Arab perspectives on Digital Cooperation and Internet Governance Process

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Open Forum 21

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

Inspired by the outcomes of the UN Secretary General's High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation'a (HLPDC) report, the Middle East and North African (MENA) open forum explored opportunities to launch regional consultations discussing the main principles for improved digital co-operation, taking into consideration all related implications.

Mr Jovan Kurbaljia (Founding Director, DiploFoundation; Head, Geneva Internet Platform) initiated the panel by stating that the HLPDC was a good exercise for consulting with various stakeholders in defining the modalities of work in digital co-operation.

The recommendations of the report focus on fostering a digital economy and society, the notion of inclusion, human institutions and capacity, human rights and human agency, trust, and security. These principles will inform practical mechanisms that could be agreed upon among various stakeholders and with the support of governments. The main outcomes emphasise the need to set up co-operation, support policy-making, and support other functions that will allow the cross fertilisation of digital policy strategies.

The discussion shifted to focus on the outcome of the report and how it links to the needs of the MENA region specifically. The technical community, represented by Mr Chafic Yahya (RIPE NCC), is of the opinion that Arab countries must lead the discussion locally before scaling up to the global level.

Ms Christine Arida (NTRA Egypt) stressed the need to diversify the voices in the debate to formulate an agenda representing everyone concerned. The main question according to Arida is ‘to focus on the process of an Arab IGF model that can be reinforced to meet the needs of the various communities’. On the one hand, any new model can support policies that are fine-tuned and crystallised. On the other hand, a model can be an incubator of innovative solutions to policy challenges in the Arab region.

Ms Hanane Boujemi (Executive Director, Tech Policy Tank) briefly touched upon the need to design policies that fit the needs and the circumstances of the MENA region. Most importantly, grass-roots should have a platform to share their views and to be part of the digital policy-making process.

Mr Fahd Batayna (ICANN) highlighted the priorities of his organisation in the Arab region; these priorities focus on governance and geopolitics as two important components, aligning aligns with the principles of digital co-operation.

The session concluded by noting that the Internet governance process in the Arab region should incorporate further improvements and could benefit from recommendations of the HLPDC to be more inclusive. The identification of synergies among the concerned stakeholders is also needed, as well as a strengthening of communities so they can substantively feed into policy discussions.

By Hanane Boujemi

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