Last week in Geneva, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) met to discuss preparations for IGF Berlin. The Internet Society is concerned that the IGF community is showing signs of fatigue and believes that certain things must be improved in order for it to survive in an increasingly crowded Internet policy arena. We also believe the world is much better with the IGF than without it.
As the IGF reaches its fourteenth year, we must ask ourselves if it is still capable of dealing with the myriad governance challenges surrounding the Internet and policymakers – and whether the IGF can continue to evolve the Internet way – into an open and distributed global network of networks grounded in voluntary collaboration.
Imagine a world without the IGF. A world where we won’t be able to welcome people from most corners of the earth, from multiple stakeholder groups, and from diverse viewpoints and perspectives to address the Internet’s pressing public policy issues. All sharing a common goal, albeit sometimes speaking different languages.
Certain things have indeed improved. We have seen better advanced planning from UNDESA and the IGF Secretariat, along with a supportive, well-organized, and solid support from the German hosts. We have also welcomed programmatic improvements seeking a more focused and cohesive agenda, with fewer thematic tracks, which should enable more meaningful discussions.
We hope the High-Level Panel recently appointed by the UN Secretary General to foster digital cooperation will support needed reforms of the IGF, while maintaining its open and multistakeholder nature.
If we don’t remain committed to these reforms, we’ll face a world without the IGF, or – perhaps even worse – a world in which the IGF becomes irrelevant. In such a world, the IGF could be replaced by other policy platforms that meet and make important decisions about the future of the Internet without involving all stakeholders. This is why we think the world is better with the IGF than without it.