Editor   05 Sep 2014   Internet Governance

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As the ninth meeting of the IGF continues to debate the issues around Internet governance in Istanbul this week, elsewhere in the city, the Internet Ungovernance Forum is also holding forth. This initiative is organised by Prof. Yaman Akdeniz from Bilgi Unversity, who, in his keynote speech opening the event yesterday, spoke of what is going on in Turkey related to the Internet, in particular with regard to control and human rights.  Prof. Akdeniz himself is boycotting the IGF: for him, considering Turkey’s poor human rights/Internet record, choosing Istanbul to host the IGF only serves to legitimise it. This evening at 6pm, Edward Snowden is expected to join the proceedings remotely.

Back at the IGF, yesterday morning’s session on the future of the IGF was a marathon one with 21 speakers taking to the podium over the course of three hours. The ratio between the ritual Internet governance lingo (the need for innovative solutions, multistakeholderism, etc.) and new ideas was reasonable. Yet we need to avoid a tendency to offer a black/white, yes/no solution rhyme in our discussions. There was also agreement that strengthening of the IGF is needed. Two key words that carried consensus were inclusion and outcome. The main differences started when it came to discussing how to achieve the outcome, something that very likely will have to be negotiated. The real question is how to negotiate in a multistakeholder space. NETmundial and the WSIS+10 High Level experience were mentioned as two examples of negotiations in a multistakeholder space. Whether and how to negotiate in such a space will be one of the make-or-break points for the future of the IGF. Different views were also voiced when it came to funding the IGF: should it be funded by UN core funding or through the current approach of funding by different actors? It remains to be seen.

Within the digital era, new opportunities are being created for individuals and society, opportunities that are accompanied by new hazards, particularly with regard to protection and human rights. We are facing the challenge of finding more effective ways for protecting human rights on the Net. There was a thought-provoling discussion on whether human values can be embedded into the architecture of the Net in Workshop 82 on alternative routes protecting human rights on the Internet. The Science and Society’s MAPPING (Managing Alternatives for Privacy, Property and Internet Governance) project has just started so lots of questions and issues were put on the table. For example, the question of whether and if a framework treaty or Bill of Rights is needed for the Internet and if so, what form should it take; this old issue was back in focus as existing proposals from previous years gain new saliency. Another recurring question spoke to the feasibility and even the necessity of having multiple Internets where users would use the one that had at its core the fundamental human rights.

Both the DCAD (Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability) meeting and Workshop 99 on digital inclusion policy for the forgotten billion, reminded us forcefully of the difficulties faced by those suffering from disability to be integrated, and to integrate themselves, in everyday life. It was also very striking how strongly some feel about NOT being marked as ‘different’, even in circumstances where this might make life easier for them.

Today the halls are noticeably quieter. Many of the booths in the IGF Village are empty. Yet the meetings, workshops, and discussions continue unabated.

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