World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS

Source: GISWatch
GISWatch is both a publication and a process: it aims to build networking and advocacy capacity among civil society organisations who work for a just and inclusive information society. February 2009. [see more]
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a United Nations (UN) conference managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The aim of the WSIS is to develop a global framework to tackle the challenges posed by the information society. In accordance with how it was originally conceived, the WSIS differs from other UN conferences in that it is a two phase process culminating in two "world summits", the first of which took place in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003, with the second one in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005. In contrast to previous UN conferences, the idea was that the deliberations to take place at the WSIS should be of a consensual nature, incorporating the viewpoints of multiple actors (reflecting government, private sector and civil society interests).

The year 2003 found the WSIS process taking place against a backdrop of political changes in multilateral negotiation processes, marked by a new central role for countries from the South and a high level of involvement by organized civil society. Tensions between alliances of countries in the South and the North led to the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in September 2003, coinciding with the third WSIS preparatory meeting and one of the most difficult moments in the intergovernmental negotiations. Furthermore, the Summit is led by the ITU, an organization that is attempting to recover its leading role through an agenda based on the expansion of telecommunications following the laws of the market, following a period of economic contraction and a drop in foreign investment, in particular in the telecommunications sector, where interest dropped sharply at the end of the 1990s. Justifiably, then, expectations around what could be achieved at the Summit were not high.

The first phase of the WSIS ended with the adoption of two official documents: a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. Controversial issues such as ICTs financing in the South and Internet Governance went under a heat debate during the preparatory process but no agreements could be reached on them. Other politically hard issues such as intelectual property rights, trade of goods and services and debt swaps were hardly addressed. Delegations of Northern countries (the United States, in particular) put a lot of effort in keeping them out of the WSIS agenda, arguing that it was not the appropiate forum to address them. Some of the issues left out in Geneva are to be reexamined in the second phase of the summit in Tunis. Two working groups are to be created within the orbit of the United Nations to examine the issues of Internet governance and the creation of a Digital Solidarity Fund proposed by Senegal as a financial mechanism for ITCs in Southern countries.

The second phase of the 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.

In this report we aim to facilitate access to the most relevant information on this process, with special emphasis on the visions emanating from civil society. We include information on the regional and general preparatory meetings, as well as on the events that took place during the first phase of the WSIS summit in Geneva. The "News" section contains new and relevant information as it emerges.

The report is structured as follows:

In the "Geneva 2003" section:
  • Official website
  • Summit outcomes
  • Parallel activities
  • Reactions
  • Preparatory process
    • PrepCom-3
    • Intersessional PrepCom2-PrepCom3
    • PrepCom-2
    • Regional conferences

  • Meetings, seminars and consultations
  • Counter-initiatives

In the "Tunis 2005" section:
  • Official website
  • Summit outcomes
  • Reactions
  • Preparatory process
    • PrepCom-1
    • PrepCom-2
    • PrepCom-3
    • Regional conferences
    • Thematic conferences

  • Financing ICTs
  • Internet Governance
  • The fight for freedom of expression in Tunisia
  • Civil society participation
  • Towards Tunis 2005
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      Versión en español
Monday, February 16 2009
Global Information Society Watch 2008
(Source: GISWatch)
Tuesday, April 15 2008
ICT for development: Beyond Tunis
Wednesday, April 02 2008
San Salvador Commitment
(Source: ECLAC)

Geneva 2003

Official web site

World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS

International organizations

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO

United Nations ICT Task Force

International Telecommunication Union - ITU

United Nations Development Programme - UNDP

UNECA African Information Society Initiative

NGLS WSIS website

The private sector

ICC - The International Chamber of Commerce

CCIB: Business @ WSIS

The Final Business Statement - WSIS Geneva

GIIC : Declaration regarding the first phase of the UN WSIS

Key background information

UN General Assembly Resolution 56/183 on WSIS

A Global Movement for People's Voices in Media and Communication in the 21st Century

People's Communication Charter text

Lack of data major barrier to understanding 'digital divide' (SUNS)

NGLS Roundup 95, July 2002: PrepCom 1

News & coverages

News and reports (Choike)

WSIS II PrepComm-3: Choike coverage (Choike)

WSIS II PrepCom-2: Choike coverage (Choike)

IPS Coverage

Communication news & updates (Choike)

PrepCom3 and beyond: press coverage

The Daily Summit


Countries' reports and Regional Commissions of the United Nations

Global Information Society Watch 2008 (GISWatch)

Global Information Society Watch 2007 (Global Information Society Watch)

Lebanese national report for WSIS (Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND))

Tunis 2005

The summit organization

WSIS Civil Society Platform

WSIS Tunis 2005

WSIS Geneva 2003

Community platform

Civil society

Civil Society Declaration

Civil society statement on the WSIS: "Much more could have been achieved" (Heinrich Boell Foundation)

Whose summit? Whose information society? (Associatioon for Progressive Communications (APC))

Summitry and strategies (Eurozine)

Civil society organisations submission to the 7th meeting of the WSIS GFC

Africa’s Civil Society and WSIS

Civil society organizations intervention at LAC Regional Conference

Canada - WSIS Civil Society Consultation (CRISINFO)

IT for Change: WSIS

ICTs for grassroots: women from South Asia (APC)

A Synthesis of Civil Society debates on the information society (Mosaic - Platform for Community Networks)

Communication and Global Governance (Department of Communication - University of Montreal)

Electronic commons - Agora électronique

Civil society calls for essential "benchmarks" in WSIS process (Civil Society News Center for the WSIS)

Involving Civil Society in ICT Policy: the World Summit on the Information Society (APC)

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR): WSIS

WSIS - Civil Society (Heinrich Böll Foundation)

WSIS Civil Society Meeting Point

Civil Society News Center for the WSIS

Civil Society Contents and Themes (C&T) Working Group

Association for Progressive Communications (APC): WSIS

Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS)

Global Community Networks

Groups, caucuses and families

Community media on the WSIS

Human Rights Caucus assesses WSIS outcome

Asian civil society on WSIS

WSIS Gender Caucus

WSIS NGO Gender Strategies Working Group - WNGSG (APC Women)

African civil society participation in the WSIS process (Chakula - APC)

Human Rights Portal to the WSIS


Geneva Declaration on Accessible Information Society

Comunica-ch - Swiss civil society

Youth @ the WSIS

Discussion lists

Information Society, voices from the South

Online discussion: information society, for whom and for what? (DGGroups)

Gender and ICT online discussion list (APC Women)

Crisinfo -- Communication Rights in the Information Society

CS Virtual Plenary



World Forum on Communication Rights (WFCR) list

UNESCO electronic discussion

ICT global policies

ICT for development: Beyond Tunis

Internet governance: Everybody's business in the Information Society (Choike)

Will gender equality get its due place on the agenda? (Gender

UN debate on the digital divide (Third World Network)

Financing the information society: the debate (Choike)

"Cybercrime" and human rights (Choike)

WTO's Information Technology Agreement

WIPO Development Agenda

UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity (Choike)

ICT policies (Choike)

Information society in Latin America and the Caribbean

San Salvador Commitment (ECLAC)

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