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[ox-en] Fwd: [Wsis] World+dog fight over World Summit of The Information Society


Below is one of many similar opinions about the PrepCom III for the
WSIS. From what I learned from the German mailing list the chaos was
actually even bigger than outlined below.

I wonder whether this means something for the relation of states and
the like and the information society / Oekonux version.

						Mit Freien Grüßen


------- Forwarded Message

Date:  Sun, 28 Sep 2003 21:03:18 [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED]
From:  Ralf Bendrath <bendrath>
Subject:  [Wsis] World+dog fight over World Summit of The Information Society
To:  wsis-liste <wsis>, wsis-cs-plenary <plenary>
Message-Id:  <3F773076.15FBDA53>

World+dog fight over World Summit of The Information Society

By Monika Ermert
Posted: 27/09/2003 at 21:06 GMT

Geneva Prepcom-III was supposed to be the final preparatory conference
for the UN's World Summit of The Information Society (WSIS) which takes
place in December 10-12 in Geneva. All the loose ends should have been
tied up yesterday when Prepcom-III, also held in Geneva, closed after
two weeks of negotiation.

Now organisers have hastily reconvened another meeting for November
aimed at breaking the deadlock over the drafting of two key documents.
If the impasse is unresolved, WSIS looks wrecked, and it is very
unlikely that many heads of state will tip up in Geneva only to be
associated with failure.

Difficulties were to be expected from a meeting that for the first time
sought to articulate a common vision of the Information Society, says
Adama Samassekou. But the complete mess that was produced at
Prepcom-III, was a bit too much even for the tireless Prepcom-President
of WSIS.

Neither of the two core documents, the Declaration of Principles and the
Action Plan, which are supposed to be signed by head of states in
December when WSIS proper convenes, could be finalised after two weeks
of lengthy discussions. "Still we have made progress," said Samassekou,
"in the sense that we now know what are the points on which we do not

The expectations in the Summit, promoted by the preliminary text of the
Declaration of Principles, are high, promoting information and
communication technology as the tool to achieve "eradication of poverty
and hunger" and "attainment of a more peaceful, just and prosperous
world." But there is a wide gulf of opinion over how this is to be
achieved, with the governments of the North and South, the 500-plus
participating Civil Society members (representing NGOs from around the
world) and private sector representatives competing to have their say.

What the World needs Now

"The world needs to move to overcome the Digital Divide," said the head
of the delegation from Tunisia, host country of WSIS 2, scheduled for
2005. Bringing ICT to the poor countries of the South shall help build
up the Information Society for all and at the same time stop and revert
the situation where rich countries get richer while the poor get poorer.
The UN's Millennium Declaration is the blueprint for the ambitious goals
of WSIS, highlighted by the fact that the UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan is main steward of the WSIS process.

But rich countries - possible donors - are sceptical about the "Digital
Solidarity fund" proposed by Senegal's president at Prepcom-2. "We need
some new ways of direct financing for ICT projects, but not necessarily
another UN Fund," said Marc Furrer, director of Offcom, Switzerland's
telecoms regulator. Here lies one of the major disputes of the Summit
process, that Samassekou and his International Telecoms Union
ITU)-staffed bureau and host country Switzerland must tackle.

For Western countries, protection of critical infrastructure and freedom
of expression are much sexier topics. "Free Media are essential in a
Information Society," declared a US delegate at the conference. But the
media paragraphs in the documents have as many empty square brackets as
a Swiss cheese has holes. "Pluralistic and free" media and access for
them to information are not welcomed in many countries. "We deal with
different versions of what we call freedom or freedom of expression,"
said Samassekou.

The media discussion was highlighted in a hot debate about the situation
of press freedom in Tunisia. Representatives from the very active Media
Caucus of the Prepcom have according to one speaker already demanded the
replacement of a top Tunisian official in charge of organizing the
summit in Tunisia.

"I am personally convinced of one thing, that nothing over time can
prevent the desire of people to live and to express themselves," said
Samassekou, "modalities may be diverse." He hopes to overcome the media
and human rights questions for free access by referring to existing
documents. But while China in any case prefers to have the dominance of
national law regimes mentioned, the US leans on the other site in adding
"consistent with the need to preserve the free flow of information" to
possibly restrictive paragraphs.

Changing alliances

While Civil Society representatives found common cause with western
governments with regard to media freedoms, on the other hand, they
blamed them for yielding to industry interests over intellectual
property rights. Against interventions from the Business Sector -
represented mainly through the International Chamber of Commerce - they
argued for a balancing of interests.

"When asked why he could see so far, Sir Isaac Newton replied that he
was standing on the shoulders of giants. Imagine a world where those
giants refuse to let him stand on their shoulders," said Georg Greve,
president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, in one of the five
minute slots that civil society representatives were given before
governments started negotiating. Yet this road would be taken by barring
access through layers of copyright regimes. After the end of Prepcom
Greve said he was satisfied that Free Software is now integrated in the
Draft Declaration and Action Plan as at least "equally valuable software

Free Software and a balanced role of copyright protection were heavily
in the interest of developing countries, argued civil society
participants from the North in debates with their counterparts from
Southern countries, who warned against concentrating on expert problems.
 In general the participatory role of the Civil Society in the WSIS is
still very experimental and unsatisfactory from the point of view of the
Civil Society members. "There was one moment in the second week when
Civil Society members were on the verge of withdrawing from the whole
process," says Karen Banks from APC.

The sentiment was that promises to accept not input and impact from the
NGOs were not materializing, voices from the Civil Society were not
heard, and the common vision had been completely lost. In the small
drafting groups the possibility to participate were unpredictable for
the NGOs. Sometimes they could make a five minute statement and even
stay for the discussions, sometimes they were banned. By the end of
Prepcom, Civil Society members were undecided about how far they should
disassociate themselves from the official process;  the press statement
was reworded several times.

Members of the German Civil Society were outspoken in their criticism:
"Governments listen", they wrote, "or leave us alone in the Information
Age." In any case the Civil Society started to work on their vision
document, which they want to present to WSIS in December. In other words
there could be competing declarations floating around the conference/

Stake in the Ground

Samassekou noted that Prepcom-III was an intergovernmental process in
which the United Nations had for the first time opened up to observers.
He hoped that the new "multistakeholder" approach would act as model for
the overall reform of UN working procedures.

Samassekou's more immediate problem is in getting agreement over the
wording of the documents. On Friday afternoon the highly controversial
topic of Internet Governance was unexpectedly raised again by the
delegations of Kenya and China and the US. At that point Samassekou
could be forgiven for fearing that the process could collapse. Kenya,
China and other countries such as Brazil favour a reform of the
management of global Internet resources, namely domain names, root
servers and IP addresses. But the US and to some extent the EU countries
support the current US-backed private model and don't want to see the
ITU involved.

"We are very, very, very far from a consensus - not only in Internet
Governance issues," said a member of the Egypt delegation who had first
brought up the idea of a stronger international grip on the root server
system. ®
Wsis Mailingliste
JPBerlin - Mailbox und Politischer Provider

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