The received wisdom about the Internet Governance Forum is that it is a forum within which governments can consult with stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and international organisations, to better inform themselves when developing Internet-related public policy. On this account, governments are placed in a very different and pre-eminent role to the other stakeholders.
In addition to the quotations given on this slide, this is also reiterated by paragraph 68 of the Tunis Agenda which provides,
We recognize that all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the Internet. We also recognize the need for development of public policy by governments in consultation with all stakeholders.
Thus the IGF is not seen as a decision-making body. It is a consultative body, not unlike the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs, or in the domestic arena, from the process by which parliaments or executive agencies hold public hearings and receive written submissions.
But even if the Tunis Agenda and the IGF Secretariat didn't say so, the IGF couldn't be any more than a consultative process anyway, because as the first quote on this slide points out, the IGF doesn't have a defined membership, it is basically open to all comers. So how could it possibly make decisions?
I intend to address that question and to challenge some of the received wisdom in this presentation.