Skip to main content

Policy experts are IETF stakeholders

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Authors Stacie Hoffmann , Marek Blachut
Last updated 2024-01-10
RFC stream (None)
Intended RFC status (None)
Stream Stream state (No stream defined)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
RFC Editor Note (None)
IESG IESG state I-D Exists
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
gendispatch                                                  S. Hoffmann
Internet-Draft                                                M. Blachut
Intended status: Informational                                   UK DSIT
Expires: 13 July 2024                                    10 January 2024

                  Policy experts are IETF stakeholders


   The IETF's work has significance for communities concerned with
   societal, economic, and political outcomes, though barriers to
   engagement with the IETF exist for non-technical experts from these
   communities.  This informational document introduces a problem
   statement and gap analysis of existing initiatives related to policy
   expert engagement in the IETF.  It aims to be a resource for anyone
   interested in working to enable policy expert engagement in IETF

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 13 July 2024.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2024 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 1]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Problem statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.3.  Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.4.  Coordination  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Identifying solutions and ways forward  . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   6.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   The openness of processes is one of the defining characteristics of
   the IETF and its work to develop and improve the Internet.  The
   success of IETF standards is underpinned by the ability of the
   community to bring together diverse individuals with a range of
   relevant expertise - including stakeholders from industry, academia,
   civil society, and government.

   Across the IETF community, and over time, the challenge of putting
   this into practice has been noted, for example: in the IETF mission
   statement [RFC3935] and the openStand principles signed up to by the
   IETF and IAB [OPENSTAND]; the charter and work of the Education, and
   Outreach directorate[EODIR]; in the Tao of the IETF [TAO]; in
   [RFC8890]: The Internet is for the end user; by members of the
   community [I-D.draft-gont-diversity-analysis]; The Human Rights and
   Protocol Considerations Research Group in the IRTF[HRPC]; and in
   other groups that participate in and around the IETF, such as The
   Public Interest Technology Group[PITG].

   These all recognise the wider context of standardisation, and the
   value in involving a diverse set of inputs as part of open processes.

   The decisions made in the IETF have the potential to create ripple-
   effects across the globe.  We are increasingly reliant on the
   Internet for virtually every facet of life, and many stakeholders are
   actively working to increase access to the Internet.  The success of
   the Internet is built on open standards.  Increasingly, the decisions
   we take when developing Internet standards are also policy decisions
   with trade-offs and implications that are inherently social rather
   than purely technical.

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 2]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   Multistakeholder approaches help to develop standards in ways that
   reflect a balance of various considerations, on the basis of relevant
   expertise.  Alongside technical expertise in domains like routing,
   security, or operations, wider expertise and experience with regard
   to the societal, economic, and geopolitical impacts of
   standardisation can fruitfully contribute to the IETF's work.

   Policy experts are individuals who have expertise in domains relevant
   to public policy, and engage in support of the public interest.  They
   can come from a wide range of stakeholder groups.  The best policy
   approaches to Internet issues are developed through multistakeholder
   processes that exemplify the diverse and unique contributions of
   policy and technical experts from civil society, academia, industry
   and governments.

   The IETF already carries out work with great significance for policy,
   societal and economic outcomes, but there is still more to do in
   improving ways of working between policy experts and technical

   Policy communities bring a distinct, relevant, and useful perspective
   to the IETF's work, but face a unique set of challenges in
   contributing to standards development.  On this basis, the IETF
   community should consider how to better draw on the expertise of, and
   engage, policy communities in standards development.

   The aim of this draft is to document the problem space and identify
   potential ways forward to foster better technical and policy
   discussions within the IETF and strengthen ways of working in the
   process.  We elaborate non-goals to help guide further discussions on
   the problem statement and way forward.

2.  Problem statement

   We start from the premise that the IETF benefits in two main ways
   from the incorporation of non-technical expertise, and that these
   benefits are sufficient to justify further work to enable
   constructive engagement between the IETF and policy communities.

