NRI Assembly 2018
It is a tradition that European national and regional IGF's (NRI's) are gathering during EuroDIG. This year we moved the meeting to day zero to offer more time for exchange and we invited all coordinators of European NRI's. The meeting is open and any interested individual is welcome.
Internet Governance Forum, IGF, multistakeholder, bottom up
The NRIs Assembly shall serve to better connect European NRI’s with EuroDIG and the global IGF and identify ways to strengthen and support each other.
We will start with a discussion facilitated by Larry Strickling on convening stakeholders to solve concrete problems and develop norms on a consensus basis. This is part of the “Collaborative Governance Project”, a multistakeholder initiative of the Internet Society and shall help the NRIs coordinators in particular to better serve their community.
The discussion shall then lead into concrete proposals that NRI coordinators can implement in their region or country and that enhances the connection of NRIs in Europe and beyond.
Another point of discussion will be contribution of NRIs to the global IGF. Anja Gengo Focal Point for NRIs at the IGF Secretariat will provide us an update on the status of the programme planning and what the opportunities are for NRIs to contribute.
The part that is facilitated by Larry Strickling shall be a capacity building opportunity for NRI coordinators, with some concrete proposals as result, helping them to convene the multistakeholder dialogue within their country. The second part should have the nature of an assembly where joint activities will be identified and discussed. Ideally we come up with a joint positions and messages to contribute to the IGF planing.
- Larry Strickling, ISOC, Executive Director, Collaborative Governance Project
- Lynn St.Amour, Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG)
- Raúl Echeberría, ISOC, Vice President, Global Engagement
- Anja Gengo, IGF Secretariat and Focal Point for the NRI's
- Sandra Hoferichter, EuroDIG
- Sorina Teleanu, SEEDIG
- European NRI Coordinators
NRI Assembly at EuroDIG 2018
Monday, 4 June 2018, 15:00 – 18:00 h, Rooms Hotel, Tbilisi, Georgia
As during previous editions of the EuroDIG, a meeting between the national, sub-regional and Youth IGFs of Europe was held during the 11th EuroDIG meeting in Tbilisi. Sandra Hoferichter, Secretary General of EuroDIG, explained that this year the meeting was moved to Day Zero in order to allow for more space for discussion, given the tight schedule of the regular program. In accordance with EuroDIG’s principles and procedures, the meeting was fully open to all interested stakeholders, not necessarily affiliated with the NRIs. It is estimated that around 50 participants attended the NRI Assembly. Out of the 28 officially recognized European NRIs, as per the IGF Secretariat’s records, 18 representatives (coordinators, members of the organizing committees)1 were present at the Assembly.
First part of the Assembly: General discussion on multistakeholder governance processes
Against the background of the “Collaborative Governance Project”, Larry Strickling, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, NTIA, U.S. Department of Commerce, facilitated a discussion on how to establish and implement successful multistakeholder governance processes. The Collaborative Governance Project is a new initiative of the Internet Society (ISOC) that aims to train stakeholders on how to be effective in collaborative governance discussions.
Being asked about the reasons for success or failure of multistakeholder processes, the participants at the NRI Assembly identified the following:
- Reasons for success: Shared goal, agreement on the process, actionable purpose, manageability of the issue, willingness to accept compromise, openness, inclusion, participation on equal footing, sufficient resources (money, time, personnel), transparency, accountability, support by a neutral facilitator.
- Reasons for failure: no shared goal, lack of inclusiveness, process captured by one single stakeholder group or influential person, slowness of the process (as multistakeholder processes are very time-consuming), diverging interests.
Strickling emphasized that openness, inclusion, transparency and accountability are particularly key for making the multistakeholder process legitimate. It was also said that often there is simply no alternative to the multistakeholder approach.
With regards to the first meeting of a multistakeholder process, Strickling explained that it is important to identify and bring together all key parties that have a stake in the issue. The first task during such a meeting is to define the ground rules, namely to agree on what is meant by a “consensus”. The participants offered different views on how to define and reach consensus. One example are the EuroDIG Messages to which all participants of a session have to agree on. In the context of the IGF, there is the concept of “rough consensus”, meaning that the discussions need to continue until all reasonable obstacles have been addressed and everybody “can live with it”. It was said that it is important to define and reach consensus not only regarding the outcome, but also regarding the process. One particular challenge is that some people do not speak up during the discussion, but in the end nevertheless block the consensus. In such cases, a neural facilitator might be helpful. It was said that multistakeholder processes should not be approached as a “zero sum game”. Rather, everybody should win something out of the discussion.
