1. Mapping Internet governance in a comprehensible
    and dynamic way

Geneva Message | The mapping of IG – identifying the issues and who deals with them – should be comprehensible and dynamic in order to facilitate easy access to IG for newcomers and improve coordination of activities among stakeholders.

Scope of discussion:

IG is a highly complex policy space with hundreds of actors addressing more than 50 IG issues through more than 1000 mechanisms, such as conventions, standards, or events. The more the Internet impacts all spheres of our life, the more complex and broader IG will become. There is a risk of incomprehensible IG, which could lead towards the marginalisation of some actors and, ultimately, pose a risk for the legitimacy of IG.

The IG building under construction is a visual representation of the IG field consisting of more than 40 IG issues located on 7 floors: infrastructure and standardisation, human rights, security, legal, economic, development, and sociocultural. Join our visual brainstorming around the IG building under construction.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Mapping helps IG actors to overcome ‘paralysis by complexity’ and identify priorities and entry points into the IG field.
  • With the Internet influencing all spheres of modern life, the main challenge is to identify the limits of the Internet (and) IG.
  • Mapping should be simple in order to be comprehensible. But, the simplification should not be simpler than needed. Otherwise, it can distort reality.
  • Mapping should be dynamic, constantly reflecting the changing IG policy field.
  • Mapping should facilitate easy access to IG via a clearing house, a one-stop shop, or a coordination centre (these are just a few suggestions).
  • A proven, iterative approach to mapping should be used, i.e., define the scope, identify options to solve it, chose the best one, implement it, and then evaluate.

IG mapping was discussed during the following conference sessions:


2. Bridging policy silos

Professional and institutional policy silos exist from local to global level, both within and between institutions. Bridging them, with their different practices and vocabularies, is essential in designing and implementing effective and inclusive IG policies. These silos can be traversed using a mix of structured and ad hoc approaches, ranging from joint working groups to informal exchanges.

Scope of discussion:

The subway map shows the transversal nature of IG issues.

The omnipresence of the Internet in modern society makes most Internet policy issues transversal. For example, cybercrime cannot be addressed only as a security issue or e-commerce only as trade issue. Yet, a transversal approach is more the exception than the rule in IG. The conference discussed ways and means of introducing a transversal approach using the example of data protection and privacy, addressed from standardisation, human rights, diplomatic, security, and business perspectives. 


Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Policy silos are recognised as a problem in many policy areas (e.g. health, climate change, humanitarian assistance, migration). There is a need to  compare experiences and successful solutions among international organisations and other actors. Some examples could be particularly useful – i.e., the Council of Europe has the most IG policy aspects under one roof: human rights, data protection, cybercrime.
  • A toolbox for dealing with policy silos includes a wide range of instruments: joint working groups, multidisciplinary composition of panels, engagement of technical expertise, and informal contacts, among others.
  • Policy silos reinforce each other vertically. For example, specialised ministries at national level communicate with specialised international organisations (health, telecommunication, trade). We should avoid the temptation to overcome policy silos by creating new formal and bureaucratic structures for dealing with them.
  • The most effective way of dealing with policy silos is to develop a context and use smart nudging to bring different professional and institutional cultures closer together.
  • Language is often used to protect institutional/professional turfs. At the same time, an improved language cleaned of professional abbreviations and acronyms could be a bridge between policy silos.

Bridging policy silos was discussed at the following conference sessions:


3. Harvesting and harnessing IG complexity

Geneva Message | The complexity of IG can be both a threat and an enabler. As a threat, complexity may trigger policy paralysis. As an enabler, if complexity is harvested, it can enrich the IG space with diverse ideas and initiatives. If harnessed, it can help actors to address their IG priorities without losing sight of the broader policy picture. Efforts to deal with complexity should not lead to oversimplification; flexible forms of cooperation should be encouraged

Complexity should not be seen as something negative that needs to be overcome, but rather as a natural state of things that has always been there, also in other sectors, a state that needs to be accepted.


