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E-Participation Webinar – Remote Participation in International Organisations

28 May 2013

Remote Participation programmes and initiatives make International Agencies more transparent and inclusive.  This was the proposition for the second debate held at Diplo’s e-participation webinar on Tuesday May 21st.

The archive of this debate can be found here:

Marília Maciel (RP at IGF) supported the proposition with the following arguments:

  • International Organisations have been using forms of remote participation for some time now so this process is not new.
  • Remote participation is breaking down silos, making organisations more transparent and facilitating collaboration with external actors.
  • Remote participation can also be used to support on-site delegates who may not be experts in the topic being discussed.
  • Increased transparency and interaction can trigger a change in citizens’ behaviour when they realize that issues being discussed at the international level affect them personally.
  • There are a multitude of international conferences taking place at any one time.  If it were not for remote participation many citizens and stakeholders would be excluded.
  • Remote participation enhances inclusion in other ways – for example, for people new to the debate it reduces the learning curve to issues being discussed.
  • Webcast archives and transcripts provide valuable records that can be used to increase awareness of issues and build capacity at both the international and regional levels.
  • Engagement is a bottom-up process. Engaged citizens and stakeholders will raise awareness in their respective networks.

As Marilia’s opponent in the debate I  agreed that remote participation is an important tool for inclusion but argued that it falls short in a number of areas:

  • Remote participation does not necessarily mean that meetings are open to the general public. Organisations may limit remote participation to their membership.
  • Hybrid meetings – where some delegates are gathered in a conference room and others are attending virtually – are difficult to manage.  In these type of meetings the chair will often defer to delegates who are physically present and may overlook remote participants.
  • A great deal of backroom negotiation takes place in corridors and during coffee breaks; remote participants have no access to these important discussions.
  • Time zones subject remote delegates to virtual jet lag.  They either need to get up very early in the morning or stay up late in the evening.
  • Success of remote participation depends greatly on the competence and skill of the remote participation moderator dedicated to the event.
  • Delegates who are physically present will always have access to interpretation in multilingual meetings; this is not always the case for remote participants.
  • Isolation can make it difficult for remote delegates to remain focused during long meetings.

 

Some comments from the Live-chat:

Tim Davies:

Guy mentions corridor conversations lost to remote participation, and remote participants subject to power of remote moderator: but some of this can be addressed with social reporting to capture and intervene in corridor conversations; and by shifting centre of gravity of event to the web – using tech for *everyone* attending to ‘raise their hands’ to speak in meeting etc.


Events do need to facilitate back-channels for everyone – not just remote participates – blending online and offline. We do need to build in remote, not just bolt it on. And really develop deep training for blended facilitators who work across room and remote

Liz Galvez:

How do you allow for lobbying eg by NGOs who may be excluded from informal meetings? How might a RP delegate be included in the smoky backroom deal-making or at least have a handle on what’s going on?

De Williams:

i was “in” geneva at 3.30am this morning – virtual jetlag is the pits 🙁

 

The result of the vote was as follows:


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In summary, the majority of participants agreed with Marilia that remote participation is making international organisations more transparent and inclusive.

We look forward to more discussion and case studies on remote participation at the E-Participation Day on 19 June where we will have speakers from ITU, ICANN and IGF.

 

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