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Communication dans un congrès Année : 2013

Internet Governance and the Mutual Consolidation of Civil Society and IGOs roles.


Civil society actors play a major role in defining Internet governance (IG) as a political construct (in progress). From WSIS (the World Summit on the Information Society, 2002-2005) to the annual IGF (Internet Governance Forum, since 2006), including the constitution and work of the WGIG (Working Group on Internet Governance, during WSIS second phase 2003-2005), major frameworks and milestones of related global discussions have put the emphasis on the need for multistakeholder discussions, and it is now commonly admitted that no global, regional and even national IG debate should include three main categories of actors, which are: the States or more exactly in this context Governments, Business Organizations, and Civil Society. The inherent fuzziness of the concept of civil society (as largely discussed in the general literature, far beyond the one related to the IG field) was even more amplified in the WSIS and subsequent IG fora by the nature of the field. In particular, depending on the wide or narrow understanding of the IG object, civil society has proven a particularly labile and unstable group of stakeholder, where different interests are mixed. Far from being only composed of NGOs or INGOs (International NGOs), it also include, in IG circles, other kinds of civil society groups (such universities and academic associations), loose thematic coalitions, and most importantly, individuals participating in their own capacity. Further refinements emerged from the evidence that other groups needed to be recognized and included to accommodate both their specific structural composition and membership, and, above all, specific interests they managed to push forward. The Internet Technical Community is an additional category of stakeholder that managed to have itself recognized as such. The emergence of this group of actors, with its specific interests, constitutes a major shift in Internet policy making and more generally in the global political communication order. Members of this group include ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), ISOC (the Internet Society), and a dozen of other structures dedicated to Internet management and research, most of them ensuring a vital part of the network operation. They have themselves a multistakeholder composition, and are registered (or sometimes not even registered) as different kinds of constituencies. This makes them a somehow hybrid group, that cannot be considered as “pure-kind”, or at least as genuinely and exclusively belonging to one of the already existing stakeholder category. They are cautiously referred to, in IGF circles and especially the IGF MAG (Multistakeholder Advisory Group), as part of civil society, being made clear that the latter “includes representatives from the academic and technical communities”. However, the Internet Technical Community really emerged as such through the blessing of the OECD, when it decided, after its 2008 Ministerial Conference on the Future of the Internet Economy in Seoul, to create two new Advisory Councils, in addition to the pre-existing BIAC (Business Industry Advisory Council) and TUAC (Trade-Union Advisory Council): the CSISAC (Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council) and ITAC (Internet Technical Advisory Council), both restricted to OECD work in the field of Information and Communication policy. Since then, ITAC established itself as an inescapable stakeholder in IG discussions. Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs), whether regional (such as the OECD or the Council of Europe) or global (such as some UN agencies with direct interest in the IG field), also imposed themselves as a stakeholder by itself. While being a much older, more classical and better known political object than the members of the Internet Technical Community, they managed to get this stakeholder status mainly thanks to the global nature of the Internet, its governance and the regulation of its uses. They underlined the need for their invaluable experience, capacity and mandate to co-elaborate binding and non binding standards, and thus succeeded in establishing themselves as the right fora to deal with the cross-border nature of the network in an effective way. The global IGFs and, to an even greater extent, the regional IGFs (such as, in Europe, the annual EuroDIG forum, since 2008) have largely seen their increasing role in IG debates. Among this whole landscape of stakeholders groups, the academic literature has typically analyzed civil society participation in terms of NGOs and other civil society organizations or in terms of individuals, but researchers have not analyzed the evolution of participation from collective to individual civil societies. Multistakeholder partnerships have also been largely discussed, mainly focusing on the “triad” Governments/Businesses/Civil Society. Technical fora such as the ones constituting the Internet Technical Community, and especially the ICANN, given its major role in Internet management and actual policing, have also been the subject of a great deal of academic research. But few if any research work exist on the pair Civil Society/Intergovernmental organizations, and how they interact in the IG field. The proposed presentation will focus on this specific pair of IG actors, how they interact, how they identify common interests, and how they have been mutually consolidating their respective roles and importance in Internet policy making, even far beyond the narrow understanding of IG. Through the examples of both the OECD and the Council of Europe, we will show to which extent civil society (NGOs and INGOs, academia, as well as individuals) is contributing to the empowerment of IGOs in the field, sometimes leading to their literal revival on the political scene with respect to Nation States. We will also explore how IGOs in their turn have been legitimizing civil society involvement and role vis-à-vis both the States and the business organizations. In one word, our presentation will analyze how “the strength of being weak” proved profitable to both civil society and IGOs in the field of IG. In terms of methodology, this work is a follow-up on previous work of the author (part of it having been presented at previous IAMCR venues). Observations and data are gathered through our ongoing participant observation to most global or regional IG settings, including Council of Europe committees of experts in the digital environment (since 2005) and OECD Internet policy making processes (since 2008).
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hal-01217457, version 1 (19-10-2015)


  • HAL Id : hal-01217457 , version 1


Meryem Marzouki. Internet Governance and the Mutual Consolidation of Civil Society and IGOs roles.. IAMCR 2013 Conference, Jun 2013, Dublin, Ireland. ⟨hal-01217457⟩
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