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IGF meeting starts – same faces, same discussions

Category : Internet governance · by Feb 16th, 2006

The IGF meeting started an hour ago – in the same room as the explosive WSIS discussions only a few months ago.

So far, all has gone as expected. Chairman Nitin Desai and secretary Markus Kummer have outlined the openness of the meeting (although you still have to apply for accreditation, and find and queue up for your badge, and then go through several security checks to get into the building).

ITU secretary-general Yoshio Utsumi is also here up on stage and gave a brief address about the “many, many challenges and problems” remaining around modern communications. The ITU is, of course, still hoping to take a significant chunk of the Internet – the only problem being that several big countries, the US and UK included, are just as determined not to let the ITU have it.

But that's a side issue. We've now effectively done a round of the most important speakers and it has become clear that what I said in an article I wrote last night for The Register that there is widespread agreement that:

1) An open and multi-stakeholder process- basically everyone is welcome, not closed meetings
2) One meeting a year
3) A focus on very few topics that can produce real results

There also seems to be quite alot of support for both a bureau and a secretariat. The idea being that there is a permanent body of people working for the IGF. Since governments are mentioning this, then it must be assumed they are ready to make some financial contributions toward it. Although that should never be assumed.

Inevitably however, the party was halted by Brazil using its speech to insist that the IGF be used to discuss “public policy issues” regarding the overall Internet – code for “force the US government to hand over control of the Net to an inter-governmental body”.

However, dragging up the WSIS problem all over again (at least in the IGF) does not appear to be a popular idea. So far the feeling is that the IGF should be a practical body and anything that leads to impasse is a bad idea.

But the big problems are still there:

* Will governments accept that an open process also means that everyone is an equal member? Will they accept that business, academics etc should have the same influence on the IGF?
* Will governments allow, accept and embrace online collaboration tools as a main method of sorting out IGF issues?
* What model will the IGF follow?

Apart from the ICANN/US government issue, the other big inter-governmental argument is going to be whether the IGF should be a United Nations body or not. My feeling is that enough powerful people don't want it under the UN, so it is unlikely to happen.

More later as it happens.

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