IGF information session

15 Jun 2017 13:15h - 14:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

This session provided information to interested individuals and entities about what the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is and what to expect from the IGF 2017, which takes place 18-21 December 2017 in Geneva.

Mr Chengetai Masango (IGF Programme and Technology Manager) moderated the session. He gave a brief introduction reminding attendees that the IGF is one of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and has been operative since 2006, which makes this year’s IGF the 12th meeting in a row.

Ms Lynn St. Amour (Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group) talked about the MAG’s work around preparations for the IGF’s annual programme. She emphasised the fact that more focus is being put into intercessional work, including best practice forums and dynamic coalitions, which introduced and worked in depth on important topics such as ‘Gender and Access’. St. Amour introduced the National and Regional Initiatives (NRIs) sustained efforts to bring important regional and national inputs into global digital policy spaces, including the IGF. An NRI session will be included in the IGF 2017 agenda.

Yolanda Martinez (Head of the Digital Government Unit, Ministry for Public Administration of Mexico) spoke as host of the IGF 2016 that took place in Guadalajara, Mexico. She pointed out how being a host to the IGF was relevant to Mexico’s digital strategy, as access to the Internet has become a constitutional right. She stated: ‘ in our policy making ,we believe that everything that has to do with the Internet has to be done in a multistakeholder manner.’ For Mexico as a host, it was important to make the event inclusive for all stakeholders and all regions. The success of the event achieved through strategic planning on raising awareness of the importance of having conversations around Internet-related issues. The event attracted a significant number of academics and local students to participate. ‘Increased youth participation brought fresh and different perspectives into the space’, Martinez said.

Mr Thomas Schneider (Vice-Director, Federal Office of Communications of Switzerland) spoke as host of the IGF 2017. He invited attendees to participate actively in the IGF process. Schneider especially emphasised the number of important international organisations that exist in Geneva, stating that this is an unique opportunity to bring the expertise of people who work on important Internet-related issues and policies into the discussion. The host is already working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IGF Secretariat. He invited the organisers and participants to use the potential of Geneva, and to use the IGF as a catalyst for new ideas and connections. At the end of his presentation, he noted how the host relies on the Geneva Internet Platform as a tool for everyone who wants to more easily understand why the Internet and the IGF matter in the world today.

Tim Engelhardt (Human Rights Officer, OHCHR) stated that the IGF is an important forum for OHCHR to engage with a full range of stakeholders, and to work on promoting the importance of the Internet in relation to human rights. Due to the impact that the Internet has on all human rights, he highlighted the need to support keeping a space for human rights within the IGF agenda.

Hisham Aboulyazed (Senior Manager for Global Internet Policies at the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Egypt) reminded attendees how his country had already engaged in the early 90s in discussions around the Internet. For Egypt, hosting an IGF has shown to be a great opportunity for awareness raising among different stakeholder groups and for outreach. It was an opportunity to engage different entities not only within Egypt, but in the region as well. He emphasised the importance of the IGF’s format as a space to meet ‘without pressure’ for collaboration and understanding on topics which have different approaches by different actors. As a result of hosting the IGF, many stakeholders have started dialogues after the event, beginning work on important issues such as the DNS market along with ICANN, for instance, which has led to developing capacities in different business and legal aspects. He reminded everyone about the historical importance of Geneva, and how the IGF 2017 should be the time and space to tackle important issues of today, such as access and closing the digital divide.

Paolo Lanteri([Legal Officer, WIPO) pointed out how WIPO has been a long-standing actor in the IGF, organising its own sessions and contributing to many others as well. He noted that access to creative content holds a vital message which should be on the agenda of the IGF. Lanteri explained how WIPO’s contributions are raising important issues and bringing valuable experts to the conversation. WIPO is looking into facilitating dialogue around intellectual property, which was raised as an important issue during the IGF 2016. Beyond its work with governments, WIPO is looking into collaborating with many civil society organisations and other key players such as the World Economic Forum. He underlined the value in engaging in multistakeholder discussions within the IGF, and how the event offers a way to stay updated with the latest developments surrounding the Internet. He stated that the MAG is doing a great job in putting together a complex agenda, but suggested that there is still room for improvement.

Gary Fowlie (Head, ITU Liaison Office to the United Nations, and on behalf of ITU-UN Women Equals collaboration) reminded attendees about important Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on gender, health, and affordable access. He emphasised that one of the solutions to resolve many issues is the equal gender equity. He pointed out how the SGDs and the IGF have gotten out of sync, and how the two need to be brought back together. In order to do that, Fowlie suggested focussing on situations where the IGF will be a substantive contributor in the future. As important topics to work on, he highlighted digital literacy and affordable access on local levels.


by Aida Mahmutovic