Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) selection: Lessons being learned
How to foster inclusive and effective diplomacy is a question that we, at Diplo, try to answer in our training and research. The global push for more inclusive and transparent governance is clear. The wide engagement with the ACTA issue is a recent example. More inclusive governance is not only ethically preferable, it is also practical. If you expect people to follow the rules adopted, you have to consult them, and be certain the rules are reasonable.
On the occasion of the current selection of IGF MAG members, we thought of carrying out a small ‘experiment in vivo’ towards a transparent and open selection process. We extended an open invitation to the widest possible range of people in the IG policy space to be considered for the MAG. We tried to set criteria that would encourage both inclusiveness (countries not previously represented in MAG, small states) and efficiency (people with a solid foundation in knowledge, experience, and diplomatic skills to contribute to the IGF MAG). Most candidates featured very well on both criteria (inclusiveness and effectiveness).
Of the 25 people who answered the call, 12 are women and 13 are men; 13 are from countries never before represented on the MAG; 3 are from SIDS; 6 are from LDCs.
Our strategy in choosing the candidates to endorse for MAG consisted of six weighted factors:
· Votes received in the Diplo Community poll: 40 points
· Experience and engagement in IG: 20 points
· Positive support for women: 10 points
· Represents a country never before on the MAG:10 points
· Represents a least developed country:10 points
· Represents a small, island, developing state:10 points
Given that each voter could vote for up to 5 candidates, 319 votes were cast. The other points were calculated, resulting in the Diplo Community endorsing 8 candidates: 7 women, 1 man, from 8 different countries, 7 LDCs and DCs, and 1 developed country. The calculation spreadsheet for votes and other characteristic is available for review.
This was a successful experiment in transparent nomination, prompting a comment on the Diplo Community website (Siranush Vardanyan ) ‘Congratulations to all candidates. This way of nominating and [the] voting process is one of the [most] transparent and best I have ever seen. Bravo, Diplo community!!!” That the call was taken seriously by the community was evident in the response, and in Nnenna's spirited response -- MAG: To be or not to be , a healthy analysis of the pros and cons of taking on this responsibility.
We knew we would learn from this experience. Our first lesson is that we should consider whether this formula should increase the weight of the candidates’ IG background (competence) and reduce the importance of the poll, since the voting results could be difficult to interpret when a group does not have a clear constituency (list of voters, campaign, etc.).
A second lesson is that candidates should engage in a debate. It is not enough to say ‘I want to promote development’. Candidates should have the opportunity to explain how they would conduct a dialogue with their community, and to establish priorities and lines of communication to bring desired issues to the MAG meetings. On the next occasion, we plan to organise webinars with candidates who will be invited to propose their three main points. What other candidate characteristics should we be addressing? What can/should be assessed when choosing candidates for MAG or other community positions?
It remains to be seen how our endorsements will be reflected in the choice of the MAG Renewal Committee and IGF Secretariat, and, if they are selected, how the same community will evaluate the subsequent work of the chosen candidates. In the meantime, we thank and congratulate all those who participated in this process.