Some months after the heat and dust settled on the Tunisian skyline, APC has come up with its evaluation of what the four-year World Summit on the Information Society could hold out for people on the planet. There are some positive signs emerging from WSIS, it suggests. But unless active steps are taken to ensure that vested interests don't take over, and local opportunities are created, all hope and optimism could be rather misplaced.
The second phase of the World Sumit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005. While heated debates on the future of the Internet were taking place inside of the police-surrounded conference venue, citizens' demonstrations reclaiming the host country's compliance with international human rights agreements were being severly repressed in downtown Tunis.
The Tunis Summit, which was supposed to give an answer to unresolved issues that emerged during the first phase of the WSIS in 2003 in Geneva - in particular the democratization of the Internet governance system and the leverage of funding for the development of information and communication in the South - was closed with mixed emotions.
WSIS outcomes express good intentions but in no way provide concrete mechanisms to address the disparities in access to information and communication in developed and developing countries. The gap between what civil society organizations aimed for the second phase of the Summit (expressed in civil society's declaration at the end of the WSIS first phase) and the real outcomes of the official negotiations is almost as wide as the so-called digital divide between the North and the South.
However, some achievements were reached in the process. In particular, when looking back into the past and considering the context in which this Summit was originally conceived. Some progress can be identified, for example, in terms of civil society participation, in the perspective towards the role of public and private investment in information and communication, in the opening of the debate on Internet governance policies to multiple actors and, most importantly, in the shift of perspective from a market-oriented and technology-centered information society towards a stronger awareness on the role of information and communication infrastructures and capacities for human development. Taking into account the lack of expectations that the WSIS process gathered in its origins and its strong market orientation, the language included in the documents can be considered as a small victory and civil society organizations involved in the process should further their lobbying actions to make sure that this step is just the beginning of a walk in the right direction.
The opportunity for the "people-centred" and "development-oriented" information society envisioned in the Geneva Declaration of Principles might still be at reach after the second phase of the WSIS. For it to be achievable in the near future, nevertheless, WSIS commitments must be put into motion with no delay in the form of concrete actions by the international community.
APC's evaluation of the WSIS process concludes that it has "been basically a discursive exercise and, at this point of time, its outcomes impact more in the virtual areas of networking and political debate, rather than in the area of concrete decisions".
This short article attempts to place WSIS in the present geo-political context and discusses its outcomes. "WSIS may need to be judged more from the processes that it has set into motion than what it has achieved substantively", state the authors. PDF format.
Putting information and communication at the service of the poor and reducing the gap that currently separates the “info-rich” from the “info-poor” was initially announced as one of the priority goals of the WSIS. Three years later, however, in the light of the documents adopted and commitments assumed by the heads of state in Geneva and Tunis, one has to ask if this process has genuinely given rise to an agenda and a paradigm for development. December 2005.
As the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society, Tunis, 16-18 November) summit draws to a close, civil society groups are reflecting on the past but also looking at the road ahead. In a gathering organised by the CRIS (Communication Rights in the Information Society) Campaign on Friday afternoon, key participants of the civil society processes of the past 4 years proposed ways of keeping up the pressure and making sure that the visions that were developed around the WSIS process will be implemented. The event highlighted a wide variety of projects that will keep civil society actors busy during the upcoming months and years. November 2005.
A report by IP3 (Internet & Public Policy Project) presents the main outcomes of the Tunis World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It states that one of the most important results is the the launch of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The IGF can be thought of as a continuation of the WSIS, since it provides a place for multistakeholder discussion of a very large number of issues. The key question here is whether governments embrace it. November 2005.
This WSIS wrap up piece looks at what lies ahead of WSIS. The author argues that building an
inclusive information society will need civil society to hold governments to account - and
that the media has a crucial role to play in ensuring this happens.
The issue of intellectual property did not make the headlines during the concluding session of the five-year-long UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis. And some critics are concerned it was intentional.
