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IGF: success, great success or useful sideshow?

Making hard decisions, melting hard cheeses

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Fondue?

But don't worry, they'll come back if the IGF manages to achieve its potential - to act as a global meeting point for those keen to see what this amazing technology can do for us all.

And talking of amazing meeting points, here's a good one: the Cafe du Soleil in Geneva. It was founded over 400 years ago and claims to offer, in a typically Swiss way, "probably the best fondue in Switzerland".

They can't be certain it is the best, of course, these things change all the time, but it is "probably" the best. I can't say that I'm a regular fondue eater, but I can certainly vouch for the quality. And considering the place was rammed to the gills on a Thursday night, it would seem the people have voted with their feet too.

It was while tearing up big chunks of bread and swishing them about in the molten cheese-and-white-wine in the cauldron in front of me that an analogy about this whole WSIS internet process struck.

The fondue cauldron has a small gas heater underneath it that not only keeps the mass above it warm, but it also keeps it fluid. If it were to go out, you would soon end up with no more than a bowl of hard cheese, and fondue eating would be less a pleasure and more an ordeal.

It is the same with these multi-stakeholder discussions over the internet. Take them off the heat, or put out the flame underneath and the whole process would cease up. But the constant controversy surrounding every aspect is actually aiding the process. There is a constant swirl of new ideas, new issues, new problems and new meetings, so no one gets the chance to end up in an impasse.

What is the flame in this scenario? The chairmen. Most notably Nitin Desai, who chaired the WGIG end of things, and Masood Khan who chaired the sub-committee that dealt with governance issues last year.

The cheese-and-wine mix at the IGF this time was particularly stodgy and, with only two days to get everything done, Nitin Desai had to turn up the heat several times. And, if you watched carefully, he also reached around and stirred the fondue when he thought no one was looking.

It is a measure of his and secretariat Markus Kummer's importance - and their concern at their importance - that Desai criticised the fact that all people in the room lavishly praise the job they have done. He told the meeting at the very end on Friday: "The last thing I wish to say is I think it's very important that we place this on a basis which is structurally sound, which does not depend on individuals. I say this because I have heard too often, you know, about Mr Desai, Mr Kummer. You know, Mr Desai and Mr Kummer are mortal men. And one of them at least is looking forward to putting his feet up."

But he is right. While fondue is a lovely meal, you wouldn't want to eat it every day. Soon this process has to cut its reliance on highly skilled diplomats and move to a more stable, simple structure. A steak and chips maybe. Or, if that is too Western for some people's tastes, what about a nice, spicy curry?

Resolution?

The meeting finished around 5pm on the Friday, and most people left immediately. The grand committee room, that was only moments ago buzzing with noise and argument and conjecture, was suddenly eerily quiet.

It was the sense of anti-climax that always comes after lively debate, but this time there wasn't the sense that the job at hand had been done. It hadn't. There remains a huge amount of consensus to build, and structures to agree. The virtual certainty of a second preparation meeting before the full IGF suddenly disappeared at the last minute after several people said they would not, could not attend. The failure of business, private and civil sector to offer any money left a worrying gap over the whole process' viability.

And it became clear that Markus Kummer, secretariat, was the man who would have to ask the questions, gather all the answers and find a method of resolution that would keep everyone on board. And he will have to do it without the helpful aid of a second, big public meeting that lets people rubs the sharp edges off each other.

Mr Kummer sat talking in the empty room for over an hour with a range of people about what this all meant and how he was going to solve these big problems.

By the time we left it was clear he faced a particularly heavy task.®

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