It looks like I will be going to Athens, Greece for the inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, from October 30 to November 2! The IGF is a UN-organized body devoted to supporting "multi-stakeholder policy
dialogue" on the Internet and its governance and regulatory policies.
I believe that I am being invited to speak on e-democracy and ICT-enabled participation in policy-making as part of one of the parallel workshops being organized during the Forum. Along the lines of my previous post on the UN and virtual worlds, there’s an interesting discussion going on in the IGF forums about how to facilitate greater participation in the IGF using the internet. Looks like they are going to opt for some combination of an IRC channel and online forum as the primary means of soliciting input outside of actually being at the physical meetings. I’m sure I’ll have some choice words to share on that in Athens.
Here is the invitation letter from Kofi Annan with more detail on the Internet Governance Forum and its importance:
Message from the United Nations Secretary-General
The second phase of the World Summit on the
Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis on 13-15 November 2005,
invited me to convene a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy
dialogue, called the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The Summit asked
me to convene the Forum by the second quarter of 2006 and to implement
this mandate in an open and inclusive process.
The Government of Greece made the generous offer
to host the first meeting of the IGF and proposed that it take place in
Athens on 30 October – 2 November 2006.
I have asked my Special Adviser for Internet
Governance, Mr. Nitin Desai, to assist me in the task of convening the
IGF and I have also set up a small secretariat in Geneva to support
this process. Two rounds of consultations open to all stakeholders held
in Geneva on 16-17 February and 19 May have contributed towards a
common understanding with regard to the format and content of the first
IGF meeting. I have also appointed an Advisory Group with the task of
assisting me in preparing the IGF meeting.
The Advisory Group held a meeting in Geneva on 22
and 23 May 2006 and made recommendations for the agenda and the
programme, as well as the structure and format of the first meeting of
the IGF in Athens.
As the IGF is about the Internet, it is
appropriate to make use of electronic means of communication to convene
its inaugural meeting. The document adopted by WSIS — the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society
— calls on me "to extend invitations to all stakeholders and relevant
parties to participate at the inaugural meeting of the IGF". Therefore,
it is my pleasure to make use of the World Wide Web to invite all
stakeholders — governments, the private sector and civil society,
including the academic and technical communities — to attend the first
meeting of the IGF in Athens. The overall theme of the meeting will be
"Internet Governance for Development". The agenda will be structured
along the following broad themes.
- Openness – Freedom of expression, free flow of information, ideas and knowledge
- Security – Creating trust and confidence through collaboration
- Diversity – Promoting multilingualism and local content
- Access – Internet Connectivity: Policy and Cost
Capacity-building will be a cross-cutting priority.
The meeting will be open for all WSIS accredited
entities. Other institutions and persons with proven expertise and
experience in matters related to Internet governance may also apply to
In its short life, the Internet has become an
agent of dramatic, even revolutionary change and maybe one of today’s
greatest instruments of progress. It is a marvelous tool to promote and
defend freedom and to give access to information and knowledge. WSIS
saw the beginning of a dialogue between two different cultures: the
non-governmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal,
bottom-up decision-making; and the more formal, structured world of
governments and intergovernmental organizations. It is my hope that the
IGF will deepen this dialogue and contribute to a better understanding
of how we can make full use of the potential the Internet has to offer
for all people in the world.