• IGF's Continuation

last modified May 14, 2010 by tomlowenhaupt

This page focuses on the processes surrounding the continuation, or renewal, of the Internet Governance Forum.

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Under Secretary-General Sha's Briefing

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Briefing on Internet Governance Forum by Under-Secretary-General Sha at UN March 30, 2010

The briefing began at 3:15 PM at the new temporary building at UN Headquarters in New York City. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Mr. Sha Zukang presided.

Mr. Sha began with a statement about his early interest in Internet Governance, noting that he was the first to bring up the subject of Internet Governance at the U.N. Anticipating any possible suspicion of his intent arising from his former position as China’s Ambassador to the U.N., particularly with today's controversies about China’s oversight of that nation’s Internet resources, he emphasized that he spoke as a U.N. employee. He stated that China had no real interest in this matter and was not even present in the hall. "They don’t care."

He then read a six page statement, interspersed with personal observations. I’ve endeavored to transcribe from the written statement beginning after the IGF history on page 3, under the heading "How The Review Process Will Unfold." [See the full statement.] After reading the statement Mr. Sha took statements from Yemen, EU, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Canada, U.S., U.K., France, Norway, ICC and made some concluding statements.

The following quotes from Mr. Sha's written statement beginning from page 3 [with my comments in brackets]:

How The Review Process Will Unfold

When the IGF was created, it was given a lifespan of five years, after which time Member States would review the desirability of its continuation. The Secretary-General was asked to assist in this process by examining its merits taking into account the views of its many participants. More precisely, Member States, in paragraph 76 of the Tunis Agenda "ask the UN Secretary General to examiner the desirability of the continuation of the Forum, in formal consultation with Forum participants, within five years of its creation, and to make recommendations to the UN Membership in this regard." Those five years have now come to an end.

The formal consultations were initiated by an online process…

A total of 61 written submissions were received following these calls for public comment, of which 40 responded to the online questionnaire. Contributions were received from Governments… Comments were also received from a number of individuals.

In November 2009, I convened a formal consultation with IGF participants during the fourth meeting of the Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. During the consultation 47 speakers…

Eight statements of participants who were not given a speaking time slot due to time constraints were posted online. In addition, two statement were submitted after the consultations.

The total number of contributions over the six month consultation period from July to December 2009 was thus 118.

Paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda enumerates four groups of stakeholders and describes, in broad terms, the role that each might play in Internet governance. They are:

1. Governments;

2. The private sector;

3. Civic society;

4. Intergovernmental and other international organizations.

Member States also recognized "the valuable contributions by the academic and technical communities within those stakeholder groups…

Here, Member States have been very clear. The WSIS Declaration of Principles adopted during the first phase of the Summit express a commitment to building an inclusive, people-centered and development-oriented Information Society for all. The Tunis Agenda, adopted during the second phase, reinforced this understanding by calling for the establishment of a platform for multistakeholder dialogue, the IGF, where voices could be heard.

What stakeholders have said

[This section enumerated six areas where participants made suggestions. It will be inserted when a digital version of the statement is released.]

Submission of the Recommendations of the Secretary-General


It is in the spirit of inclusiveness that the recommendations of the Secretary-General must be prepared , taking into account the opinions expressed by all stakeholder groups in the consultations.

Based on Paragraph 76 of the Tunis Agenda, the note will be transmitted to the 65th session of the General Assembly for consideration under item 17 of the provisional agenda on information and communication technology for development.

The General Assembly will decide on the issue of the consultation of the IGF.

Recently, some Member States have expressed the desire that the note of the Secretary-General on continuation of the IGF be submitted to the CSTD for consideration. [CSTD is the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.]

As you know, the agenda and the programme of the work of the CSTD were decided by ECOSOC in its decision 2009/219. The decision did not request that the Commission review the continuation of the IGF. Nor was there any subsequent request for the submission of the recommendations of the Secretary-General to the CSTD.

In the provisional annotated agenda and organization of work issued early this month under the symbol E/CN.16/2010/1, the matter of the continuation of the IGF was nowhere mentioned in the annotated agenda of the CSTD.

While CSTD is scheduled to consider WSIS follow up, it will address the broad issue of the assessment of the five-year progress made in the implementation of WSIS.

