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First Meeting of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group of the Arab Internet Governance Forum El Sherbiny: Such Forums Confirm the Need for Dialogue


Under the umbrella of ESCWA and the League of Arab States (LAS), the first meeting of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) of the Arab Internet Governance Forum (Arab IGF) was held on 18-19 June 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting was convened by the Arab IGF secretariat, represented by the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) of Egypt, in collaboration with the Arab Administrative Development Organization (ARADO), and was sponsored by the Kuwait Information Technology Society (KITS) and CISCO Systems.

The meeting involved the participation of the MAG members, including distinguished experts from the various stakeholders, governments, the private sector, civil society as well as the technical and academic community. It aimed at discussing the procedures of the Arab IGF that seeks finding the appropriate level of integration in the decision making process in the field of Internet governance, at the Arab regional level. The meeting also sought to convey the Arab views to the international arena in line with regional opportunities, needs, and requirements.

Discussions focused on the most prominent issues of Internet governance, such as institutional empowerment, critical internet resources, internet access, digital content, security, privacy, openness, and the role of youths. Participants came up with a first draft agenda and organizational details for the first annual Arab IGF to be held in Kuwait on 9-11 October, 2012, hosted by KITS.

In this context, Ayman El Sherbiny, Chief of ESCWA Information and Communication Technology Policies Section, told the United Nations Radio that dealing with the issues of Internet governance in the Arab region began in 2003 in conjunction with the start of dialogue in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which convened in Geneva. He emphasized the importance of dialogue in addressing Internet risks and in seeking common convictions and understandings between the public and private interests, personal and national freedom, and highlighted that dialogue is the foundation of work of the Arab IGF that relies on a flexible and decentralized structure. He pointed out to the definition of Internet governance that was agreed upon in WSIS discussions in 2005 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".

It is worth noting that ESCWA and LAS are collaborating on the global IGF process since its inception in 2006, namely through the launching the Arab Dialogue on Internet Governance (ArabDIG). Involving a number of activities, the ArabDIG resulted with the publication of the (a) Arab Regional Roadmap for Internet Governance: Framework, Principles and Objectives, and the (b) Call of Arab Stakeholders – Towards Promoting Arab Cooperation for Internet Governance Regionally and Internationally. The later confirmed the need for an Arab IGF process, which was launched following the Conference and Public Consultation to Establish the Arab IGF (Beirut, 31/1-1/2/2012). Furthermore, the Conference endorsed the hosting of the first Arab IGF meeting by KITS, and the Arab IGF Secretariat by the Egyptian NTRA. The Arab IGF process of inclusive policy consultations involving all stakeholders was supported by the 31st meeting of the Executive Bureau of Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers (Beirut, 2 February 2012). The Arab IGF process recent activity was the formation of the MAG that commenced its work within this meeting.

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