Prepcom 1 decided that "a group of friends of the President of the PrepCom of the Tunis Phase, with the assistance of the WSIS Executive Secretariat and in consultation with regional groups, will prepare a document to serve as a basis for negotiations in PrepCom-2, taking into account, as appropriate, the outcomes of relevant thematic, regional and other WSIS-related meetings". Regular sessions are open to members of the GFC (up to 30 Government delegations, plus 8 ex-officio members) and to observers from Governments. Special sessions will also be open to observers from International Organizations, ITU sector members, and WSIS-accredited NGOs, civil society and business sector entities.
Meeting dates are: First meeting: 22 October 2004 (Special session); Second meeting: 15 November 2004 (Special session in the afternoon), 16 November 2004; Third meeting: 16-17 December 2004; Fourth meeting: 10 January 2005 (Special session), 11 January 2005.
Information on the meetings and events leading to the Tunis Summit is included in this page, including PrepComs and Regional Conferences.
The first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the second phase of the WSIS will take place in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 24-26 June 2004.
On behalf of the UN Secretary-General, the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms has been set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and launched on October 4th, 2004 at the UN headquarters in New York. The TFFM will complete its review by December 2004.
This document is a summary of insights emerging from a study of 3 large scale ICT4D initiatives in India. Issues relevant to financial mechanisms that are most important from a field level viewpoint, the cutting edge of ICT4D activity, have been discussed below under 4 key areas. These are issues of ICT-based services networks; ownership issues in multi- stake holder partnerships; infrastructure, technology and regulation, and ICT funding in core developmental areas.
This report reviews the issue of financing ICTs in developing countries at the WSIS 2 second preparatory meeting held in Geneva between 17-25 February 2005 where the final report of the Task Force on Financial Mechanisms for ICTD was presented for discussion and negotiation. The various presentations an debates showed that ICT financing is usually an opaque matter as well as an intensely ideological issue.
The UN Information and Communication Technology Task Force (UN ICT TF) met in Berlin, Germany, 9-20 November 2004. Civil society groups had a number of meetings around this event. Conflicts and coalitions in the second phase of the WSIS started to become clearer at the meeting, being financing mechanims for ICT development the center of a major dispute.
While the UN appointed Task Force on Financial Mechanisms concludes its review on existing financial mechanisms for ICT development, civil society groups express their concerns regarding the efectiveness of the investigation. These were pointed out in an open letter drafted by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) to the Task Force Chairperson.
The Task Force on Financing Mechanisms (TFFM) had its final meeting at UNDP headquarters in New York on 29 November. A draft report was presented by the UNDP and it was agreed that the final report, which will have to be transmitted to UN Secretary General by mid-December, would not have "recommendations" but would issue "findings" and options for governments to consider in the official WSIS process.
Shoji Nishimoto, Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy, briefed civil society members on the WSIS task force which will discuss financing mechanisms for bridging the digital divide between developed and developing nations.
In the first PrepCom of WSIS phase two, international civil society groups and networks are becoming even more active. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has commissioned a lengthy report on financing for ICTs from a “Global Public Goods” perspective. The paper looks at the issue of financing information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development in countries in the South. This is one of the two pending issues in this phase of the ongoing World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). June 2004, pdf format.
Forum concluding session at ITU TeleCom Africa to debate achievements of the first phase of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), and to examine the preparations for the second phase to be held in Tunis with a focus on the "Digital Solidarity Agenda" agreed at the first phase.
Includes background documents on Internet Governance from ITU and the UN ICT Task Force, as well as contrtibutions to the consultations on the establishment of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG).
The governance takes place in a variety of organizations and regimes: some are intergovernmental, as international conventions are implemented; some are in the business world, as technical standards are developed; still others take place in civil society institutions. If all these different regimes function properly to maintain order, the Internet governance issue is simple: do no harm and let them be. However, if key component regimes do not function well, or produce contradictions or conflict with other regimes, or if major areas are missing, then the conflicts or problems must be addressed by new agreements. pdf format
The WSIS Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus states in this declaration that the WGIG achieved the mandate set for it by the WSIS Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action, and hopes that the multi-stakeholder approach as explored by WGIG will become a reference model for future WSIS discussions. PDF format. August, 2005.
The Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) wrapped up its third meeting (18-20 April) where it discussed key public policy issues related to the use of the Internet such as spam, network security and cybercrime, as well as issues related to the management of the Internet.
"At a time of global malaise, indifference and lack of faith and legitimacy in many of our global and national governance institutions, the internet governance debate is one where civil society advocates can make a real difference" concludes Karen Banks in this report that reviews how the issue of internet governance has been discussed in the WSIS process, from Geneva 2003 to WSIS 2005 second preparatory meeting held in February 2005 in Geneva.
With the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia quickly approaching, and with the work of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) well underway, it is time to identify concrete policy options for Internet governance. Any initiatives in this area must address the criticisms that have been made of The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Although the international community has defined "Internet governance" in a way that goes beyond ICANN's control of domain names and addresses, ICANN nonetheless remains central to many issues. PDF document. April 2005.
‘Internet governance’ was a subject of heated debate at the World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS) in Geneva in 2003. Some groups fear that the internet is controlled by commercial interests instead of being a global resource that is equally available to all; on the other hand, others fear that calls for reform of internet governance mask a desire on the part of some governments to control content and limit freedom of expression on the internet. The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is one of the most important actors in the present internet governance system, and will be at the heart of the debate in the second phase of the WSIS to be held in November in Tunis. March 2005. PDF document.
An opinionative report on the first meeting of the Working Group on Internet Governance, November 23-25 2004, Geneva.Carlos A. Afonso is a member of the WGIG, RITS Director of Planning, member of the Brazil Internet Steering Committee (CGIbr). December 2004.
The way information flows through the Internet depends on the architecture and implementation of standards. The technical decisions about the Internet and its development can have far-reaching policy consequences, often made with little public awareness or input. Depending on the development of its standards, the Internet can be used to promote free circulation of information or, instead, to control access to its contents.
DiploFoundation is a non-profit organisation which works to assist all countries, particularly those with limited human and financial resources, to participate meaningfully in international affairs, through education and training programs, research, and the development of information and communications technologies for diplomatic activities. This section in the website includes links to IG resources.
Setting technical standards requires the work of technical experts, but involves much wider issues than just technical ones. Standards often entail major political and economic issues. They are a means of protection, domination and exclusion.
This page describes the activities of CPSR's working group on Domain Names and Internet governance. The management of Internet domain names and addresses has become a major issue in the question of Internet governance. The stakes are high -- ultimately, this could create a new form of global governance in cyberspace. CPSR has been active in this policy area since its earliest days.
DigitalGovernance.org Initiative was founded in September 2000. It is a non-funded initiative, and was officially launched at the Second Global Development Network Meeting of the World Bank in Japan 2000. The term "Digital Governance" refers to governance processes in which Information and Communications Technology (ICT) play a significant role. The role played by ICT could be wide-ranging: in delivery and standards of governance services, to how people access such services, and the participation of people in the governance sphere.
This paper suggests fifteen baseline propositions that could help advance the development of a discourse on IG. They are generally of a definitional and process-oriented nature, and are intended to be reasonably neutral with respect to the policy
choices governments and other stakeholders may make about the substantive rules that define particular governance mechanisms.
The United Nations consultation exercise on the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was held at Geneva on 20 and 21 September 2004. About 250 people attended the event, including delegations from most of the world's governments. Brazil, one of the key critics of ICANN and a driver of the creation of the WGIG, clarified the rationale underlying its push for a UN working group. There was widespread agreement that Internet Governance is more than identifiers and ICANN.
The IGP is an interdisciplinary consortium of academics with scholarly and practical expertise in international governance, Internet policy, and information and communication technology. The Project is conducting research on and publishing analysis of Internet governance. It is intended to contribute to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance, as well as related debates at the international, regional and national levels.