Without a specific request from the CSTD, as requested in the decision of ECOSOC, DESA is proceeding with the preparation of the recommendations of the /Secretary-General, with the documentation timeline for the General Assembly. [Here he emphasized the need and difficulty of translating into the UN’s 6 languages.]

The matter whether the CSTD will consider the recommendations of the Secretary-General on the continuation of the IGF will therefore be a decision by Member States.

Regarding the note of the Secretary-General containing the recommendations of the continuation of the IGF, UNDESA could circulate the note of the Secretary-General during the 13th session of the CSTD in Geneva from 17-21 May. [Here Mr. Sha emphasized the use of the word "could."]

However, since the Secretariat is preparing the note according to the documentation timeline of the General Assembly, the note will be only in unedited form in English only. The official document on six languages will not be available before then. As you know, the advance text itself must go through editing, translation and production processes.

So the issue before us is two-fold – a decision by member states as to whether the recommendations of the Secretary-General should be submitted first to CSTD; whether Member States could proceed with consideration of the recommendations in the advance unedited form and not in six official languages.

At any rate I would be pleased to send a representative to CSTD to share whatever information we can on the substance of the SGs recommendations, if invited. [SG is Secretary General of the Untied Nations.]

Let me conclude by repeating that this briefing serves to inform you about the process for preparation of the SGs recommendation…

Mr. Sha then took statements from several entities.

Yemen – presented a "Statement on Behalf of the Group of 77 and China." (See http://www.g77.org/doc/ on Group of 77.) After a preamble it made 6 points, which I paraphrase:

  1. The issue is important and must be addressed at the General Assembly regardless of other fora that might also discuss it.
  2. G77 and China believe IGF should be reviewed every 2-3 years.
  3. IGF should focus, among other areas, "on how to resolve significant public policy issues such as the unilateral control of the critical Internet resources…"
  4. The IGF should move beyond advice and provide advice to intergovernmental bodies.
  5. LDC’s should be more involved than in the past.[LDC is Least Developed Countries.]
  6. "the Tunis Agenda should be strictly followed, when reforming the IGF, so as not to duplicate the work and mandates of other existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations." And the IGF should continue to work under the auspices of the UN.

EU - Offered strong support for another five years in its current form. The CSTD should be directly involved in the process. They suggested that the preliminary note’s "could" be circulated status be changed to "will."

Egypt – They subscribe to Group of 77 plus China. Supports continuation of IGF but its working methods need to be revised. Needs more financial support for LDCs. Paragraph 71 has not been followed.

Sri Lanka – Commented in support of IGF's continuation.

Canada – Commented in support of IGF's continuation. And would like release of draft note from SG.

U.S. – Statement by Michael Snowden, Advisor, Economic and Social Affairs. Appreciate effort put forward by Mr. Sha. Echo previous statement. IGF has been valuable. They second the hope that an early version of the SGs notes can be circulated prior to CSTD.

U.K. – 60252 asked ECOSOC to work with CSTD. Would like copy circulated prior to CSTD.

Mr. Sha Comment – As long as the General Assembly membership agrees that an English-only version may circulate, he will enable it. But there must be a
unanimous call for this.

France – Agreed with G 77 and China and EU on the continuation of the IGF. France wants the draft note for the May CSTD meeting but agrees with Mr.Sha that language is an issue. [Here Mr. Sha praised France for its understanding on the delicacy of the language issue.]

Norway – Asked about paragraph 71. Staff had to check this and this process was to be undertaken by Council of Europe, ICANN, IETF, OECD, WIPO, W3C. He referred to a SG progress report in 2008.

Mr. Sha stated that he follows the guidance of the General Assembly, noting it primacy at the UN via the following numbers:

  • 193 members of General Assembly
  • 54 members of ECOSOC
  • 43 members of CSTD.

ICC (International Chamber of Commerce – Commented in support of IGF's continuation.

Mr. Sha – CSTD can be helpful but it can’t supplant the work of the General Assembly. To release a draft of the SG's note, he needs a request from the CSTD, from the bureau [not clear as to which bureau] or an request from ad hoc group. He also needs the non-English Members to say it is OK, or minimally not object. One objection would probably stop him from releasing the draft note.

End of notes and comments by Thomas Lowenhaupt. March 31, 2010.

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