CHAKULA Issue # 7: WSIS PrepCom 3 - Overview and Issues for Civil Society Organizations
Africa ICT Policy Monitor Newsletter from the APC
Issue No. 7, October 2003
WSIS PrepCom 3 – Overview and Issues for Civil Society Organizations
In this issues of Chakula:
* Overview of PrepCom 3
- Working through documents
“* Africa Civil Society Participation”#6
* Main Issues of Discussion/Contentious Issues
- Free and Open Source Technologies
- Intellectual Property
- Internet Governance
- Financing Mechanisms
- Other Stories
* Way Forward and Strategies for Intervention Including Summit Plans
* Links to other Web Resources
In this month’s issue of the APC Africa Internet Rights Newsletter ‘Chakula’ we focus on the recently held PrepCom 3 (preparatory committee) of the World Summit on Information (WSIS), highlighting key issues under discussion and outcomes. We also make some recommendations for civil society organizations (CSOs) on how to move forward with regard to upcoming and related meetings.
PrepCom 3 did not come to a conclusive closure and fell short of its own objective: to agree on and finalise the draft summit declaration and the draft action plan to be adopted at the WSIS in December. Many issues were debated and negotiated with many differences in opinions between the various stakeholders (governments, private sector and civil society entities). The meeting is now scheduled to continue at the ‘Resumed Session of PrepCom 3’ later in November.
We hope this issue of Chakula will provide a useful overview and be used as a resource by CSOs in Africa, especially those preparing to participate in the upcoming meetings and the Summit in December (Geneva, December 10-12).
OVERVIEW OF PREPCOM 3 AND AFRICA PARTICIPATION
The third preparatory meeting of the WSIS took place from the 15-26th September in Geneva with the sole objective of refining draft documents that came out of the intersessional meeting held in Paris, in July. The PrepCom intended to specifically address issues where there were differences amongst stakeholders and, through negotiations, arrive at an agreed upon Declaration and Action Plan to be approved and accepted during the Summit.
The opening of the conference went well and was widely covered by journalists. See stories below and read more by clicking on to the website link.
- Prepcom3 Has Started: Samassekou Emphazises Cooperation and Solidarity 09/15/2003, Heinrich-Böll-Foundation
WORKING THROUGH DOCUMENTS
During the two-week conference, negotiations took place between the many delegates who included governments, private sector and civil society entities on the different thematic issues of the draft documents. All negotiations follow specific rules and procedures established for the PrepCom. Following the first week of the conference, progress had been made in as far as agreeing on some parts of the draft declaration of principles after a number of small working groups worked on certain thematic areas, such as infrastructure, internet governance and enabling environments. The deliberations of these working groups were presented to the main plenary to finalise text on the acceptable areas while unresolved issues or text would be left in square brackets for future negotiations as circumstances would allow.
This process continued during the second week of the conference as delegates continued to revise the draft declaration of principles and the draft plan of action. Civil society participation in this process was hampered by our limited access to working groups which in many cases were comprised primarily of government delegates.
The methodology of using small working groups to further refine the text proved effective in terms of allowing ongoing work on different sections of the draft documents to take place at the same time, but it was also ineffective in that it limited many stakeholders’ participation. Many countries, as well as civil society organizations, only had a few delegates present at the meeting and so it was impossible for these few people to physically participate in the nine working groups that were running simultaneously. For example, Kenya had only two representatives who were also chairing two working groups, and were therefore unable to contribute to other groups. For observers (including civil society organizations) the situation was even worse, since observers were not allowed to participate in working group negotiations. Observers were given five minutes at the beginning of each working group session to present their views and were not allowed to participate in or observe government delegates’ negotiations over the final agreed texts.
The upcoming ‘resumed session of PrepCom 3’ is aimed at reaching an agreement between the different stakeholders who have dissenting views on some of the contentious issues, such as internet governance and security, as well as on a financial mechanism for implementation of the plan of action. However, it is uncertain whether the session will be able to finalise text for the draft documents, with some speculation that final negotiations might actually take place just days before the summit on December. The issue of civil society participation in the ‘resumed’ session has not yet been resolved.
You can read more about the frustrations of CSOs on the WSIS process from stories written on the issue below.
