Hivos supports civic actors' participation in the Arab Internet Governance Forum  

On the occasion of convening the second edition of the Arab IGF in Algeria 1-3 October 2013, Hivos has supported the participation of a number of civil society members from eight Arab countries to attend the forum in order to take part in the IG discussion; being the future leaders in the region. Moreover, they represented the civil society as a main actor in the IG process and voiced its concerns.

“We came to the Arab IGF to interact with other stakeholders and to talk with government representatives to learn how we can advocate and change their mindset,” said Mohamad Najem, Lebanon.

These civic actors, who are participants in Hivos’ Internet Governance Capacity Building Training Programme (IGCBP), were granted fellowships for the Arab IGF based on a blog contest organised by IGMENA. The IGCBP tackles Internet Governance policy issues covering the main baskets that include infrastructure and standardisation, legal, economic, sociocultural, and development aspects. Participating in the Arab IGF was therefore a good opportunity for fellows to observe the regional debate and expand their understanding on most of the topics they have already studied in theory.

Fellows’ participation during the Arab IGF has ranged from networking to following the discussions, reporting on the ongoing discourses and expressing their instant reflections as well as raising relevant questions on the social media channels. When asked about their reflections on the Arab IGF Algiers, most of them thought it was, to a certain extent, successful; given that the main objective of holding this forum was achieved by bringing to the table of discussion issues of interest to the Arab citizens in general and Internet users in particular.

“In my opinion, the IGF process here has been successful because it allows debate which doesn’t necessarily mean rapid change within the region or countries or societies; however, it means debating and understanding other opinions,” said Rafid Fatani, KSA.

Other fellows have nevertheless expressed their concerns over some drawbacks that could hinder the sustainability of this forum as a multi-stakeholder platform for policy dialogue.

Wafa Ben Hassine, Tunisia/USA, was worried about the generation gap as she stated: “there is a very big generation gap between the older generation and the younger generation. I have never thought it will have such profound impact on the way people view policy.”

Another fellow was concerned about the engagement of different stakeholders in the IG process. “A multi-stakeholder approach needs more organisation and effective lobbying. So we need to move past (the sort of) polite talking in conferences to the actual advocating on aggressive levels, to get people to pressure sates, to let go their control and include other stakeholders,” said Mohamed El Dahshan, Egypt.