We are still waiting for the UN Secretary General to pronounce on the future of the Internet Governance Forum's multistakeholder advisory group (known as the MAG). The decision is so untimely that Nitin Desai, the Chair of the Forum, was unable to hold a private planning meeting of the MAG after the conclusion of the IGF's public consultation May 23. What was supposed to be a deliberative meeting of anointed nominees of business, government, civil society and the technical community turned into a kind of semi-open, free-form discussion. Anyone could wander into the meeting, presuming they were hanging around Geneva that day and well-enough informed to learn that it was going on.

In some ways this represents a bit of an institutional crisis for the fledgling IGF. It rubs our noses in the lack of transparency with which the UN handles IGF decisions, and reveals the Forum's dependence on the decisions of one man. Since the IGF is often used as an example of, and should try very hard to become, a new and innovative contribution to global governance, this is just downright embarrassing. Admittedly, the UN S-G has a lot to worry about, things like genocide and humanitarian aid programs, but one would think that the IGF's chair and secretariat, at least, would have some idea as to when a decision would come down.

On the other hand, the discussion at the meeting, from what I've heard, may have been more free-ranging and interesting than a private MAG meeting would have been. (I Wasn't there, so this is based on second hand information, mainly discusisons on the listserv of the Internet Governance Caucus.) In effect, the bootleg meeting ended up as day three of the consultation. Perhaps a lesson can be drawn from that.

The Forum Secretariat and its loose collection of “advisors” had to deal with a lot of tough issues. Indeed, the public consultation turned out to be a lot more dramatic than some of us expected it to be. There were proposals to create a “Bureau” instead of a MAG, which frightened many in the deeply multistakeholder culture of ICANN and the Forum into believing that there are plots for a governmental takeover. Adding to those fears, three of the BRIC states (Brazil, Russia and China) are now pushing hard to make the Forum produce “outcomes” and to confront some of the more difficult issues that the US and the dominant US-based private sector would prefer to keep out of a UN-based venue. Civil society groups are also trying to get the Forum to embrace dialogue about meaty, substantive issues, though for completely different reasons. Add to that the institutional teething pains and the lack of money, as well as the rapidly approaching deadline for the Rio meeting, and one can see that the IGF's work is cut out for it. But no one in their right mind thought new
multistakeholder institutions would be re-enactments of the Summer of Love.