The purpose of this report is to describe our current understanding of the debate about Internet governance in WSIS, and to examine the main policy issues that are being considered in that discussion. The report will also suggest opportunities for developing nation stakeholders to contribute to the processes that are defining the Internet governance landscape.
UNESCO stresses that Internet governance mechanisms should be based on the principle of “openness”, encompassing interoperability, freedom of expression and measures to resist any attempt to censor content.
The Secretariat of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force (UN ICT TF) published the informal Summary of the Global Forum on Internet Governance that was held on 25 and 26 March 2004 at United Nations headquarters in New York.
The Working Group on Internet Governance that the WSIS summit decided to set up after fierce conflicts is slowly becoming o working entity. Swiss "e-Envoy" Markus Kummer was picked by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as the coordinator for this group. The working group’s mandate from the summit calls for a report to be submitted to the summit. Kummer is planning to prepare it before the summer break of 2005 and submitted to the final PrepCom which will likely be in September of 2005.
Civil society open letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in response to the attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that took place in Tunisia on the eve of and during the WSIS: "We believe it is essential that lessons are learnt from what has taken place here this week and we therefore call upon you, the Secretary General of the United Nations, to launch a full investigation into the attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that we have witnessed in Tunisia both in the run-up to and during the World Summit on the Information Society" . November 2005.[Versión en español]
The Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS), planned as a civil society side event of the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 16-18 November), launched its website with a call for solidarity and support. More than 80 international civil society organizations and coalitions have pledged their support and plan to take part in the three-day Citizens Summit, but a venue previously confirmed for the event was withdrawn at the last minute for reasons that CSIS organisers believe to be in response to political pressure from the Tunisian government. November 2005.
During a preparatory meeting in Geneva in September 2005, a coalition of 19 organisations, consisting of international and national Tunisian NGOs, agreed to hold a Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) as a side event to the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) in Tunis. However, in the light of events that occurred in Tunis in the last week several international civil society organisations are cancelling their side events at the WSIS. This action was not planned in advance and is a direct response to the abnormal circumstances in which the Tunis Summit is taking place. November 2005.
Just days before the United Nations-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society begins in Tunis, Tunisia, watchdog groups are reporting clashes with authorities and violence toward at least one journalist in the North African city of about 10 million people.The groups say the country is unfit to host the international summit because of its track record for censorship. The Tunisian government has earned notoriety for jailing journalists and bloggers accused of reporting false information. November 2005.
Civil Society's Media Caucus at WSIS expresses its indignation over a series of incidents in which Tunisian authorities have hampered the freedom of expression of journalist and their freedom of association as well as that of others attending the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.
We, women’s organisations, individuals and networks gathered in Tunis for Phase II of the World Summit on the Information Society, denounce blatant violations of human rights, freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of assembly by the Tunisian government. We demand the Tunisian government to put an end to the human rights violations. It is intolerable that we are experiencing serious violations of basic human rights even as we gather here to shape a just and equitable Information Society.
The Tunisian authorities have done all they can to prevent civil society events outside the official WSIS area. But civil society activists finally succeeded in getting the upper hand against state repression. A press conference to announce the cancellation of the Citizens Summit transformed into a major human rights event and was followed on the next day by a rally by oppositional groups. They denounced the repression against civil society activities in Tunisia and showed strong support to the local human rights groups. November 2005.
As the WSIS summit draws closer, the Tunisian authorities are continuing to prevent any civil society events taking place outside the summit compound. Recently, Tunisian police blocked the Goethe Institut where a preparation meeting for the Citizens Summit was to take place. The Citizens Summit has been planned as a parallel event to take place in the city centre of Tunis. The idea has been to organise a civil society space, separate from the official summit, for critical debates on the summit themes. November 2005.
Three international Human rights NGOs release a joint report on the information society in Tunisia and on the operational conditions for the preparation of the World Summit on Information society to be held in Tunis in November 2005. The document is available for download in PDF format. May 2005.
A joint monitoring visit to Tunisia has found serious cause for continuing concern about the current state of freedom of expression and of civil liberties in Tunisia, including gross restrictions on freedom of the press, media, publishing and the Internet.
