Chris Buckridge

Making the Case for a Multistakeholder Approach

Chris Buckridge

3 min read


Open, inclusive, and bottom-up may seem natural to those of us in the Internet technical community, but making the case for keeping Internet governance that way is an ongoing challenge.

The saying in English goes, "it never rains, but it pours" - which is to say nothing happens for a while, and then suddenly lots of things happen at once. 2024 (and 2025) feel a little like that in relation to Internet governance. A host of events - some long scheduled, others more spontaneous - are jostling for space in the calendar and bringing more focus than ever to the hotly contested ground where technical policy, standards setting, regulation, and public policy intersect.

"Multistakeholder" is a term that gained traction around the first meetings of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005, long after the IETF and the Regional Internet Registry communities had formalised their own "open, inclusive, bottom-up" approaches. But it was to these models that the WSIS (and WGIG) authors were looking when they set the Internet governance ship on a "multistakeholder" course, and the consensus around that decision has held for nearly two decades.

Amongst the many Internet governance (or digital governance) events, however, the 20-year review of that WSIS process (WSIS+20, for all you hipsters) stands out as significant, precisely because of that multistakeholder commitment. As different stakeholders find their aims and agendas diverging, can a commitment to open, inclusive policy-making survive?

Central to this question is an even more fundamental question: why do we need multistakeholder Internet governance? What are the practical benefits of open, inclusive (and, yes, innovative) processes over long-entrenched, government-led models for collective management of common resources?

Some months back, CENTR, the association of European country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries, asked me to develop a paper on the benefits of a multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. The final document, which draws on feedback and insight from the CENTR membership, was published last month, and that link back to ccTLD operators is clear. Each operator has its own distinct set-up, but each has a common need to engage with their national government - the result is a myriad of different "multistakeholder models", each with its own strengths. For advocates of a multistakeholder approach, the ccTLD community offers a wealth of examples, which can stand alongside the successes of the IETF, the RIRs, and ICANN, and their own multistakeholder models.

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the global conversation that is now growing in intensity, so feedback is more than welcome.

You can find the paper here:

Why We Need Multistakeholder Internet Governance


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About the author

Chris Buckridge Based in Amsterdam

Chris Buckridge is an independent consultant on Internet governance and digital policy. He currently serves as a member of the UN Internet Governance Forum Multistakeholder Advisory Group (IGF MAG) and the ICANN Board of Directors. From 2006-2023, he was an employee of the RIPE NCC, and prior to that of APNIC.

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