Geneva, 17 September 2003. After the observers from business and civil society had initially been allowed to participate in the ad-hoc working groups, they were essentially locked out today. The industrialized countries declared their intention not to give additional money for implementing the proposed action plan. They even want to delete any reference to funding in the documents – a huge disappointment for the developing countries and a clear backdrop for the original WSIS goal to bridge the digital divide. —
Geneva, 18 September 2003. As the need to make progress on the negotiations of the WSIS documents becomes increasingly urgent, the never-ending story of civil society participation once more dominates the agenda of the preparatory process. Despite repeated claims of the openness and “inclusivity” of this “new” type of summit, limits have again been imposed
on civil society participation. — Heinrich-Böll-Foundation
The civil society plenary this morning agreed to start drafting work on an own declaration, separate from and in addition to the official government declaration. This is the latest move in an increasingly critical view by civil society of summit processes and particularly of summit outcomes, as reflected in widespread frustration with the latest versions of the Declaration of Principles. Governments, the WSIS secretariat, and the PrepCom president have responded with new offers for increased participation. — Heinrich-Böll-Foundation
For other reports related to the proceedings of the PrepCom 3, please visit the links below.
- PrepCom-3 Highlights
ITU Newsroom: ITU
View daily highlights of PrepCom 3 from the ITU newsroom, the highlights cover the period from the 15th Sept to 24th September.
- Link to Official Documents as of 26th September 2003
The outcome of this process forms the official documents as made available from the ITU website
You can download the latest copies of these documents on the Africa Civil Society Caucus website.
AFRICA CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
Africa civil society organizations, alongside other civil society entities, were actively involved in making contributions to the draft documents in many forums. PrepCom 3 was different from previous meetings, because many sub-groups or working groups spent time deliberating on many important aspects of the documents simultaneously.
Africa civil society made significant input in the working mechanisms of the Bamako Bureau, where African positions on different issues were drafted and deliberated for input into the process. Through this mechanism, Africa civil society issues and concerns were included as part of government’s input to the main plenary, as a number of African government representatives were open to receiving input from civil society organizations. This was a key opportunity to present issues of concern for African civil society organizations.
African civil society delegates also achieved significant progress during the PrepCom by lobbying individual African government delegations on certain issues and concerns throughout the conference. The process was quite ad-hoc and happened while both draft declaration and action plan were being produced and issues were being raised. CSOs took every opportunity they could to make interventions wherever possible.
Overall civil society caucuses worked collectively and utilized any available speaking slots at the main plenary hall. The speaking slots were allocated and used to make interventions on several issues discussed during the PrepCom. Africa civil society took two of these speaking slots to contribute with statements on the issues of capacity building and financing mechanisms.
While the efforts by CSOs during the conference were commendable, there is still plenty to be done by Africa civil society organizations. Ideally, CSOs should ensure they are well informed and equipped with specific positions on
relevant issues as well as strategies to attract attention to those issues. One case in point was the NGO Gender Strategies Working Group, which successfully grabbed the attention of government delegates with its t-shirt campaign to highlight the omission of a crucial paragraph on gender differences and inequalities in the access to and use of ICT.
Follow the links below for additional information and stories on civil society contributions and issues related to content during PrepCom 3.
- Statement of Civil Society In Response To The Draft Declaration Of Principles
Presentation to Sub-Committee 2, September 22nd 2003
- “Vision Impossible” Civil Society Criticises Draft Declaration
Geneva, 22 September 2003
The civil society plenary on Monday morning heavily criticised the new draft Declaration of Principles which had been distributed on Friday evening. A statement drafted by several civil society caucuses expressed “frustration and disappointment” that key concerns of civil society have been removed or are not adequately addressed. The plenary made clear that the Declaration in its current version will not be supported by civil society. —
- Civil Society Ponders Alternative Declaration
25 September 2003
When the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) opens this December in Geneva, there could be two declarations on the table for delegates’ consideration – the official one made by government representatives and an alternative by civil society organisations. — Wairagala Wakabi, CATIA
- Does Input lead to Impact? Document Analysis Shows How Little Civil Society input is reflected in current drafts.