Marília Maciel, Researcher and Coordinator, Center for Technology and Society, FGV Brazil, 18 November 2014

Scope of discussion

With more than 50 Internet policy issues addressed in hundreds of various forums, many actors face difficulties in following Internet governance. Some governments, such as China, the USA, and Germany, have introduced cyber and Internet ambassadors as a way of covering foreign digital policy. Many countries started a national Internet Governance Forum in order to integrate the wider technical, academic, and business communities in Internet policies. For business and technical communities, following IG requires covering non-technical issues such as human rights (e.g. privacy). For civil society, in particular small organisations, covering the IG field is becoming very difficult. At the same time, due to the inter-connection of IG issues, many actors cannot afford not to use a comprehensive approach including technical, legal, and human rights aspects among others.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • The original Internet was about figuring out how networks and information systems that already existed could work together using protocols and procedures. It worked because it abstracted everything below so that the technological base could continue to expand. This can be done by focusing on the Digital Object Architecture, i.e., being able to identify information and manage it independently of the machine it is on.
  • Complexity exists in many policy fields, should the IG be seen differently, as a meta-space?
  • The Internet has become a very complex and urgent matter for most businesses, more and more CEOs, investors, etc., are taking an interest in it in order to better foresee the future of their companies, for example in raising the level of corporate strategy.
  • This complexity can paralyse actors; reacting to crisis in a sectoral way should be avoided.
  • In looking at how distributed the IG architecture is, power relations and market monopolies should be considered.

IG complexity was discussed at the following conference session:


4. Developing innovative legal approaches to the Internet

Geneva Message | Legal rules and jurisdiction on the Internet evolve through reinterpretation, adaptation, and expansion of existing laws. In some cases, the creation of new legal mechanisms for online space (e.g. the right to be forgotten, e-signatures) is required. Innovative solutions should be informed by the cumulative wisdom of the legal profession.  

Scope of discussion

The Internet does not function in a legal vacuum. Increasingly, it is perceived that what is (il)legal offline is (il)legal online. The UN Human Rights Council made this principle explicit: ‘The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.’ Thus, most Internet issues are already regulated in the offline environment (e.g. jurisdiction, copyright, trademark, labour law). The main challenge is how to apply these rules to Internet transactions, particularly in view of transborder aspects and the speed of Internet activities.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • The starting point in analysis of the Internet and law should be: what is (il)legal offline is (il)legal online.
  • The main challenge is how to apply and implement legal rules.
  • Innovation can help a lot, but it should not endanger well-established legal principles developed over centuries (often described in Latin legal quotes).
  • An incremental approach through trial and inevitable error can be a smart way of dealing with the challenge of the Internet and law.

Innovative legal approaches were discussed at the following conference sessions:

  • Pre-conference event (6 Nov 2014): Jurisdicion in the Internet Era (Summary)
  • Workshop: Legal framework, jurisdiction, and enforcement in Internet governance (Video recording | Session notes)


5. Strengthening genuine participation in IG processes

Geneva Message |Full inclusion and genuine participation in IG processes increases the quality and also the acceptance of the policies adopted, building on the diversity of views represented. Strengthening inclusive multistakeholder participation requires a sense of community around which online participation can be implemented. E-participation requires good planning and considerable social engagement. An effective interplay between in situ and online participation can be achieved through changes in the organisation of meetings, adjustment of procedures, and training.


Participants at the Trinidad and Tobago hub
(University of West Indies Campus)

Tweet from a remote hub:


@jovankurbalija rather ask: should those of you in the room [in Geneva] have equal footing with those of us who got up at 2 a.m. to attend #IGeneva ?

Scope of discussion

Much of the discussion centred on building on existing experience with e-participation in international forums such as the IGF, ICANN, the ITU, and NETmundial. Online transcripts benefit both in situ and e-participants; translations are provided for online participants as well as in situ attendees; online records and recordings can be archived. Meeting organisers ensure that the moderator, panellists and participants know the dynamics of remote participation and how to take full advantage of the dynamics in the room. Online (e.g. Skype) and physical hubs can be hosted around the world, to allow parallel and specialised discussions based on the meeting topics.

