Below are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the IGF.
What is the Internet Governance Forum?
Internet governance was one of the most controversial issues at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and at the subsequent WSIS+10 review by the General Assembly in the wake of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. Cognizant of the fact that any Internet governance approach should be inclusive and responsive, the WSIS mandated the Secretary-General of the United Nations to convene the Global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for multistakeholder policy dialogue. The convening of the IGF was announced by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 18 July 2006.
As a platform for discussions, the IGF brings various people and stakeholder groups to the table as equals to exchange information and share good policies and practices relating to the Internet and technologies. While the IGF may not have decision-making mandates, it informs and inspires those who do. It facilitates common understandings and knowledge exchange of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges.
The IGF also gives stakeholders from all countries, including developing countries, the opportunity to engage in the debate on Internet governance and it contributes to capacity building, allowing these stakeholders to build knowledge and skills that will facilitate their participation in existing Internet governance institutions and arrangements. Ultimately the involvement of all stakeholders, from developed as well as developing countries, from governments to international organisations, from the private sector to the civil society, is necessary for advancing dynamic public policies in Internet governance.
Why is the IGF important?
The IGF has over the years identified a wide range of key issues to be addressed by the international community and has shaped policy decisions related to the Internet and technologies throughout the world. The IGF does not adopt resolutions or create any binding treaties. Its importance lies in its unique ability to facilitate discourse between governments, intergovernmental organisations, private companies, the technical community and civil society organisations that deal with or are interested in Internet governance related public policy issues. IGF gatherings discuss proposed responses including regulatory frameworks, potential risks, global trends, as well as best and worst practices that have been adopted or are currently under discussion. Participants also examine the impact of treaties, recommendations and other documents adopted in various international venues within the Internet governance ecosystem.
The IGF serves as a laboratory, a neutral space, where all actors can table an issue for an informed discussion across stakeholders. As an open forum, rather than a membership forum, the IGF is for all people with a stake in the Internet. Since its establishment in 2006, it has gained global prominence among stakeholders as an open, inclusive, and transparent forum for dialogue and collaboration. The IGF mandate was renewed for 5 years in 2010 (2011-2015) and again in 2015 during the WSIS+10 review for another 10 years (2016-2025).
What key issues are discussed at the IGF?
At the beginning of each IGF cycle, through a bottom-up, open online consultations, people from all parts of the world are asked to submit inputs on the most important Internet governance issues for them. Based on the analysis if received inputs, the IGF each year sets the programme thematic priorities.
For example, the IGF 2020 will focus on four main thematic tracks: Data, Environment, Inclusion and Trust.
What are the impacts of the IGF?
Some significant impacts of the IGF are:
Facilitates understanding and agreement on International Internet Public Policies and their impacts
Improved understanding and agreement on Internet governance and new technologies
Enhanced cooperation and collaboration among key organizations and stakeholders dealing with different Internet governance and technology issues
Increased opportunity to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet
Strengthened capacities of all countries, especially developing countries and their stakeholders, to participate effectively in Internet governance arrangements
Increased multilingualism and multiculturalism on the Internet
Mapped multistakeholder and multilateral efforts on public policies issues related to the Internet
Community-driven intersessional activities such as CENB and Best Practice Forums (BPFs) have offered additional complementary platforms for multistakeholder dialogue on topical Internet policy issues such as Cybersecurity, Gender and Access, and Local Content, among others.
The Dynamic Coalitions of the IGF stand as an example of its successful efforts towards having continuous, expert, multistakeholder discussions on various issues pertaining to the Internet and Internet governance. Issues taken up by the Dynamic Coalitions include innovative approaches to connecting the unconnected, IoT, network neutrality, platform responsibility, blockchain technologies, community connectivity, core Internet values, gender and Internet governance.
What is the impact of the global IGF at the national and regional level?
More than 135 countries and regions have established firm IGF processes for their respective communities. A high level of enthusiasm, activities in addition to a growing number of National, Regional and Youth IGFs (NRIs) are testaments to the success of the IGF’s multistakeholder model. By increasing the linkages between the global IGF community and the NRIs, the IGF has also benefited tremendously through a bottom-up approach on issues pertaining to Internet governance and technologies. These important collaborations between the IGF and the NRIs are showcasing how Internet related issues are different across countries and regions, implying that a relevant change can only be made if we all work together through an open and inclusive process.
The NRIs emerged organically as a result of a recognized need that matters pertaining to the Internet and societal developments should be discussed through community led multistakeholder, open and inclusive processes, such as the NRIs. Many NRIs began as small groups of different stakeholders and with time evolved into large networks of individuals and organisations, including experts in various fields of Internet governance, policy makers, private sector, and end-users. Some NRIs have created, for the first time at their national or regional level, a framework in which governments met and interacted with non-governmental actors on matters related to Internet policy. As a result, these multistakeholder dialogues informed and influenced those Internet-related policies.