On the 26th of June 2004, during the first PrepCom of the Tunis phase of the WSIS, Souhayr Belhassen, of the Tunisian Human Rights League, was given permission from the president of the WSIS Prepcom to speak in the governmental plenary on behalf of civil society after other Tunisian representatives had tried to block her from participating.
Due to lack of respect for human rights and freedom of expression in Tunis denounced by various international organizations, the Tunisian Independent Civil Society met at the Tunisian Human Rights League headquarters in Tunis on January 18, 2005, to elaborate their perspectives of actions regarding the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society to be held in November 2005 in that country. January 2005.
Attendees at the recent phase of WSIS couldn’t fail to notice the prolific presence of Tunisian delegates. From civil society plenaries through gatherings over coffee to the government sessions, they had their say in preparation for the November summit. But can a country whose government censors journalists, curtails web access and imprisons internet users without trial, be a fit host for the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society?.
This statement is presented as the Civil Society’s official contribution to the Summit outcomes. Civil society took a month after the closure of the Tunis Summit to discuss the outcomes and the process of WSIS, and evaluated the experiences and lessons learned in the four years of WSIS I and WSIS II: "We trust governments realize that our participation is vital to achieve a more inclusive and just Information Society." PDF format.
Civil society (CS) representatives from all continents lined up on a panel to deliver a stark closing statement for the WSIS. Even though the speakers made it clear that a more detailed statement will be made available within two weeks, four points were addressed: internet governance, human rights, financing and development, and follow-up. The press conference essentially driven by questions of the audience, revolved around issues of development through ICTs. November 2005.
Why did civil society fail in many cases to have a significant influence on the negotiations? The results of a master thesis on the influence of civil society actors on the WSIS process 2003 are presented in the following article.
A Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) will be held in Tunis, on November 16-18, 2005, coinciding with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
The CSIS will be another milestone in the long tradition of UN conferences and Summits being complemented with events organized by citizen groups. Previous such events met with great success, for example during the Cairo Conference on Population and Development (1994), the Beijing Conference on Women (1995) or the Monterrey Summit on Financing for Development (2002). October 2005.
The last preparatory conference, less than 60 days before the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, ended without an agreement. The open questions will have to be dealt with in the time before Tunis and basically without civil society participation. September 2005.
The EU has issued a paper that outlines its goals for phase two of the world summit. According to the paper, the theme for phase two might be "From Principles to Action". The EU does not want to re-open negotiations on the Declaration of Principles agreed upon in Geneva last December. It is unclear though, how the political conflicts that are still out there can be avoided when at the same time the EU also wants a "political document to be issued by Heads of State and Governments" at the summit. RTF format.
To discuss and strategize for the involvement of European and North American NGOs in WSIS phase two. The meeting will be held in Berlin, 13 June 2004. Topics include civil society positions, successes and agendas, working inside and outside official WSIS structures, linking WSIS to other information policy issues and social movements preparations for PrepCom 1 in Tunisia, how to work with Tunisian Civil Society.
This paper looks at major forces in the context of WSIS, attempting to put them into perspective, and judge their relative magnitudes. Power struggles among regimes with different values and measures of value are converging, and an event such as WSIS makes their diversity evident. Now we can see them more clearly in the layer model with trade policy, the WTO, at the bottom pursuing telecommunications liberalization.
The Civil Society Bureau for WSIS has issued a comprehensive report on the transition phase from WSIS I to WSIS II. The document includes a report from an informal meeting with the Tunisian government (2-3 March 2004), a number of issues for consideration and evaluation, and two attachments with additional thought on the lessons to be learned from phase one. RTF document.
This article states that the structure as well as the struggles for the second phase of the WSIS summit process are slowy becoming clearer and one thing is clear: It will be more complex than the first round, as it has to deal with many more loose ends.
ICT Development Agenda (part of the CTO's 'Building Digital Opportunities' programme, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development) provides information about major international developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and events to be held in preparation of the second phase of the WSIS.