A record number of representatives from civil society, academia, business, technical community, and governments gathered in Istanbul on September 2-5 for the annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Unlike many other UN conferences, the IGF intentionally convenes all stakeholders involved in the Internet ecosystem rather than just governments. While the IGF does not produce binding outcomes, its multi-stakeholder discussions set the tone and direction on the future governance of the domain name system and related policy issues.
This IGF comes at an interesting time following the U.S. Government’s announcement to transfer oversight over key domain name functions to the multi-stakeholder community in March. The NETmundial conference a month later advanced this idea further. Some fear that next month’s ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in South Korea could see some authoritarian governments (read: Russia) push for a fundamentally different top-down approach driven by governments and giving the UN a mandate over Internet governance.
IGF participants almost unanimously agreed on the merits of today’s multi-stakeholder model and advanced efforts to further improve it. The ICANN globalization process and the stewardship transition of the IANA functions to the global multi-stakeholder community were widely supported. The IGF itself was applauded and its mandate should be extended. Future IGFs could produce recommendations and improve its inclusiveness, for instance by ensuring better participation from developing countries.
Above all, the IGF demonstrated that a majority of dedicated techies, civil society activists, academics, business experts, and government representatives are capable of advancing a joint vision for the further evolution of today’s successful Internet governance system.