The NRIs have also established closer linkages among various organizations engaged in advancing Internet policies. This led to organizations updating their digital strategies, conducting intensive research and developing Internet policy focused capacity development projects.
NRIs are self-funded and entirely dependent on voluntary contributions from various communities. The UN Trust Fund supports a dedicated position at the IGF Secretariat that supports individual NRIs processes and the collective work of the entire NRIs network. Despite the difficulties in finding sustainable funding sources for the NRIs, the network is growing rapidly. This growth is a testament to the value of the contributions, and the interest and investment of so many stakeholders across countries and regions to help improve society through well informed Internet policies and practices. However, in order for the NRIs to reach their full potential, global support and funding from local communities is essential.
Who convenes the IGF?
Every year, the UN Secretary-General appoints the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) - a group of experts and practitioners representing all stakeholder groups - to advise on the programme and schedule of the annual meetings of IGF, as well as its intersessional activities such as a major policy programme, Best Practice Forums, Dynamic Coalitions, etc. The MAG comprises of 50-55 Members from governments, the private sector, civil society, academic and technical communities, from all five UN regional groups. The MAG holds meetings throughout the year to review the progress of the IGF and to substantively plan the IGF annual meetings. Each year one-third of the MAG is renewed by the Secretary-General, following a nomination process across the IGF stakeholder communities. In addition, each year the Secretary-General appoints a Chair of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG).
Secretariat support to the IGF and its MAG is provided by the IGF Secretariat that resides at the UN Office in Geneva. The Secretariat is financed through voluntary contributions. Substantive and administrative support to the IGF Secretariat is provided by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA).
Who hosts the IGF?
The host countries for the past 15 meetings of the IGF are:
- 2006: Athens, Greece
- 2007: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 2008: Hyderabad, India
- 2009: Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
- 2010: Vilnius, Lithuania
- 2011: Nairobi, Kenya
- 2012: Baku, Azerbaijan
- 2013: Bali, Indonesia
- 2014: Istanbul, Turkey
- 2015: João Pessoa, Brazil
- 2016: Jalisco, Mexico
- 2017: Geneva, Switzerland
- 2018: Paris, France
- 2019: Berlin, Germany
- 2020: hosted virtually by the UN
- 2021: Katowice, Poland
- 2022: Ethiopia
- 2023: Japan
Like any other UN meeting, a host country agreement is signed between the UN (administered through UN DESA) and the host country. If the meeting is held at a UN duty station in the host country, a simpler Memorandum of Understanding is used.
How is the global Internet Governance Forum funded?
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Secretariat – based in Geneva, is sustained financially through the extra-budgetary Trust Fund Account managed by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). The nature of the IGF Trust Fund is such that it is voluntary and multi-donor driven, with varying contributions from Governments and non-governmental organisations from the technical community, the private sector and the civil society. The IGF Trust Fund covers the administrative and operational costs of the IGF Secretariat including personnel, fellowships, and meeting costs (venues, interpretation, logistical costs, etc.); and funds the travel costs of MAG Members from developing countries. More details about the list of donors and funds received are available online. The Trust Fund also provides support to various intersessional activities, inter alia Best Practice Forums or other major policy initiatives.
Each year, the organizational and conference cost of the annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum is provided for by the Government of the host country, administered through a Host Country Agreement signed between the Government and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Who participates at the IGF?
The IGF welcomes organisations and individuals from diverse relevant expertise and geographical areas around the world. The meeting is open to all World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accredited entities, as well as other institutions and individuals with proven expertise and experience in matters related to Internet Governance.
What is the IGF Mandate?
The mandate of the IGF is set out in paragraphs 72 to 80 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (the Tunis Agenda):
“We ask the UN Secretary-General, in an open and inclusive process, to convene, by the second quarter of 2006, a meeting of the new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue—called the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The mandate of the Forum is to:
- Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet;
- Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body;
- Interface with appropriate inter-governmental organizations and other institutions on matters under their purview;
- Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities;
- Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world;
- Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries;
- Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations;
- Contribute to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise;
- Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet governance processes;
- Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical Internet resources;
- Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users;
- Publish its proceedings
At the WSIS+10 review in 2015, UN Member States “acknowledge the role of the Internet Governance Forum as a multi-stakeholder platform for discussion of Internet governance issues. We support the recommendations in the report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development,10 which the General Assembly took note of in its resolution 68/198 of 20 December 2013, and we call for their accelerated implementation. We extend for another 10 years the existing mandate of the Internet Governance Forum as set out in paragraphs 72 to 78 of the Tunis Agenda. We recognize that during that period, the Forum should continue to show progress on working modalities and the participation of relevant stakeholders from developing countries. We call upon the Commission, within its regular reporting, to give due consideration to fulfilment of the recommendations in the report of its Working Group”.
More information about the IGF can be found on its website: https://www.intgovforum.org/tags/about