The second and final day of the consultations on the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that was mandated by Kofi Annan following the conclusions of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), is now over. If you wish to know what was said, you could go and read the transcripts of the morning and afternoon.
There is a broad range of opinions and suggestions that Chairman Desai will report to Kofi Annan for further consideration. Let me try to summarise some points that I guess will find their way into this report:
Although several delegations asked for more meetings, it seems unlikely that they will take place for lack of time and resources. So the next meeting will be the 1st Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) around October 2006, with the exact dates to be determined. The meeting may take the shape of a four day event starting on a Tuesday to allow for thematic working group discussions and common position building on Monday.
Because there will be no more meetings, further consultation will be conducted online and multiple delegations asked for the creation of a “multistakeholder group”, also called “steering committee” or “program committee” in some interventions. Chairman Desai wants to give everyone time to think whether this group is necessary, and if so, comment on the form, shape and composition. For this he is planning a 10 day consultation period, so roughly until end of February.
For the year 2007, Brazil already offered itself as host country for the 2nd Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Rio de Janeiro, which would have to be decided at the IGF in Greece.
So, for the moment this is where we are. If there are comments on the “multistakeholder group” and its composition, they should be sent within the next ten days to Mr Kummer, who is the responsible executive secretary.
As far as United Nations conferences go, this one was very relaxed, informal and, well, funny. Sometimes the fun was somewhat involuntarily caused by technology, such as the transcription system, which was clearly not “German professor proof” as Wolfgang KleinwÃ¤chter proved when explaining the true nature of the internet:
It's a "terror incognito." [ Laughter ] >>WOLFGANG KLEINWAECHTER: I said -- I'm sorry. It's my English pronunciation. It's a terra inCOGNITa. [Applause] >> Speak English! >>WOLFGANG KLEINWAECHTER: It's not English? I am -- I'm sorry for that. But as a German researcher, sometimes you use Latin terminology.
And sometimes the fun was created by the outstanding skills of Chairman Desai, for instance when he was faced with the impossible task of summarizing the first day of consultations:
>>CHAIRMAN DESAI: I think I'm not going to summarize. But I think I will just leave you with a story from a person in India and also central Asia. Mulla Nasrudin was asked to make a speech on a subject he knew nothing about. And he went to this meeting, and he asked the people, "do you people know what I am going to say?" And everybody in the audience said, "No." So he says, "How can I talk to people who don't know what I'm going to say?" And he walked off. [ Laughter ] >>CHAIRMAN DESAI: Mulla Nasrudin came the next -- again. And this time, they had prepared themselves. So Mulla Nasrudin says, "do you people know what I'm going to talk about?" And everybody said, "Yes." He says, "Then I don't need to talk to you anyhow." [ Laughter. ] >>CHAIRMAN DESAI: So they said "now what do we do?" So they called him a third time, and they planned. They said, "half say this and half say that." So actually when he said, "do you know what I am going to say?" Half said, "no," the other half said "yes." He says, "fine. Those who know tell the others who don't." [ Laughter. ] >>CHAIRMAN DESAI: That's exactly what I am going to do. Go for a wonderful reception which the Swiss are giving. As for tomorrow, let's get back to this. And it'll probably be in this the spirit.
or his refreshingly direct response to a rather lengthy intervention by Adam Peake:
>>CHAIRMAN DESAI: Adam, yes, I think it will be -- your intellectual contributions will be very nice. But hard cash would be even nicer. [ Laughter ]
Final note on Free Software
One of the nicest things to see about the IGF Consultations were the Free Software activists of the Politecnic University of Torino, though, who volunteered to use their Free Software video streaming software to stream the entire sessions live, and who will be offering recordings of the sessions online.
They received some travel subsidy to be able to come to Geneva, but did all the work on a voluntary basis, making the IGF accessible to everyone with an internet connection — thanks a lot, guys!