   The first benefit is to the IETF's contribution to the ecosystem of
   global Internet governance through the development of the Internet's
   open standards.  There is a need to strengthen the IETF in this
   critical role as other standards bodies and actors look to use
   different fora to develop and influence Internet protocol standards,
   at the risk of undermining the Internet's openness and

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 3]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   The second benefit is to the ability of IETF standards to take
   account of their various real-world impacts, and weigh these during
   the development process.  Learning from other multistakeholder
   processes and better incorporating a wider range of expertise can
   help make IETF standards more robust, identify global deployment
   barriers, and raise the IETF's profile, making the IETF community
   better connected globally.

   To ensure we are benefitting from the contributions of individuals
   with policy expertise in the IETF, a range of challenges need to be
   addressed, including:

   *  Improving communication between the IETF and policy communities
      outside the IETF

   *  Upskilling and education of policy experts to meaningfully engage
      in the IETF

   *  Building community and a culture that enables policy and technical
      experts to work together

   *  Coordination across separate but related initiatives within the
      IETF, IAB, and IRTF in support of these aims.

2.1.  Communication

   The interaction between standards, regulation, policy, and other
   initiatives can create issues where stakeholders are not aware of
   proposals that may have significant impacts on their work.  There are
   limited channels for early communication, or regular dialogue of
   affected stakeholders.  This limits the ability for policy
   stakeholders to contribute early in the standards process, or
   likewise to raise awareness of policy initiatives that may have
   implications for standardisation.

   Likewise, the interaction between different SDOs and global Internet
   governance fora can create duplication, tension, or fragmentation
   where there are not sufficient means for staying informed of
   developments in relevant areas, sharing technical and policy
   expertise, and aligning strategic plans.  Communications and
   engagement from relevant bodies such as ICANN, other SDOs, UN
   agencies, or multistakeholder governance fora are important in this
   respect.  These processes between the IETF and other bodies are, to
   an extent, currently reliant on individuals engaging across a range
   of fora.

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 4]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   Effective and timely communication into and projected out from the
   IETF, IAB and IRTF to the wider community can be strengthened and
   would help enable awareness of the importance of the IETF's work,
   earlier identification of issues and opportunities, as well as
   institutional relationships in and around IETF work.

2.2.  Education

   Not all interactions between standards and policy communities will
   require policy experts to engage directly in the IETF's standards
   process, but where this is necessary there are challenges for policy
   experts wishing to constructively contribute in the IETF.  These
   include knowing when to engage in emerging standards work, difficulty
   in understanding ways of working, lack of technical knowledge and
   where and how to engage effectively.

   Opportunities for policy and technical communities around the IETF to
   mutually build a better understanding of the intersection between
   technology and policy have also been noted as an area to strengthen.

2.3.  Community

   Standards organisations, like most other types of groups, each have
   their own specific ways of working and unique culture.  The IETF as
   an organisation and a community has a strong shared identity, rooted
   in its history, culture, axioms, and even language.  Traditionally,
   elements of this culture have made it difficult for various groups,
   including newcomers or policy experts, to share their views,
   including on topics deemed to be non-technical or political.

   In this environment, and without spaces to bring relevant policy-
   related discussions to the interlinked communities that make up the
   IETF, there is added complexity for those looking to contribute their
   expertise to the IETF's work from non-traditional or non-technical
   perspectives, and strengthen communities of technical and policy
   experts and enable meaningful collaboration in the IETF context.

2.4.  Coordination

   There are a number of related initiatives and groups within the IETF
   which have remits relevant to upskilling policy experts, improving
   insights and knowledge on policy issues, and incorporating this
   knowledge into the IETF standards process.  However, if these efforts
   are not effectively coordinated it will be hard for the IETF to make
   progress towards addressing the challenges of incorporating policy

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 5]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   For productive engagement to happen, experts need to know that
   relevant work is going on; for them to contribute at the IETF they
   need to be equipped with the right skills and understanding of
   appropriate processes; for them to have a constructive impact their
   contributions need to be considered by a culture that respects
   diverse perspectives.

