[arin-ppml] RIPE/ITU - Govt Reps

Robert Cannon rcannon100 at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 17 12:11:57 EDT 2010

--- On Thu, 3/4/10, David Farmer <farmer at umn.edu> wrote:
> Xiaoya Yang made another comment, "I also want to mention
> that a fact that it's very difficult for government
> representative to participate in the Internet policy
> discussion. Because, as you could acknowledge if I'm
> representing our government, I cannot speak on my individual
> behalf."
> This made me realize that what we in the Internet community
> consider as an open participatory process, may not actually
> be open to everyone.  As technical people our
> organizations generally allow us a great deal of latitude to
> express our individual opinions.  This is generally not
> the case for government bureaucrats, especially in the realm
> of international diplomacy.  I'm not sure what to do
> about this, but we probably shouldn't just ignore it.

If I may....

Simple answer is yes.  A civil servant in their official capacity can only speak with clearance from the decision makers / bosses.  If the agency has no official formal position on a specific question, the civil servant may not be able to speak at all.  If the agency is considering a question, but has not issued an opinion, the civil servant cant speak.  If the agency has expressed an opinion, then its usually 3 years later.

But that's a general rule - with exceptions.  There are civil servants that do speak, sometimes they are high in leadership - sometimes they sit in unique offices.  Some times you can get a civil servant to speak, but not on the record (in other words, perhaps in the hallway).  A civil servant who speaks generally does not represent their agency and cannot bind their agency.

Every agency, govt, and country will be different.  One answer is creating an environment where the person you want to speak can speak.

Finally, sometimes civil servants who dont speak - are very good listeners (and are taking information back to their agencies).


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