22 September 2003
Today, a group of volunteers from civil society compiled a comparative analysis of three documents: The Draft Declaration of Principles that came out of the Paris Intersessional in July, the comments by civil society organisations as developed at the beginning of PrepCom3, and the latest version of the Draft Declaration of Principles that came out on 19th September. The comparison, nicely done in a paragraph-by-paragraph table, clearly shows how little the efforts of civil society are listened to. Roughly 60% were plainly rejected, 15% were more or less taken, and 25% “somehow” ended up in the newest declaration draft. —
MAIN ISSUES OF DISCUSSION/CONTENTIOUS ISSUES
Many issues of contention arose during PrepCom and delegates could not agree on final text for either the draft declaration of principles or the plan of action. In trying to understand the background to the process and the many
differences, one has to remember the process adopted during PrepCom 2 and to some extent the process leading up to the intersessional period, where contributions were called for, received and accepted from all stakeholders. All contributions received were then refined during the Paris intersessional meeting and formed the working documents tabled for negotiations during the PrepCom 3. As indicated earlier, the mandate of PrepCom 3 was to further refine all these contributions without necessarily accepting new inputs, thereby shortening the documents as much as possible and creating a final text.
We highlight some of the contentious issues and arguments debated during PrepCom 3.
- FREE AND OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE VS TECHNOLOGY NEUTRALITY OR PRINCIPLE OF OPEN CHOICE
The debate on open source and free software has been a contentious issue since the beginning of the WSIS process. It was no wonder that delegates came prepared to see how this would be resolved during PrepCom 3. The issue can be referenced to section number 2, paragraph 21-22 of the draft declaration of principles (version of 26th September). In a nutshell, the main contention here is between those who advocate for the use of free and open source technologies as a mechanism that would enable increased access to the information and knowledge Society. One the other hand those who label the use of free and open source technologies merely as an issue of choice and even going to the extent of defining open source as merely a software development model. They advocate for the principle of technology neutrality.
It is sad that the Free and Open Software Foundation of Africa (FOSSFA) were not visibly active or heard during the PrepCom, as they could have made some significant contributions to the debate while actively monitoring developments, especially on the working group that dealt on this issue.
- The free software philosophy as advocated by Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman was very active at PrepCom 3 and ensured that the word ‘Free’ was inserted into the text where previously only ‘open source’ was used: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html
- Free Software
During PrepCom3, a regular request was for a reference document on Free Software and its role in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This document seeks to provide such reference
- Open Source Ardor Cools at WSIS
October 9, 2003
A push at a series of international “information society” conferences to adopt open source software as an aspect of electronic “common land” has assumed a lower profile with the apparent entry of lobbying from proprietary business interests. — Computerworld
- Free Software Prominently Represented at the UN- Conference
The Patents, Copyright, Trademark (PCT) Civil Society Working Group was actively engaged at the PrepCom. More details can be obtained from this caucus website.
The issue of intellectual property also dominated a good part of the debates during the PrepCom 3. The main issue here is trying to strike a balance between the protection of intellectual property rights to encourage innovation and creativity and on the other hand ensuring the use and sharing of knowledge in the information society.
- ‘Letting The Cat Out of The Bag’ Debate on Intellectual Property Rights
Dublin/Geneva, 4 October 2003. The substantive issues raised by the WSIS process include a number on which progress may be considered a ‘dead zone’ i.e. powerful governments are ensuring that nothing will be done beyond confirming the existing status quo as exercised outside of the WSIS. Thus a number of ‘inert’ passages in the Declaration are intended as no more than markers that this topic must not be touched. — Seán Ó Siochrú, CRIS Campaign
- Promoting a Trustworthy and Non-Discriminatory Environment For Intellectual Property.
Member states of some 30 countries attended the afternoon meeting dealing with the “enabling environment” section (6) of the Draft Declaration of Principles, and focused on intellectual property in the information society (as developed at the WSIS Intersessional in Paris from 15-18 July 2003). — Thomas Ruddy
- Intellectual Property and Why Governments Should Not Break International Law
Geneva, 19 September 2003. Observers, which mean civil society and private sector, got kicked out of the ad hoc working group on Enabling Environment after 5 minutes. The strongest fighters for closed shop working environment in this group were Egypt and Mexico in opposition to Europe, Canada and the USA. The Brazilian Chair first tried to let non-governmental experts stay, under the condition that they just observe and don’t raise their voices, but in the end participation and inclusiveness were not on the winning side. — Annette Mühlberg
- Georg Greve on behalf of the civil society patents, copyright and trademarks working group to the Working Group on the Draft Declaration on September 23.
The internet governance debate was one of the most contested issues and also one where delegates agreed to disagree, thereby leaving the issue unresolved during the PrepCom 3. At the centre of the debate is the question of how to enhance the current governance framework so as to enable a truly global representation, while ensuring the inclusion of all stakeholders and especially civil society organizations. The current process is seen to be too US-centric leaving the rest of the world on the outside. Nevertheless, none of the proposed alternatives, such as an intergovernmental
organization, were agreed upon.
