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United Nations undermines Internet Governance Forum

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The first preparatory meeting for the 2011 Internet Governance Forum has ended with a significant degree of uncertainty thanks to ongoing bureaucratic delays.

Over two days, representatives from business, government, civil society, and the technical community met in Geneva in order to decide the path forward for the sixth annual meeting of the Forum, dedicated to discussing global governance issues for the internet and due to be held in Nairobi toward the end of the year.

Those plans have been hamstrung by the United Nations in New York, which continues to delay crucial decisions about the event dates and the event’s key decision makers.

Closing the meeting, Kenya’s representative and meeting chair Alice Munyua repeatedly asked for others’ indulgence as she explained she did not have final dates for the event. It will be somewhere between September and December, she said. Nor had dates been finalized for the second preparatory meeting in May.

On top of that, there is still no replacement for the main meeting organizer, Markus Kummer, who left the United Nations in December, with a representative from the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) telling attendees that they were still finalizing the job description, which will then be put through the usual UN recruitment process.

And to make matters all the more surreal, the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), which was in the room trying to decide the agenda and structure of the next IGF, may not even formally exist.

The MAG has been put together and chaired by former special advisor to the Secretary-General, Nitin Desai, since 2004. Desai was appointed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with whom he shared a good relationship, but ended his term earlier this year.

The new Secretary-General has yet to decide a replacement Special Advisor and only that person can decide on the make-up and structure of the MAG, the UN has decided. In response to questions about this crucial role, a UN representative said he did not know when a decision would be made and refused to even be drawn on the process that will be used to arrive at a decision.

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