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UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


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Internet governance policy forums: youth participation at EuroDIG 2019

By zoeybarthelemy, on 18 July 2019

Blog by Zoey Barthelemy, MPA Candidate in UCL STEaPP

Policy forums act as a platform for different stakeholders to exchange, learn, and most importantly build trust. Most policy platforms are issue-based with support from both political and civil society actors with a stated objective.

When it comes to internet governance, policy forums are a very important element for the multi-stakeholder governance system. The main policy forum each year is the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). A series of policy forums take place in the lead up to each year’s IGF to foster trust, discussion, and exchange among the different communities. This year I had the opportunity to participate in an internet governance policy forum, EuroDIG 2019, as part of the annual YOUthDIG fellowship program.

What is EuroDIG and YOUthDIG?

EuroDIG is a Pan-European dialogue on internet governance (IG) that aims to be more than a conference but a year-round ongoing platform for discuss. This year was the 13th edition, which took place at the World Forum The Hague in The Netherlands from 19 – 20 June. The theme this year was “Cooperating in the Digital Age” to highlight opportunities for multi-stakeholder process.

YOUthDIG is a programme that is part of EuroDIG to provide training and networking opportunities for youths within the ongoing dialogue process. Outcomes from the EuroDIG sessions and workshops, in the form of key messages from different stakeholders, are then shared at the IGF. The full YOUthDIG programme takes place over three days before EuroDIG begins. It is a mix of fun activities such as a team-building cooking workshop and learning workshops at the Dutch Ministry of Justice, Leiden University, and EuroDIG subject matter experts. YOUthDIG messages drafted by each year’s cohort are presented on day 2 of EuroDIG as part of the official programme.

This year the European Commissioner for Digital Economic and Society, Mariya Gabriel met with the YOUthDIG cohort to discuss our vision and priorities when it comes to internet governance. YOUthDIG members also received remote moderation training to support the different workshops and sessions during EuroDIG to ensure the entire forum is open, inclusive, and accessible to anyone who wishes to participate.

What are my reflections from this experience?

I had the privilege to be a part of this year’s YOUthDIG cohort among 20 other young people from continental Europe. Prior to meeting in The Hague, the YOUthDIG cohort had preparation conference calls to meet each other, organise sessions at EuroDIG and attend special sessions from different key players in the IG landscape such as the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and the Reseaux IP Europeens Network Coordination Centre.

As a MPA candidate with a focus in digital technologies, it was a very eye-opening experience to observe and partake in the multi-stakeholder approach that is at the heart of internet governance. In terms of concepts and knowledge, the DTP stream definitely prepared me for an endless slew of acronyms flying every which way over the five-day period (WSIS, ITU, IGF, RIPE, APNIC, LACNIC, ICANN, ISOC, IETF, etc…)!! In terms of soft skills, youth participation in these type of policy forums was a great chance to get out of my comfort zone and practice networking. Among YOUthDIG participant, it was interesting to meet many lawyers, as well as online and human rights activists. Overall, I found that many EuroDIG participants are mostly from the civil society, technical community, and academia.

Tips for young professionals attending policy forums

One of my important learnings from participating in policy forums in general is to engage and participate with different stakeholders before the event. There is almost no difference between participants and organisers at these forums as the successes and outcomes of each conference is what participants contribute within the org teams before the conference. This, of course, does not dismiss the very important work of The Secretariat. Participants have a huge role in driving the content and a youth platform such as YOUthDIG is an invaluable way to engage and learn. Lastly, policy forums exist to allow trust building and foster collaboration between different stakeholder groups, people attend with an approachable mind-set. This is great to keep in mind for first time participants as it is daunting when surrounded by many experts.

How to get involved in IG policy forums?

Many civil societies have fellowships and programmes to foster youth participation. Below is a quick list of organisation that have learning materials and funding or fellowship opportunities within the IG community:

This list of resources is only the top of the iceberg! While the list is quite European-centric, there are countless opportunities to get involved in the IG space in every part of the world!

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