It was a busy week for IG stakeholders, who gathered in Geneva for the regular consultation meetings on agenda, overall theme and sub-themes, remote participation, and other matters related to the preparation of the annual Internet Governance Forum, which is set to take place in Nairobi later on this year.
The week started off with the Open Consultations on 23 February to discuss the 6th IGF programme, followed by the informal Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) meeting on 24 February, open to MAG members and observers. The second EuroDig preparatory meeting also took place on the 24th. In Montreux, the CSTD’s Working Group on improvements to the IGF held its first meeting on 25-26 February.
Despite the discussions, key positions and appointments remain vacant. Among them is that of Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Internet Governance. The appointment was until recently held by Nitin Desai, former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who undertook the role in 2003 as Special Advisor to WSIS.
Closer to last week’s discussions is the fact that the position of MAG chairperson is also currently vacant – an appointment which was also held, until recently, by former special advisor Nitin Desai.
But nor has the MAG been officially renewed – even though another MAG meeting has just been held – since such decision ‘is up to the special advisor’, a UN DESA official confirmed during the informal MAG meeting. However, the stakeholders were assured that ‘the Secretary-General is considering the appointment of the special advisor. And until the decision is not taken, this is up to the Secretary-General.’
And as if the diplomatic vacuum was not already big enough, despite the week-long discussions on the preparations leading up to the 6th IGF, the position of Executive Co-ordinator of the IGF Secretariat is also vacant. The position was formerly held by Markus Kummer, who earlier this year joined ISOC as vice-president for public policy.
Who will the new Special Advisor and IGF Secretariat Executive Co-ordinator be is a question the IG community is undoubtedly asking. Yet, of particular interest will also be the new MAG mandate, which has previously been that of mainly assisting in the preparations for the annual meeting. One will have to see whether its mandate will be renewed on the same lines as the previous ones, or whether the decision will follow up on the outcomes of the CSTD WG on the IGF.