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The purpose of this workshop was to address the issue of how to ensure accountability in developing Internet-related policies and to have them adopted and maintained in an effective manner.
Mr Jan Scholte, professor at the University of Guthenburg, moderated the session. He invited panellists to each share briefly what is happening from their contexts on accountability and then to throw more light on what is working and not working in their particular situations.
Mr Mark Carvell, Senior Policy Adviser, Global Internet Governance Policy, UK government and newly elected chair of ICANN GAC, explained that from the UK perspective, there is a long tradition of public consultation before proposed laws and instruments meet the stage of parliamentary consideration and scrutiny. He said, however, that in the age of multistakeholder Internet governance with a transversal mode of working with other stakeholders in determining how Internet policies globally are rolled out, it is incumbent on him to keep his ministers informed. Relating to ICANN, Carvell mentioned that the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) meets during every ICANN meeting and as a representative for the UK government, he accounts to his minister. Also, every two years the responsible ministers join in the GAC meetings which leads to further openness and transparency in Internet policy development.
Ms Salam Yamout, Regional Director, Middle East for the Internet Society, shared experiences from the region. She acknowledged that the region is very varied and mostly characterised by non-democratically elected governments. Their systems do not support a multistakeholder approach to decision-making and that basically reflects in low participation by the government in the IGFs. Decision-making is mostly top-down, which makes little room for the use of expert knowledge from the base. Technical experts who attend the IGFs find it difficult to account or influence the governments in the region to engage and be accountable to open global internet policy spheres.
Mr Tsuyoshi Kinoshita, VP of the Internet Association of Japan, brought some business perspectives to the discussion. According to Kinoshita, though from the private sector, he has been involved actively in Internet policies since the government of Japan operates within a framework that allows for accountability. Kinoshita maintained that the government of Japan is open to consult with the private sector to drive innovation. It has an information and communication council, with people who appreciate the fundamentals of the Internet and hence play a facilitator role for the private sector to engage in global Internet policy development communities.
Kinoshita, giving an example of how Japan ensures accountability, mentioned that the government would normally establish a consultative committee and call for technical experts from both the government and the private sector. Users are also brought on board to ensure that the committee is well represented to enable a heathy debate that will lead to recommended actions for implementation. Having people working on a common paper with specific interest helps bring accountability to the policy development process.
Ms Grace Githaiga, co-convener of the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), sharing experience from Kenya, said in 2010 her country enshrined in their constitution a provision requiring anyone making public policy to consult those that are affected. A policy document is first developed as a draft and then shared with stakeholders drawn from business, government, and civil society. The ICT regulator in Kenya for instance would create a link on it’s website to gather and publish all the inputs received. This ensures broad participation, openness, and accountability to the policy development process.
The last panellist to speak, Mr Leon Sanchez, co-Chair of the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability, described the ICANN structure and how it enhances accountability. He likened the ICANN structure to the organs of government of a state, which has inherent checks and balances to promote accountability.
The audience had the chance to make very useful comments and ask further questions for clarifications, after which Scholte summarised and closed the meeting.
by Jacob Odame, Internet Society Ghana