   Because responsibilities for addressing different aspects of these
   challenges are currently split across various groups and initiatives,
   it is difficult for there to be a coherent pull-through path for
   experts, from education and outreach and external communications to
   meaningful engagement in standards development.

3.  Identifying solutions and ways forward

   Consideration of ways forward to address these challenges should
   importantly also recognise what is already working as well as other

   *  Addressing challenges to engagement of policy expertise in the
      standards process should not lead to special treatment or
      privilege to be given to the views of one stakeholder group over

   *  The challenges identified above reflect experiences engaging
      across different technology issues, and work to solve them should
      focus resolving the structural and process elements identified in
      the problem statement, and should not promote or seek to influence
      any single policy, technology or standards issue.

   *  Commonalities exist across the challenges experienced by many
      stakeholder groups when engaging on policy issues.  Addressing
      this issue is wider than participation of any one part of the IETF
      community, including of governments at the IETF.

   The participation of policy communities is not new, and there are
   instructive examples of positive engagement and contribution over the
   history of the IETF.

   [I-D.draft-cooper-policy-interactions] lists a range of examples
   where there have been interactions between IETF work and policy
   initiatives.  While it is a non-exhaustive and selective list, it
   nonetheless evidences a range and diversity of interactions,
   including those where outcomes haven't found compromise and have
   created significant issues.

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 6]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   On the other hand, there are more positive examples of interaction.
   Regulators have participated directly at the IETF.  As bodies tasked
   with enforcing national regulations relating to competition, privacy,
   cybersecurity resilience, online safety or other objectives, they
   hold insights into legal and regulatory environments that determine
   the practical deployment of standards, which make uniquely valuable

   More recently, there have been an increasing number of explicit
   discussions about public interest and policy topics and how they are
   dealt with in the work of the IETF.

   At IETF 115 the Internet Society and the UK Government held a side
   meeting on policymaker engagement with the IETF, in discussion with
   chairs of the IETF, IRTF, and IAB along with other members of the
   community.  Other side meetings were held at IETF 115 which focused
   on wider connections between policy issues and IETF standardisation
   [CDT-A19].  Coinciding with IETF 118, the Internet Society and
   Internet Architecture Board convened a roundtable with participation
   from policymakers as well as IETF participants.

   There is also increased discussion in fora such as the United Nations
   and the Internet Governance Forum on the intersection of policy,
   human rights, and technical standards for the Internet [OHCHR].  In
   these contexts, engagement from the IETF community is vital for
   informing policy debates on the basis of technical realities, as well
   as raising awareness of the important contribution played by the
   multistakeholder technical community in upholding an open global

   There are a range of initiatives within and around the IETF that are
   addressing particular aspects of the above points.  Some of these are
   venues for considering the intersection of policy and technology,
   some of these are mechanisms for improving communication, or bringing
   together relevant stakeholders.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of
   groups and initiatives which could help address this problem space in
   the long-term:

   *  IAB: The Internet Architecture Board holds responsibility in a
      number of areas relevant to improving engagement with policy
      communities [RFC2850].  IAB workshops have in the past, and could
      again in the future provide a venue for bringing in expertise of
      external communities on issues of long-term importance.  IAB
      programs could tackle thematic non-technical issues that are
      relevant across multiple IETF working groups.  IAB statements have
      been used to directly respond to policy developments.  Overseen by
      the IAB are a set of liaison relationships with other SDOs and
      fora facilitated by individuals within the community.  In carrying

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 7]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

      out each of these activities, engagement with policy stakeholders
      across the IETF could bring further transparency, capacity, and
      expertise to improve outcomes.

   *  IESG and IAB members: Occasionally, IETF leadership and other
      participants engage in policy and technical fora outside of IETF
      meetings, such as ICANN, the UN Internet Governance Forum, and
      meetings of other SDOs or Regional Internet Registries.  This type
      of engagement, if made more systematic, could help enable coherent
      and non-duplicative policy and technical conversations across a
      number of relevant fora, recognising the specific remit, roles and
      responsibilities of each.

