With a steady growing number of participants from the Arab stakeholder community, November saw the third annual Arab IGF take place in Beirut, Lebanon, under the theme "Arab Perspective for Shaping the Future of the Internet". More than 500 participants from over 30 countries attended, representing stakeholders from governments, private sector, civil society, and the technical and academic communities.
The presence of civil society in this meeting was remarkable, not only in terms of numbers (according to organizers, 40% of participants were civil society), but also, and more importantly for their level of enthusiasm and active engagement. The forum covered topics concerning the Arab world, ranging from Internet public policies, openness and privacy, users' rights and responsibilities, freedom of expression, Arabic online content, IDNs, IXPs, among others.
During the main session on Internet Public Policies, we had the opportunity to inform and update the community on the work underway with regard to the IANA Stewardship Transition and ICANN Accountability, encouraging them to take part in the process. We also held a workshop on ICANN's Middle East regional strategy, in which community members active in ICANN spoke to projects and initiatives implemented as part of the strategy.
ICANN has been supporting the Arab IGF since its inception; from the very early days when it was only an idea, to today; participating in and supporting all its events.
The Arab IGF to date has succeeded in opening new engagement avenues for the Arab Internet community to learn from one another, and explore means to leverage the gained knowledge in supporting their communities back home. We are also cognizant of challenges facing the Arab IGF forging ahead to become a stable and sustainable platform in the region. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders in the Arab World to get their act together to ensure the Arab IGF's sustainability, and to improve its transparency and inclusivity.
The truth of the matter is that, like any multi-stakeholder process, the Arab IGF will continue to evolve over time, and will never reach the point where it can satisfy everyone. But this year's meeting has shown that the Arab IGF is gaining more ground in attracting new faces and voices that are often absent in global Internet Governance fora, which is in itself is a significant accomplishment.
By Baher Esmat, VP Stakeholder Engagement, Middle East