inline...

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From: governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org
[mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org] On Behalf Of "Kleinwächter,
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2015 5:03 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org; parminder; Avri Doria; discuss at 1net.org;
bestbits at lists.bestbits.net; governance at lists.igcaucus.org
Subject: AW: [governance] [discuss] FW: FW: Towards an Internet Social Forum

I responded on this to Wolfgang (whose response BTW I still await). 

Sorry for the late reply. And thanks Parminder (and Norbert) for the
clarification with regard to the new ISF. Here are some comments:

1. The multistakeholder approach is a two layer approach where each
stakholder has (on the lower layer) its own mechanisms to develop positions
to various issues and where on the higher layer the various stakeholders
communicate, coordinate and collaborate together to find solutions to common
problems on the basis of what in the Internet world is called "rough
consensus". If one stakeholder group disagrees there is no rough consensus.
Insofar, I see no basic conflicts between the idea of an ISF and the IGF.
ISF is one-stakeholder. IGF is multi-stakeholder. Welcome. 

[MG>] I'm never sure in these types of discussions whether MSism is a
technical mechanism or a normative position or both and whether it is meant
to be simply a part of the preparatory process for decision making or meant
to be the decision making mechanism itself.  Could you clarify? 

The ISF to my mind is not meant to re/present one stakeholder but is
concerned with ensuring that decision making in the Internet sphere is based
on democratic values and mechanisms. There would seem to be a fundamental
incompatibility between decision making undertaken by self-selected
stakeholder elites and democratic decision making.  Could you clarify?

2. For civil society - probably the weakest partner in a full
multistakeholder mechanism - it would be good to speak with one voice. This
enhances to chances not only to be heard but also to participate in decision
making. We learned this lesson during WSIS I. The Geneva CS WSIS declaration
opened the door for participation of CS (on equal footing) both in the WGIG
and later in the IGF. This was an achievement and neither a "natural"
development nor a present by the other stakeholders. A key role played the
Interrnet Governance Caucus (IGC), established in June 2003. The IGC played
a primary role in globale IG policy making until 2007 or 2008. Over the last
couple of years the IGC became - unfortunately - a platform where
disagreemet dominated and the readiness to find internal "rough consensus"
among the various wings within the CS stakeholder groups became nearly
impossible. This resulted in a dramtic declining of the influence of the IGC
into multistakeholder processes and the ermegence of other CS IG Networks -
from Best Bits to the Just Net Coalition. The diversity is not a bad thing.
But if such a diversity ends in "infighting" (remember the unbelievable
shouting during the IGC Meeting in Bali) the risk is high, that the CS as a
whole looses a lot of credibility and weakens its opportunities to
participate meaningful at the higher multistakeholder level. All (limited)
energies and resources are wasted in fighting each other, nothing remains to
made a construtive input into the broader processes of the higher level of
multistakehoder policy development.  

[MG>] There has been for some time in the IGC an unresolved ambiguity as to
what is meant by "civil society"... I clearly remember discussions with many
of those currently bewailing the development of the ISF where I and others
attempted to assert that civil society represented particular
normative/value positions (such as those represented by the WSF) while
others -- notably those identified by Jeremy i.e. Avri, McTim, Milton,
Suresh etc. argued vociferously that no, CS was a "category", not a movement
i.e. "CS is all those not otherwise associated with government or the
private sector (sometimes the technical community was included here and
sometimes not)".  The argument went so far as to have some assert that even
those otherwise employed by government or the private sector could in their
off days be classified as civil society if they chose to self-identify as
such whether or not the position that they espoused as CS was directly
consistent with the presumed interests of their employer.
To my mind this represents (and represented) a fundamental division within
the IGC between those who saw CS as being based on a common agreement on
certain values and norms (as for example those espoused by the WSF) and
those who simply saw CS as a convenient collection of self-identified actors
organized to promote certain interests within multistakeholder processes.
The ISF is a direct linear outgrowth of that division and the affiliations
with and opposition to the ISF would appear to be also directly associated
with how individuals aligned themselves in that debate.

3. In my eyes the CSCG - which did build an umbrella above six CS IG
Networks - was the best what could happen after the split (which started
already in Nairobi and continued in Baku). It allowed the various wings to
stick to their - sometimes excentric - positions, but it also allowed the
start of processes - on a case by case basis - where the various competing
groups did find common language around concrete issues. But even this
collapsed in the preparatory discussion for the NMI. 

[MG>] To my mind the CSCG simply papered over that division for convenience

4. To have the WSF as an umbrella organisation for the planned ISF is not a
bad idea (do you have a charter or an MoU about the formalities of the
relationship?). The objectives of the WSF are core objectives of the global
civil society and they are relevant also for the Internet which includes
efforts to bridge the digital divide, to promote human rights, to reduce and
overcome social and economic injustice and to promote access to the
Internet. If the ISF can make here a meaningful contribution, this is
welcome. However as it looks at this moment, the ISF does not build bridges
among the various wings of CS IG Groups, it deepends the split. This weakens
CS and is not needed.

[MG>] My expectation is that the ISF will be very welcoming of those who
look on and are willing to commit by their statements and actions to the
role of CS in IG as being the promotion of certain broadly agreed upon
normative positions (the ones you have pointed to above among others) and
will be not welcoming to those who are not. Whether this promotes
divisions/bridges in CS is neither here nor there since the division is a
already a fundamental and irreconcilable one and not obviously bridgeable
except on occasion on specific issues/campaigns.

5. I do not see that the ISF is the counterinitiative to the NMI. ISF is
one-stakeholder, NMI is multi-stakeholder. Two different shoes. The NMI
brings together all four stakeholder groups on equal footing and a high
level. Based on the Sao Paulo Declaration this is a stumbling step forward
into a new territory of a multistakeholder policy development which offers
new opportunities which has to be tested out. It is a challenge for civil
society to bring its key positions to this process. 

[MG>] I think you misunderstand the ISF which is meant to be the beginnings
of a popular movement to ensure that the Internet is "governed" is a way
which is consistent with and supportive of democracy, social and economic
justice, and human rights.  The feeling of many currently in the ISF is that
the NMI is in direct opposition to this;  rather it is supportive of an
Internet that is governed by and in the interests of economic and political
elites. The inclusion of token CS representation in the NMI is hardly a
substitute for democratic governance and certainly no protection against the
overwhelming power and resources of elites as working within the framework
of the NMI/WEF or elsewhere.



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