In an earlier blog, I wrote about why our Asia Pacific (APAC) community needs to participate in ICANN. To do that, we need to understand the multistakeholder model, which is applied from the bottom-up, not the top-down.
In this blog, I will illustrate how this model works with an example closer to home.
Bottom-Up Governance in Action: The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF)
To give you some background, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multistakeholder forum where policy discussions take place on issues related to Internet governance. For the uninitiated, learn more about the IGF here.
A regional version of the IGF, the APrIGF serves as a platform for discussion, exchange, and collaboration with the aim of advancing Internet governance development in the APAC region. What many people don't know is that the APrIGF is convened from the bottom-up by – you guessed it – multistakeholders.
Following the global IGF's lead, members of the Internet community in the APAC region felt the need for a platform in the region for Internet-related discussions. In 2010, an open process began that resulted in the creation of a regional IGF, and the APrIGF has convened every year since.
A self-organizing group called the Multistakeholder Steering Group (MSG) "governs" the APrIGF. Membership is open to anyone from the region, and includes representatives from different stakeholder groups. Everything at the APrIGF is done on a volunteer basis, and in the MSG no one person or organization dominates the discussions.
In the beginning, the MSG came together and by consensus settled on a few "rules," including how it is structured: the operating principles and election procedures that govern how it chooses its leadership. The MSG meets periodically (on conference calls mostly) to plan and organize each year's APrIGF. It agrees to more rules as required, such as the process for organizations to bid to host an APrIGF; or the formation of a program committee to determine how to evaluate workshop proposals that will shape the agenda of the year's APrIGF.
So the APrIGF is a group of interested stakeholders coming together to work on issues or to solve problems related to the Internet from the bottom-up. That, in my view, is the multistakeholder approach.
The size of the MSG has grown over the years, and so has the participation and depth of conversation at the APrIGF. The most recent APrIGF meeting held in Bangkok saw over 500 attendees from 45 economies in the region.
ICANN: Another Model of Multistakeholder Internet Governance
ICANN is another example of a platform where an open collection of global stakeholders from different groups – including academia, business, technical experts, civil society, governments, and end users – convene based on an open, bottom-up process. As I highlighted in Part 1 of this blog, in ICANN, the discussions focus largely on Internet domain names.
How does the multistakeholder approach in ICANN work?
- Any interested stakeholder can participate.
- Stakeholders can represent themselves, their organizations, their governments, or other stakeholder groups.
- Stakeholders are publicly accountable.
- Participants have agreed on operating procedures, and to participate effectively, it helps to understand them.
- Participants are the ones who raise issues or problems. They work from the bottom-up to develop the necessary processes to take issues forward.
- Much of the work takes place through conference calls, which help to broaden participation. In addition, ICANN hosts three Public Meetings per year, held in different regions of the world. At these meetings, stakeholders meet face-to-face. Our next ICANN Public Meeting will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 10–15 March 2018.
I hope that this blog has helped you better understand the governance and participation model of ICANN. Your involvement is key; if we are not involved, our region's voices will not be heard.
Come join us and help shape the future of the Domain Name System. Our focus at the APAC regional office is to facilitate your participation. If you are interested but don't know how to start, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.