Statement of American Bar Association
delivered by Henry Judy
at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

23 May 2007 – Geneva

CHAIRMAN DESAI:  Thank you very much. Can I now turn to Henry Judy of the American Bar Association?

HENRY JUDY:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  My name is Henry Judy.  I’m with the American Bar Association, a civil society association that is the largest association of lawyers in the United States.  More specifically, I am with the Section of Business law, the largest section within the ABA.

Let me comment on two levels. The first level is the level of practical organizational arrangements, and the second is the level of the substance of the Rio meeting.

My practical comments deal with the matter of speed dialogues or speed exchanges.  Markus Kummer, in his opening remarks, noted that the concept came from the American Bar Association via the ITU. Speed dialogues can be organized in various ways, but the description that I have seen in the Secretariat’s material is typical.  It is a technique, and like any technique, it is more or less useful depending on the outcomes that you wish.

My experience is that it has the following advantages:

First, it introduces a large number of people to one another who might otherwise not have spoken to one another.  It is a great networking tool, and it stimulates networking, and thus it would strengthen the multiparticipant orientation of the Forum.

Secondly, it is a great equalizer.  The great and the small are at the same table and must listen to one another.

Third, it forces people to speak crisply.  You do not have time for the extended use of diplomatic code, euphemisms, and circumlocution.

Fourth, it is useful for synthesizing the state of opinion and emotion in the group.

Among the downsides are the following:

First, it depends on each table having a reporter who can represent the views at the table in the summary in a skillful and disinterested manner.  It is not easy to find a Markus Kummer for each table.

Second, it requires a high degree of prior planning and instruction on the part of the organizers as well as a high degree of compliance on the part of the participants. Otherwise, it can become a confusing and unproductive exercise in herding cats, if I may use the English expression. I have heard it said that the likelihood that the technique will be successful is directly proportional to the tendency of the group to start its meetings on time.

Third, it tends to work less well as the group becomes larger.

So I would conclude on this procedural point with two general comments.

First, I have never participated in such a dialogue in a multilingual environment, and it is possible that if it is done in such an environment in Rio, extra steps will be needed from an organizational point of view.

Secondly, on the whole, I would advise some degree of caution in the use of this technique, and, at a minimum, a lot of careful prior planning.

As far as the substance is concerned, I would like to associate myself with the comments of the Free Expression Online Dynamic Coalition earlier today and with the point of the previous speaker from Australia as to the great importance of freedom of expression in this connection. Lawyers, when they are at their very best, deeply care about freedom, freedom of expression, of association, of communication, all of the fundamental values that are deeply embedded in U.N. documents, ranging from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the statement of Millennium Goals, to the WSIS Declaration, and down to the theme of Openness in the documents of this Forum.

In that regard, it is disturbing to see that the Internet, which is, and must continue to be, a tool of liberation, is being misused as a tool of exclusion, of repression, and even as a weapon.

We would express the hope, Mr. Chairman, that the Rio meeting could be organized so that the themes of Openness and Security from misuse animate the proceedings.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

>>CHAIRMAN DESAI:  Your assessment of the speed dialogue is very helpful. The starting on time — the minute you said starting on time, I saw sudden loss of interest, because that’s one thing that never happens in the U.N.  So that’s something that will be difficult to work.