Civil society coordination meeting

25 Nov 2019 12:35h - 15:35h

Event report

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

Co-ordination of civil society groups within the domain of Internet governance and digital policy is a challenging task. The Internet Governance Caucus (IGC) organised, as has been its tradition, a pre-event at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) this year.

Ms Sheetal Kumar (Programme Lead, Global Partners Digital; Co-Coordinator, IGC) framed the session around the identification of common priorities and strategies. Ms Bruna Santos (Policy Strategist, Coding Rights; Co-Coordinator, IGC) provided a look at the history of the IGC, which started back at the beginning of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) process, mostly as a civil society which provided space for exchanging opinions. In the past two years, there have been efforts to rebuild the IGC.

There is hope that the IGC can serve the function of feeding into various digital policy events, which has not been happening much lately, and that it should be revitalised. It wants to encourage members of its network to be more active. Around 100 people from all over the world are currently on the list.

A delicate question regarding the definition of civil societies came up. According to Santos, it includes groups that work for the public good. It involves a very wide range of groups including think-tanks and activists who sign up for the mission of the IGC Charter. Mr Peter Micek (General Counsel, Access Now) clarified that it is not only non-profit organisations that participate, but the media too. Therefore, it is not a very exclusive group.

The IGC aims to serve as a platform for organisations of a very wide range of groups. Throughout history, a lot of other networks emerged, which is a positive development. The IGC wants to try to help connect the dots among interested civil society groups. The session participants often underlined the need for civil societies to engage more in forums and discussions. Parts of the session provided ideas and suggestions of how to make the operation of the IGC more efficient.

Breakout sessions covered topics from the IGC list:
1. Content regulation with a focus on the Christchurch Call.
2. State behaviour in cyberspace with a focus on the First and Third Committee.
3. Emerging technologies with discussions on ethics.

Developments around .org issues and the recent Internet Society (ISOC) move was a topic that, controversially enough, gained a lot of attention. As Santos explained, .org is one of the legacy domains meant to serve the public interest and general purposes. A few years ago, ISOC was tasked to manage this domain name with a price-cap. The fact that the price-cap was recently removed indicated that changes were to be expected, which last week’s developments confirmed. The civil society is worried about future changes and uncertainties since there is no human rights impact assessment. The SaveDotOrg letter is now up for many civil society groups to sign.

Discussions on the future of the IGF might change, especially after the recommendations given in the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation’s report.

The session allowed participants to consider issues relevant to the IGF agenda and identify what opportunities exist during the IGF where civil societies can come together to reinforce common positions, and thereby strengthen their position in Internet governance discussions.

By Tereza Horejsova