10th Internet Governance Forum: a definite consolidation

The 10th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) took place between 10-13 November 2015 in João Pessoa, Brazil and had the participation of 2,400 people from 116 countries. The main theme of the event was “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development”. The theme was directly related with the recently developed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Nevertheless, less than a month away from the UNGA meeting in New York that will review the WSIS+10 outcomes, the approval of the mandate of the IGF is still pending. Even though at this stage it is known that there is enough support at the UNGA to extend its mandate for another five years, several stakeholders of different communities are optimistic and expect the mandate to be renewed for another decade.

News from the 10th IGF

The event had an impeccable organization by the local host, the Brazilian government and CGI.br. This was complemented with an agenda that has matured from a forum where in the past topics were presented and shared, to a present environment which has consolidated into an informed space for debate and discussion and which in most sessions provided outcomes in terms of proposals, recommendations, development of principles and the establishment of best practices.

  1. In the Best Practice Forums (BPFs) the discussions evolved around the documents that each working group had developed in the previous months on the following issues:

Regulation and Mitigation of “Unsolicited” Communications; Establishment and Supporting CSIRTs; Developing Meaningful Multistakeholder Participation Mechanisms; Practices to Counter Online Abuse and Gender-Based Violence Against Women and Girls; Creating and Enabling Environment for IPv6 Adoption and Creation of an Enabling Environment for the establishment of IXPs. This is the second year where BPFs have been organized at an IGF and they have had an important reception both because of their results, which produce concrete documents but also for their work in an open manner with the global community.

  1. The Dynamic Coalitions were strengthened in their working mechanisms and main output session where they developed their recommendation documents on each of the following issues: Net Neutrality; Internet of Things; Public Access in Libraries; Platform responsibility; Internet Rights and Principles; Core Internet Values; Gender and Internet Governance; Accessibility and Disability.
  1. To strengthen the inter-sessional activities of the IGF, the government of Brazil led the process of discussion on a document elaborated from input from the community during 2015 titled “Policy Options for Connecting the Next Billion”. It is expected that this practice with different themes will be repeated in future editions.
  1. The main sessions still continue to arouse criticisms due to their length and the scarce promotion of participation with the audience. The relevant uptakes from this year are with two themes: cybersecurity and and “zero-rating”. In both cases there are relevant points of contact for agenda of ccTLDs. In the case of cybersecurity, the main session’s discussions emphasized that there is no infallible strategy in cyberspace and in that order to have effective digital security, multistakeholder mechanisms should be developed. In the case of the session on zero rating, as was already underscored in the 6th edition of the LACTLD Report, this topic is a key one, since it could discriminate and set up barriers for the creation of local content, which may have effects on national domain names. The other main session topics were: Internet Economy; Inclusiveness and Diversity; Openness; Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation; Internet and Human Rights; Critical Internet Resources; and Emerging Issues.
  1. The format of the sessions named “Workshops” has been one of the greatest improvements of the IGF, which was consolidated in this edition. These sessions may adopt many formats: workshops as such, panels, roundtables, debates and presentations, among others. These alternative formats, added to a rigorous selection process of the MAG allowed nearly 100 sessions to cover different themes. LACTLD co-organized with ICANN and LACNIC a roundtable on enhanced cooperation mechanisms in the region (Nº 136) and participated with CENTR, APTLD and AFTLD in a joint workshop on restoring trust in digital communities (Nº 118).

Final Comments

Even though the statistical breakdown of participants has not yet been published, the participation of stakeholders from Latin America and the Caribbean was not as high as expected, considering that the event was organized in the region. Surprisingly few governments of the region were present, although this was compensated by an active and well represented regional civil society. In the workshop on enhanced cooperation mechanisms in the LAC region that was co-organized by LACTLD, it was noted that both governments and businesses in the region must become more involved in the national, regional and global processes, despite the fact that the region has made significant progress in this matter.

We consider the IGF has consolidated notably as a key space for the discussion and formation of Internet policies at a global level. As a difference with other spaces, such as ICANN or the IETF, were the environment of stakeholders and topics is more homogeneous, the IGF stands out due to its diversity and becomes a richer space for the exchange and the possibility to get to interact with perspectives on the changing universe of the Internet.

For many participants, the IGF 2015 has been the best until now. The #IGF2015 is an eloquent proof of how voices such as that of Kathy Brown or Vint Cerf have publicly expressed their particular feelings for this particular edition. We hope that the 11th edition of the IGF in Mexico in 2016 will have renewed participation from regional stakeholders and specially ccTLDs.