Although the issues of time zones and seamless incorporation of remote interventions still present challenges, the current tendency to seek improved conference design, the use of technology for innovative solutions, and pre-conference training of organisers, moderators, presenters, and attendees underline the trend towards more inclusiveness and better quality through effective e-participation.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • One of the most important criteria for inclusiveness is effective e-participation: the more e-participants can participate in in situ dynamics, the more inclusive international meetings will be. In particular, document drafting benefits from the richness of e-participant contributions.
  • Appropriate application of technological solutions in conference strategies can improve conference dynamics for all attendees. For example, awareness of e-participants should be increased by projection of the e-participant platform and interaction, as well as social media (Twitter feed) in the conference room.
  • Meetings should be designed to be e-participation friendly (shorter interventions, more dynamism).  Meetings should be designed to make best use of all human and other resources, both online and in situ, in a stimulating and dynamic interaction that focuses ideas and catalyses new solutions.
  • Meeting dynamics should demonstrate the advantages of involving in situ and e-participation equally, so that all participation is optimised, and offers increased advantages to all attendees, recognising the efforts all make to attend these meetings, and overcoming the misperception that e-participants have somehow made less investment of time and energy than in situ participants.
  • An important part of the dynamics of any meeting takes place online during preparatory processes, agenda-setting, and e-mail, chat, or other online discussion. The importance of e-participation should be recognised by organisers, moderators, presenters and attendees, before, during and after the formal meeting.

Inclusive participation was discussed at the following conference session:

  • Workshop: Inclusion in digital policy – e-participation and capacity development (Session notes)


6. Ensuring holistic capacity development

Geneva Message | Capacity development for IG should be holistic, going beyond simply training individuals. To be sustainable, capacity development should support the emergence of functional and robust institutions which are essential for facilitating innovation, rule of law, and protecting human rights on the Internet. Capacity development requires a smart mix of training, coaching, and the introduction of policy mechanisms adjusted to specific local and national contexts.

Scope of discussion

Effective capacity development support goes far beyond training individuals. It is a long-term activity which recognises the complexity of the processes it aims to influence and the need for multiple knowledges (topical, political, societal, traditional, etc.). It provides practical and immersion opportunities to help participants bridge the gap between theory and practice; and requires a large component of communication and follow-up to foster the emergence of vibrant and self-sufficient networks.



The conference included a  capacity development aspect: young IG professionals from developing countries were hosted and engaged in social media reporting and remote participation moderation.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Capacity development was one of the cross-cutting issues at the conference, emerging during sessions on inclusive participation, and legal issues, among others.
  • A lot of inertia exists in capacity development, where the focus tends to be on training, which is often the easiest, but not the most effective, approach.
  • Holistic capacity development takes time, energy, and expertise.

Capacity development was discussed at the following conference session:

  • Workshop: Inclusion in digital policy – e-participation and capacity development (Session notes)

Other resources on capacity development


7. Aiming for full transparency, accepting occasional translucency

Geneva Message | Transparency is a necessary condition for trust, and for the accountability that all IG processes need to adhere to and, where possible, institutionalise. Occasional translucency - being transparent about what we cannot be transparent about - can be accepted when the risks posed by disclosing information are greater than the overall benefits, in particular if they affect those in a vulnerable position.

Scope of discussion

Transparency is essential for robust and effective Internet governance. It is particularly important in multistakeholder spaces that typically do not have procedural mechanisms to ensure procedural transparency and due process. While full transparency should be a default operational mode, in some cases a ‘translucent’ approach could be considered (e.g. limited public participation in deliberation with full publicity of results of deliberations).

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Transparency can lead towards ‘information overload’ and potential paralysis by abundance of data.
  • At times, translucency may be needed: transparency about not being transparent in some cases.
  • Transparency has four main aspects: data transparency – process transparency – strategic transparency – transformational transparency.
  • Context is king – you never know in what context information will be interpreted – how to deal with it?

Transparency was discussed at the following conference session:


8. Using subsidiarity effectively

Geneva Message | While the Internet is a global network, policy implications are often local and national. As the Internet as a network of networks allows for a diversity of local technical solutions that are interoperable, this approach should also be used more at policy level. While adhering to globally shared basic principles, there should be room for diversity of policies responding to different local and regional needs and priorities. Using the principle of subsidiarity to address IG issues at the appropriate level will make IG more effective. It will improve trust in, and ownership and acceptance of Internet-related policies. When it is not possible to solve a problem locally, ‘policy elevators’ should bring the issue to the optimal level.

