IGF 2017 – Strengthening the IGF: The German community invites to a discussion

20 Dec 2017 11:15h - 12:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

The moderator Dr. Thomas Fitschen Director for the United Nations, Cyber Foreign Policy and Counterterrorism, Federal Foreign Office started the session by inviting speakers and attendees to an open discussion on possibilities to strengthen the IGF further.

Mr Thomas Schneider Ambassador and Director of International Affairs at the Swiss Federal Office of Communication (OFCOM) focused on peculiarities and innovations introduced to the IGF in Switzerland, in order to make it relevant and interactive. He mentioned that the IGF has been set up as an experiment that did not exist before, in particular not in the UN. In Geneva they came up with the idea to lower the number of high level sessions, and turn these high-level sessions into an interactive dialogue. There are only two high level sessions set up in the IGF’s agenda, and it allowed the organisers to have more than forty high level representatives of all stakeholders from different regions, and with different kinds of diversity.

Schneider noted that they tried to give more structure to the program by using tags attached to all the sessions. They continue the effort to reflect the discussions immediately like a stenographic report, there are a number of people involved in writing these messages, and it allows what the main elements were that were discussed at sessions to be captured.

Ms Lynn St. Amour Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the Internet Governance Forum (MAG) noted that they had the fortunate opportunity to work with the Swiss government, who have been so long involved in Internet governance discussions. And, certainly, the MAG will review the pilots and innovations of the IGF and make their own recommendations.

Addressing the outcomes of the IGF, on which the MAG is focused, she stated that the discussions advance, escalate and change over time, evolve over time. For example, a few years ago the cybersecurity discussions were on spam and those things, nowadays they are much more advanced. They may have the same titles, but the topics under discussions are clearly very different than they were 12 years ago. 

These discussions look for points of commonality and agreement that might be put into  practice. They might be captured in some of the other output documents, for example, as a norm, which is put out to the community for broader adoption. Some of those norms may even ultimately become policy, or become regulation.

In conclusion, she also noted that one of the challenges of the IGF is to find a way to make all the great information from all the sessions at the IGF much more accessible, and more comprehensible. 

Mr Benedicto Fonseca Ambassador and Director of the Department of Scientific and Technological Affairs of the Ministry of External Relations, Itamaraty of Brazil, fully concurred with statements of the previous speakers, that the IGF has been evolving over the years, and adopting new methods of work. He assured the audience that Brazil recognises the importance of the IGF. Brazil hosted the IGF in 2015, and they launched the first edition of a kind of toolbox for practitioners from the private sector particular to that area.  Fonseca emphasised that innovations at the current IGF, including the opening ceremony, the interaction, discussion, the open mic, are also motivations for further improvements.

Prof. Michael Rotert eco-German Internet Industry Association, shared his thoughts and ideas on what can be done for further IGFs. He noted that there are nearly the same session titles from year to year, but different content because things change. For example, cybercrime changed from credit cards to much more difficult things. He expressed concern about the partial imbalance of some stakeholder groups at the IGF.

Summing up the session, Dr. Rudolf Gridl Head of Division Internet Governance and International Digital Dialogue, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy touched on two issues of the IGF: organisation and results.

He emphasised that the goal of the organisers was to provide a wider access to all stakeholders. They gave more structure to the agenda, made smaller panels in order to receive more relevant outcomes, the proceedings became more interactive. And, they still have areas to improve.

Gridl underlined that the fact of people coming together, discussing, and going back to their constituencies, spreading what they have acquired into legislation or some business plans, is already some result of the IGF.  However, he assured that they will continue improving the proceedings to ensure good participation and reach good results.

By Nazgul Kurmanalieva