   *  IAB-ISOC coordination group: A new coordination group has been set
      up to better facilitate liaison between the IAB and ISOC.  This is
      in the context of a longer standing practice of collaboration

   *  ISOC Policymaker Program: The educational program, co-located at
      IETF meetings, serves to introduce government policymakers to
      topics such as the infrastructure of the Internet, the development
      of technical standards underpinning the Internet, and how these
      standards have been implemented.  After a brief hiatus, the
      Program was reinstated at IETF 116 [ISOC].

   *  IETF Administration LLC: As stewards of the IETF Community Survey
      as well as meeting surveys, the secretariat is in a position to be
      able to monitor the experiences of participants coming from
      governments, regulators, civil society and other policy-relevant
      background.  Such data could be instrumental in identifying and
      quantifying challenges.

   *  EODIR Directorate: The Education and Outreach directorate is
      chartered to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the IETF,
      and oversees a variety of relevant initiatives [EODIR].  The IETF
      Guides program is one notable resource to help any interested
      newcomers, which could be relevant and useful in this context.

   *  RASP RG: The Research and Analysis of the Standards Process
      Research Group is chartered to study the internet standards
      development process at the IETF, including diversity of
      participation and engagement, and interaction with external
      communities [RASPRG].

   *  HRPC RG: The Human Rights and Protocol Considerations research
      group in IRTF has served as a venue to consider a range of policy-
      relevant topics related to human rights, and has brought valuable
      expertise into the IETF, as well as developed guidance for

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 8]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

      protocol designers wishing to consider the human rights
      implications of their work.  Ongoing rechartering discussions
      [HRPCCHARTER] could see this group incorporate other areas of
      policy and public interest, which would be a beneficial
      development towards engaging a wider range of policy experts and
      discussion of relevant policy research issues for the IETF

   Sharing information to identify further initiatives, and
   collaborating to better understand the overlaps and gaps between this
   collection of work will be key to addressing the identified problem

4.  Security Considerations

   This document has no security considerations.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

6.  Informative References

   [CDT-A19]  "Center for Democracy & Technology and Article 19,
              Connecting Internet protocols and standards with policy",
              2022, <

   [EODIR]    "Education and Outreach Directorate", 2024,

   [HRPC]     "Human Rights and Protocol Considerations Research Group",
              2024, <>.

              "Human Rights Protocol Considerations", 2023,

              Nottingham, M. and A. Cooper, "IETF Policy Interactions",
              Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-cooper-policy-
              interactions-00, 7 July 2023,

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                  [Page 9]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

              Gont, F. and K. Moore, "Diversity and Inclusiveness in the
              IETF", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-gont-
              diversity-analysis-01, 27 January 2022,

   [IAB-ISOC] "IAB-ISOC coordination group", 2023,

   [ISOC]     "Internet Society Policymakers Program", 2024,

   [OHCHR]    "Relationship between human rights and technical standard-
              setting processes for new and emerging digital
              technologies and the practical application of the Guiding
              Principles on Business and Human Rights", 2023,

              "OpenStand principles", 2017,

   [PITG]     "Public Interest Technology Group", n.d.,

   [RASPRG]   "Research and Analysis of Standard-Setting Processes
              Proposed Research Group", 2024,

   [RFC2850]  Carpenter, B., "Charter of the Internet Architecture Board
              (IAB)", RFC 2850, DOI 10.17487/RFC2850, May 2000,

   [RFC3935]  Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
              BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, October 2004,

   [RFC8890]  Nottingham, M., "The Internet is for End Users", RFC 8890,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8890, August 2020,

   [TAO]      "Tao of the IETF", 2024, <>.

Authors' Addresses

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                 [Page 10]
Internet-Draft    Policy experts are IETF stakeholders      January 2024

   Stacie Hoffmann
   UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology

   Marek Blachut
   UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology

Hoffmann & Blachut        Expires 13 July 2024                 [Page 11]