Scope of discussion

While global solutions are preferable for global issues (e.g. IG, climate change), they are often difficult to achieve. After the failure of the Copenhagen Summit (2009), the climate change community focused more on local, national, and regional initiatives. The same tendencies are noticeable in IG (most cybercrime conventions are regional, protests against IG policies are regional/national – SOPA, ACTA).

IG issues should be addressed at the policy level which is closest to the cause of the issues (e.g. cybercrime) or the impact a specific policy may have (e.g. access, net neutrality). 
The main challenges will be to ensure that ‘policy elevators’ move both ways (up and down) among local,national, regional, and global levels.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Avoid unrealistic harmonisation of IG – aim for realistic decentralisation.
  • Context is essential – adaptation to the local situation is key.
  • Simplify the message and adjust the language.
  • Can technological diversity on the edge be translated to diversity in policy space?
  • Subsidiarity will function if there is democracy, participation, transparency, and trust.
  • The line between subsidiarity and fragmentation is thin.

Subsidiarity was discussed at the following conference session:

  • Workshop: Subsidiarity - how to make IG decisions at the appropriate level, building on lessons learned from Switzerland (Session notes)


9. Drafting IG policies in open consultations

Geneva Message | Inclusive and participatory multistakeholder policy drafting should start with open consultations. Procedures should facilitate the involvement of diverse actors in collaborative drafting, reflecting a multitude of approaches (diplomatic, technical, civil society, business, etc.). Transparency, with checks and balances, can maximise the potential for broad consensus and minimise the risk of a few actors hijacking the process.

Scope of discussion

One of the fathers of the Internet, Jon Postel, said ‘Group discussion is very valuable; group drafting is less productive.’ The more people involved, the greater the complexity of the process. The drafting process is not individual writing; it is highly social. Thus, ‘socialisation of the text’ is essential for successful negotiations. All involved should be aware of how the final draft was negotiated, what was included, and what was left out. Participants should know that their voices were heard, considered, and adopted… or not, accordingly. 

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • Online consultations are very useful in providing a diversity of inputs.
  • The closer negotiations move to the final text, the more difficult it is to maintain an inclusive and multistakeholder approach. At this stage, the process encounters more ‘red lines‘ in the positions of the main negotiators, particularly nation states.
  • In a broad and inclusive drafting process, many inputs may disappear without consideration and explanation of if and how they were taken into account.

Drafting was discussed at the following conference session:

  • Workshop: Drafting in policy processes: how can we best nurture the socialisation of policy texts in multistakeholder contexts? (Session notes)
  • Workshop: Lessons from other multistakeholder processes (Session notes)


10. Prioritise evidence and data collection

Geneva Message | Evidence and data should contribute to more solid and sustainable IG. Evidence-based IG typically starts with identifying a full range of possibly diverse needs and aims on all levels. It collects relevant data using appropriate tools and methods, measures and assesses impact, and presents findings in an understandable way for policymakers. Priority areas for evidence-based approaches are cybercrime, and monitoring the level of digital divide.

Scope of discussion

Although the Internet is an engineering artifact, we do not have sufficient technical data of relevance for IG. For example, one of the major problems in cybersecurity is the lack of data about threats and losses. Policymakers and, increasingly a more engaged general public, are looking for data on issues such as the impact of digital innovation on economic growth and on the quantity of digital assets and their distribution worldwide, among other topics.

Key discussion points from the conference:

  • More than defining the tools to measure data, it is important to know what we want to collect and why.
  • Often, we don’t know who knows what we need to know.
  • Need for simple access to the IG field for many actors.

Evidence and data were discussed at the following conference sessions:

  • Pre-conference discussion (28 Oct - 12 Nov 2014): Evidence and measurement in IG: What sort of data and numbers are we talking about? (Summary)
  • Workshop: Evidence in Internet Governance: measurement and data-mining (Session notes)


The Geneva Internet Platform is an initiative of the Swiss authorities


Members of the Steering Committee are FDFA, OFCOM and the Canton of Geneva

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