World Summit on the Information Society: Geneva 2003
The common verdict is that the official WSIS outcomes are very limited, considering the time and expense but from the perspective of several civil society organisations that participated actively, the WSIS has been an extremely important process, creating a new platform of solidarity across ideological, sectoral and geographical divides. [see more]
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The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003. During the preparatory process, as time passed and no agreement was reached on the documents, the possibility of the summit being a failure began to loom large as yet more meetings had to be squeezed on to the agenda. At the last minute the feared "Cancunization" of the Geneva conference was narrowly avoided by the active intervention of the Swiss government. As a result, the government delegations arrived at the meeting with the main points of the documents agreed on, and these were subsequently unanimously approved in the plenary session on 12 December.

The two questions that had caused the most friction between governments during the preparatory process -Internet governance and the creation of a Digital Solidarity Fund for Africa- were resolved in Solomonic fashion with the creation of two working groups within the orbit of the United Nations to examine these issues. As no clear response to these problems could be reached in Geneva, they will be reexamined in the second phase of the summit, in Tunis in November 2005.

The civil society organizations participating in the process launched their own Declaration at Geneva, which marked clear conceptual differences from the governments’ notion of what kind of information society should be promoted. Although part of the content promoted by civil society was included in the official documents -for example, references to the defence of human rights- a detailed analysis of the text reveals a vision of technology promoted by commercial interests, in contrast to the conception held by the majority of civil society actors of technology as a tool for egalitarian development. Powerful pressure groups, such as the corporate media, left their mark on the documents, which locate other more democratizing forms of communication, such as community-based media, on the margins of the information society.

Nor have the documents approved in Geneva resolved the conflictive issues pertaining to "intellectual property rights". The civil society Declaration maintains that existing international regulatory instruments, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and instruments of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), should be revised to ensure that they promote cultural, linguistic and media diversity, and contribute to the development of human knowledge. Some governments, in particular the United States, have strongly opposed the inclusion in the WSIS process of consideration of aspects relating to trade in goods and services, alleging that the natural forum for discussing these issues is the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the WIPO.

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Up-to-date current affairs information.
Mon Jun 14 2004
WSIS II: Closed Pre-PrepCom in Geneva

In-depth reports
Detailed reports on key issues
World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS
An opportunity to build an equitable information society.

Official web site

WSIS Geneva 2003

Summit outcomes

Civil Society Declaration

Declaration of Principles (ITU)

Plan of Action (ITU)

Parallel activities

Global Forum of Indigenous Peoples and the Information Society

Global Forum on Disability in the Information Society

All summit events (Community platform)

World Electronic Media Forum (WEMF)

ICT for Development (ICT4D)

World Forum on Communication Rights (WFCR)


Failure and success at the WSIS: Civil society's next moves (CRIS)

World Summit on Information Society skirts three key issues (Third World Network)

Free-expression issues and the WSIS (IFEX)

Debriefing on WSIS - Geneva Phase/Part I (FSF Europe)

Whose "information society"?

NGLS Roundup January 2004: Moving the agenda forward at the WSIS (NGLS)

The WSIS and its Legacy for Global Governance (Université de Montreal)

Preparatory process

WSIS I Preparatory Process (Choike)

Meetings, seminars and consultations

Addis Ababa: WSIS should be people-centred, say NGOs (Africa Rights)

Central American Countries to Discuss WSIS Preparation (UNESCO)

And why not a Communication Society?

World Summit of Cities and Local Authorities on the Information Society

Communication as a Human Right in the Information Society - Issues for the World Summit on the Information Society (CRIS)

International Forum: Latin America and the Caribbean in the Information Society


WSIS, the Neoliberal Agenda, and Counterproposals (Our Media)


Unzipping the World Summit on the Information Society (HUB Project)

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