UNIGF Day 0: A newcomers perspective on the Internet Governance Forum

This week, our CE Jordan Carter and a member of our issues team Nicola Brown are over in Switzerland attending the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (UNIGF). Nicola is jetlagged, but has made some time to update us on Day Zero of the UNIGF.

What is the UNIGF?

To borrow a definition from the UNIGF itself:

"The IGF is a global multistakeholder forum that promotes discussions and dialogue about public policy issues related to the Internet."

Map of multistakeholder internet governance system

Multistakeholder governance is a structure which aims to bring all stakeholders along on the journey of decision making.

You may not spend much time thinking about how the Internet is managed, governed and maintained, but fora like the IGF are where these discussions take place.

For more information, you can check out the website for the 2017 IGF here: https://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/


What does InternetNZ do here?

Within New Zealand, InternetNZ does policy and advocacy work on Internet issues that affect New Zealanders and work for the best outcomes to protect the Internet's potential. We also look outwards and engage with others in the international community who are looking at the same thing in their own countries and across borders. As we are also the registry for the .nz ccTLD, we are a part of an international technical community who maintain these foundations of the world wide web that we get to take advantage of. 

We are also here, as in New Zealand we host one of the largest National IGFs in the world, NetHui!

Map of National Regional Initiatives of the IGF

This is NOT a #mapwithoutNZ, NetHui is right there, with a giant blue marker. NetHui is a National Regional Initiative, which means that if you have been to a NetHui, you are a part of a global network of people who care about the Internet, and are indirectly part of its governance network. I am here feeding our ideas from NetHui through to the global community. 


What am I doing here?

InternetNZ always tries to send to some of our team to UNIGF, as it is an opportunity to meet the international Internet community, and be exposed to a huge range of Internet issues we might not be thinking about in New Zealand. This year Jordan Carter and I are here in Geneva, Switzerland.


Day 0

Like NetHui's day 0, the UNIGF's first day is made up of different interest groups meetups. Here is a lightning round of how I spent my day:

Newcomers track: an intro to how IGF and the Internet work

This session was a valuable kickstart to the IGF as no matter how much you knew about the Internet going in, you came out with a thorough history of how the Internet works, how and why IP addresses exist, and how the Domain Name Server process works.

The main takeaway from this session, was that the Internet is made of carrots.

That is, the Internet is set up with protocols and norms that incentivise good behaviours, rather than sticks, which would discourage bad behaviours. There are not sanctions or overall controlling body of the Internet, but instead agreed upon communal processes.

Towards a global citizens debate on the digital future

I participated in a workshop by Misson Publiques, a group that values non-expert opinions in global issues. In 2015 they hosted workshops with everyday citizens to get their views on climate change. They held these sessions in 76 countries on the same day, creating a global network of people. They are trying to recreate this experience in 2019 on the topic of our digital future. 

It was a good reminder that we are all stakeholders in our future, and it is important for grassroots voices to be heard by decision makers.

Women and LGBTQI at UNIGF

Image of #IGFEM stickers

I also attended the inaugural session of #IGFem and #IGFLGBTQI, led by some fantastic women from South America who are determined to strengthen the voices of women in the Internet governance sphere. We talked about our experiences of gender representation in our own countries' IGFs, and I got to talk about NetHui, and our dedication to diverse representation, and a robust code of conduct. 

Global Commission on the stability of cyberspace

I finished my day at a packed panel on protecting the public core of the Internet, as this commission has made a declaration urging state and non-state actors to avoid activity that would intentionally and substantially damage the general availability or integrity of the “public core” of the Internet. One of the panellists was Vint Cerf (known as one of the "fathers of the Internet"), who helped open this year's NetHui with a prerecorded shout out to the work we are doing in New Zealand. 

How to participate

The UNIGF is from the 17th til the 21st of December. Switzerland is 12 hours behind New Zealand, so unless you are a night owl it will be hard work watching the livestreams, but you can access them here:


You can also check out the hashtag #IGF2017

You will hear from me again after some rest, some electrolytes, and some more Internet governance!