The invitations for the third Internet Governance Forum in Hyderabad were signed, on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, by Mr. Sha Zukang, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, rather than the Secretary-General as had been the case at the two previous IGFs. Some have asked whether this represents a reduction in the importance of the Forums. The answer, like most for the United Nations, is yes and no. Or, more precisely, no and yes.
Whenever the Secretary-General takes on a responsibility, its implementation on his behalf is assigned to a regular Secretariat department. From the very beginning, the IGF, while formally convened under the authority of the SG and having a small secretariat in Geneva, was actually supported by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The Secretary-General's designated representative has been Nitin Desai, the former Under-Secretary-General (USG) for DESA, on a part-time basis. The IGF Secretariat reports to the Secretary-General through DESA. When Mr. Sha was appointed USG for DESA in July 2007, he replaced Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, who was less engaged with ICT. Mr. Sha has a personal interest in Internet Governance having been China's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva. He has obviously wanted to be more involved in the decision-making and it has been delegated to him.
Initially, the DESA office through which IGF Secretariat reported was the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination. Mr. Sha has shifted the headquarters contact point to the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, which is the most Internet-involved Division in the Department, since it is responsible for e-government work.
Does that mean that IGF has been downgraded? Here the answer is no. The substantive interest of the United Nations in the IGF is clearly greater. The change is more of form — an invitation signed by a USG rather than the SG — than of substance. On the whole I think it represents a greater institutionalization of the Forum in New York, while maintaining the general flexibility that has been achieved by the IGF Secretariat in Geneva.