Once the ground rules have been defined, Strickling explained that the next step is to get a shared understanding of the factual situation. For this purpose, a joint fact-finding mission can be conducted, perhaps even with expert facilitation. Once the process has started, an important question to address is what brings people back time and time again. Finally, once consensus has been reached, the question is how to implement it. What is going to happen once an agreement has been reached should actually already be discussed in the beginning of the process.
Regarding one specific multistakeholder governance process, namely the session planning process for EuroDIG, it was discussed whether there is a certain tiredness among the community (as e.g. people deliver very late) and what could be done about it. Also, it was said that sometimes participation in the process is misunderstood as “representation” of the respective organization. It was suggested that intersessional work could be developed to enhance community spirit. Also, more focus should be put on what is going on between the meetings.
Second part of the Assembly: Input by the European NRIs to the global IGF
The second part of the meeting was devoted to a discussion on how the NRIs can and should contribute to the global IGF. Lynn St. Amour, the Chair of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), first gave an update on the status of the program planning for this year’s IGF. She explained that there is an offer by the French government to host the IGF from 12 to 14 November (3 days) at the premises of UNESCO in Paris (overlapping with the last week of ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai). She further added that the IGF 2019 will take place in Berlin and that there are already strong candidates for 2020 and 2021.
St. Amour said that the IGF 2018 in Paris would take place in parallel to the Paris Peace Forum, which will bring together over 100 senior government representatives from all over the world. Hopefully, some of them would also attend the IGF. The option to organize a Day Zero on 11 November is currently discussed. This year’s MAG consists of many new members (28 out of 55) and is very motivated. Several intersessional working groups have been established, among others on IGF improvements. For the first time, a “Call for Issues” had been conducted that fed into the Call for Workshops. The review of workshop proposals will be done according to themes. Also, it will be avoided that speakers speak in too many sessions. The concept of “Messages” introduced at IGF 2017 in Geneva will be continued. Messages will be called “IGF Messages” and will be produced not only for the main sessions (as in 2017) but for all workshops. Overall, this year’s IGF should be more cohesive and focused.
Anja Gengo, Focal Point for NRIs at the IGF Secretariat, then elaborated on the opportunities for NRIs to contribute to the global IGF. In 2016, for the first time a NRI session took place at the IGF. 72 different NRIs were involved, which was challenging from an organizational point of view. In 2017, again a NRI main session took place, and in addition some collaborative sessions. For the IGF 2018, NRIs have already submitted a proposal for organizing a main session as well as collaborative sessions. Among the MAG, there are different opinions if NRI’s should be assigned with a main session slot or not.
In the following, participants discussed how valuable last year’s NRI main session and collaborative sessions were and if they should be continued or not. Regarding the collaborative sessions at IGF 2017, there were different opinions among the participants: Some found them rather difficult to organize, while others perceived them as a good experience. Regarding the NRI main session at IGF 2017, many said that they found it not very interesting. Some said that the session time was used for individual presentations, which resulted in the session lacking interaction among the participants and to a certain extent a thematic expertise. It was proposed that issues of immediate concern to the communities could be discussed during a NRI main session. Another idea was that instead of having the NRI main session, regional fora could be organized and that the collaborative sessions could be used for such regional fora. Following up on the idea of regional fora, it was suggested to have parallel regional sessions (e.g. by the EuroDIG, the African IGF etc.) that all discuss the same issue. Afterwards the regional IGFs could come together and present the outcomes from their respective regions. In addition, it was said that a multi-year approach should be taken regarding the NRI’s involvement at the global IGF. Another idea was that NRI’s could be used to reach out to social media companies and invite them to the IGF. In general, it was said that NRI’s should play a role in community building.
In conclusion, it was said that the NRIs should continue this brainstorming discussion within the full NRI Network.
1 These were: Albania IGF, Ukraine IGF, FYRO Macedonia IGF, SEEDIG, Finland IGF, Italy IGF, Portugal IGF, Armenia IGF, Georgia IGF, Spain IGF, Youth IGF of the Netherlands, Estonia IGF, Slovenia IGF, Germany IGF, Switzerland IGF, UK IGF, Denmark IGF, YOUthDIG