About iGmena

IGMENA is a Hivos programme that brings voices together from the MENA region on Internet Governance and policies.

The question of Internet Governance (IG) was first initiated at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005 during which the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was established and defined IG as:

‘The development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet.‘

While the term ‘governance’ is most commonly associated with state leadership (government), the concept of IG is defined more broadly to include the participation and influence of entities beyond traditional governmental systems.
Outline map of the MENA region
Yet in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, use of the word 'governance' continues to presume control by governments rather than evoke a notion of protection for citizens and guaranteeing specific digital rights.  Part of this mismatch of concepts and terminology is due to the fact that governments have been using technical surveillance and monitoring systems to curb online activities. Perceiving the Internet as a menace to their boundaries and sovereignty, some governments have sought to limit and control the Internet at the cost of violating the human rights of their citizens.
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The popular uprisings in 2011 (commonly referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’) introduced a qualitative shift in IG because these events redefined not only the importance of the Internet, but also the relationship between the Arab citizens and their governments. Citizens became active stakeholders rather than passive observers of policy processes. Accordingly, people started demanding their human rights, including freedom of expression (FOE) and freedom of information (FOI) and holding their governments accountable for failure to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights.

In furtherance of presenting a clear strategic framework for addressing IG challenges from a regional perspective, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published the Arab Regional Roadmap for Internet Governance, stating: ‘In order to ensure appropriate participation and positioning of the Arab region in the Internet governance arena, Arab countries need to take far-reaching commitments and policy measures. There is thus a need for a shared regional vision of Internet governance and a shared understanding to aide these countries towards transforming the threats and challenges of the Internet into opportunities for development.’

In spite of not showing initial interest in the Arab Regional Roadmap for Internet Governance, following the Arab Spring, fourteen Arab countries came together in Beirut in 2012 for a conference and public consultation to establish the Arab Internet Governance Forum (Arab IGF). During this conference, participants defined the Arab IGF as a decentralised platform for inclusive policy consultations. By the end of the same year, the first Arab IGF was organised in Kuwait.

Programme Objectives

The role of the Internet was indespensible during the popular uprisings in 2011 which are now commonly referred to as the 'Arab Spring'. Considering the limited amount of legal framework for Internet freedoms that exists in most countries, it is of vital interest to harness these freedoms. Inclusive laws need to be developed to assure freedom of expression and freedom of information as they are not codified in most of the MENA countries. Even in countries that have enacted laws, there are still many loopholes as well as ambiguity and vagueness that threaten these freedoms.
In this framework, Hivos’ Internet Governance in the MENA Region programme focuses on two main objectives:
Improved Knowledge
on Internet Governance in the MENA Region
Building the capacity of different stakeholders on the IG process through organising onsite and online awareness-raising activities.

Empowering these stakeholders to take the lead in advancing Internet policy agendas in their countries and to be engaged in the regional policy dialogue at the Arab Internet Governance Forum, and then in the global discussion at the IGF.
Enhanced Legislation
on Internet Policies in the MENA Region
Raising awareness of stakeholders to influence the decision-making process and play an active role in promoting and safeguarding Internet freedom in the local legislation.

Drafting Internet-related policies through a participatory approach that engages multiple stakeholders.

To meet these objectives, IGMENA focuses on three areas:

An adopted methodology of merging technology and policy with advocacy. This is done through preparing civic actors to take the lead in advocating for online human rights and Internet policy while working closely with other concerned stakeholders.

Programme Stakeholders

IG issues should no longer be confined to specific technical issues discussed by government with a small circle of business representatives and technical experts, but rather attract wider participation from all parties concerned. IGMENA convenes a wide range of actors from civil society—including bloggers, journalists, students, public sector employees and members of the private sector—to come together, share knowledge, and create national and regional action plans.

Programme Partners

Hivos is partnering with a number of international and regional institutions.