13th Annual Internet Governance Forum

The Internet Governance Forum is an international forum that brings together various stakeholder groups from the public and private sectors to discuss policy issues relating to the Internet. The 13thannual IGF was hosted by the Government of France at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France this year. This year’s theme centered around “The Internet of Trust.” In addition to hosting the IGF, President Macron announced it to be International Digital Week in France, which included the Peace Forum and the GovTech convention. From discussions on cybersecurity to those on refugee issues, the IGF introduced conversations on multiple subjects. Although I experienced some technical difficulties, I was able to learn more about refugee access to internet through the session on “Refugees digital rights: Necessities and needs.” In some regions, especially those who host large refugee populations, there are restrictive data policies that restrict access. Not only do these restrict access to the Internet, these policies affect a refugee’s ability to access digital learning opportunities and connect with family members. In an evolving technical society, it was interesting to hear the attendees talk about the need to emphasize a refugees human right to digital access.

The IGF is an innovative forum for many reasons. All individuals are representing themselves, not their organizations, which allows individuals to rely on their own expertise rather than being limited by the scope of their organization. It also encourages more open dialogue because there are no negotiations for an “outcome document” similar to other large-scale international forums. In addition, the IGF has a Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG). The MAG was established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in order to advise on the programming and schedule of the IGF. 55 members from governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations are elected into the MAG and participate in face-to-face meetings up to three times a year. Dialogues are also open to former IGF host countries and representations of intergovernmental organizations. Essentially, the MAG acts as a governance mechanism for the IGF. The IGF also has dynamic coalitions that focus on specific key issues regarding internet governance. The dynamic coalitions first emerged at the first IGF meeting in Athens in 2006. These coalitions are informal, issue-specific groups with members from different stakeholder groups.

One of the most interesting innovations to me is the development of regional IGF’s. These regional forums host discussions that are focused on the issues discussed at the IGF, but are more country or region specific. Because of the regional IGF’s, more individuals are able to participation in these conversations because they are easier to access. Today, there are more than 110 regional IGFs located in all 5 UN regions.