[arin-ppml] RIPE/ITU - Govt Reps

Stephen Sprunk stephen at sprunk.org
Wed Mar 17 19:19:15 EDT 2010

On 17 Mar 2010 11:11, Robert Cannon wrote:
> --- 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.

IMHO, if an entity cannot find even one single representative who is
willing to attend and voice the entity's position(s) as their own,
perhaps that entity should reconsider its position(s).

If the entity has no position(s) at all to be expressed, then what is
the problem?  Their representatives can easily attend as observers and
report back, which is all the participation that an entity with no
position(s) could logically do anyway.

I _am_ sensitive to bureaucrats' concern that underlings' comments could
be misinterpreted as official government policy/direction/intent, but
the Internet community has a long tradition of allowing participants to
put on or take off various "hats" when they speak, and everyone in
attendance will understand the difference between someone expressing an
official position and a personal one _as long as they say which it is_.

We also have a quasi-tradition of people speaking on behalf of others
who are not allowed to speak, are underrepresented, or are not present
at all.  Those who are not allowed to comment on the record should be
able to find someone of similar mind to make their comments for them.

If governments _want_ to participate, they can find a way to do it. 
Based on attendance at various meetings, though, it appears that they
rarely show up even as observers, which makes me question whether the
real problem is not being _able_ to participate or rather not _wanting_
to participate--or not even understanding what forums exist for them to
participate in.  And, the longer they stay silent (either by choice or
by ignorance), the further behind the curve they are going to fall and
the less interested anyone is going to be in what they have to say when
they finally get around to making an official comment on something that
was discussed and settled several years previously.


Stephen Sprunk         "God does not play dice."  --Albert Einstein
CCIE #3723         "God is an inveterate gambler, and He throws the
K5SSS        dice at every possible opportunity." --Stephen Hawking

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