Structural Power in Internet Governance. Enabling and Constraining Effects of the Institutionalization of NGO Participation at the WSIS
21 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2016
Date Written: November 2007
This paper gives way to a more sceptical assessment of the multi-stakeholder process of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (2003-2005) and the Working Group on Internet Governance (2004-2005). It questions the mostly positive outlook on the effects of the institutionalization of NGO participation and their ability to exert influence within the international negotiations. I argue that institutionalization had suboptimal effects and constrained the possibilities for NGOs to actively participate in the negotiations in the following ways: assigning them adversarial positions in comparison to state actors; shaping their identities; sacrificing external transparency; and failing to formalize the observers’ participation rights. Finally I argue that these observations show structural power at work in the analyzed governance processes. Hence, a structural power concept, as compared to prevalent agency-centred power concepts, can capture the ambiguous effects of the institutionalization of NGO participation.
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