Many articles and stories with analysis on the issue have been written and you can now read these as well as look at contributions made during PrepCom 3 on the issue.
- Internet Users Unsatisfied with their Role In Internet Governance
“Internet User groups are unsatisfied with the discussion on Internet Governance within PrepCom3 of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS)”, said Vittorio Bertola, Chair of the At Large Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Geneva on September, 24, 2003 at a special meeting of the Civil Society Global ITC Governance Caucus. — By Rik Panganiban
- Internet Governance Group Statement to Working Group, September 23
Statement by Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, University of Aarhus and Co-Chair of the Civil Society ICT Global Governance Caucus to the Working Group on the Draft Declaration of PrepCom III on September 23.
- Internet governance, security and media freedom at the heart of discussions.
09/23/2003. Finalizing documents is not an easy task for delegates participating in the third preparatory meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society. As discussions keep on going during the first week, it is difficult for them to reach a consensus on certain issues like Internet governance, security and media freedom that appear to be ones of the conflicting points between delegates. The main point of contention is who should govern Internet. While some delegations support the idea of a governmental governance of Internet, others say the private sector should play the key role in Internet governance. — Ngathie Diop, CATIA
The debates around the proposed financing mechanism came to the forefront during the second week of the PrepCom negotiations as delegates focused on the Plan of action. The issue become more prominent and caught the attention of many developing countries delegates when some northern countries delegations objected to the introduction of text referring to new funding mechanisms dubbed the ‘Digital Solidarity Fund’.
The debate continued and attracted the attention of many stakeholders especially the CSOs who met to discuss the issue within a framework of a ‘North-South and South-South Perspectives on the Information Society’. The civil society discussion led to a position and press statement.
- A Civil Society Statement On Information And Communication Solidarity Funding Mechanisms
09/26/2003. Submitted by the Content and Themes Subcommittee with inputs from those present at the South-South and Friends of the South Meeting WSIS Prep Com 3,25 Sept.2003
- Discussion on Digital Solidarity Agenda and Finance
Geneva, 25 September 2003.
The discussions on the summit declaration and action plan still have not been resolved today. The main conflictive issue besides internet governance and the status of human rights has been the question of how to bridge the digital divide. The Northern countries have made very clear from the beginning of PrepCom3 that they do not want to pay money for building digital bridges. The developing countries, in line with civil society, were very frustrated about this development. New and interesting alliances and discussions have developed around this issue in the last days. —
- Digital Solidarity and the Idea of a Digital Solidarity Fund
19 September 2003.
The developed and developing worlds seem to be looking in opposite directions concerning the issue of financing ICTs and practices in the developing countries, as demonstrated by the recent working group on Financing. — Melina Skouroliakou
- WSIS PrepCom III: The CRIS Verdict
After months of hard work and negotiations, the CRIS campaign can see some light at the end of a long, dark, eighteen months long WSIS tunnel. Paragraph 4 of the Draft Declaration reads: “Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation. It is central to the information society.” Sean O’Siochru, spokesperson for the CRIS campaign says: “We welcome the progress that has been made but call on all governments to ensure that communication as a central and crucial human activity remains in the final Declaration that
will be presented at the Summit in December 2003.” – CRIS
- A Synthesis of Civil Society debates on the information society
10/16/2003, Mosaic, the World Forum on Community Networking Since July 2003, the WFCN publishes Mosaic, a newsletter presenting an overview of the discussions on the information society, especially on the WSIS process. The objective is to present different cultural and linguistic (English, French and Spanish) perspectives using about a dozen of civil
society discussion lists and websites. This second issue covers the preparation period for PrepCom 3.
- Media Under Fresh Global Threat:
09/23/2003, Wairagala Wakabi, CATIA
Though several African governments continue to harass critical media, a key United Nations summit could soon legitimise oppressive national media legislation.
- Civil Society Priorities and Recommendation for WSIS
Maputo, 1-4 September, Gil Manuel
During the recently held African Conference on e-Strategies for Development, CSOs produced a list of priorities and recommendation for WSIS.
- WSIS: South African Civil Society Priorities Document
The South African civil society organisations endorsing this document are well aware of the potential importance of the WSIS, which is why we are investing in this process. While we understand that the WSIS has no explicit normative nor programmatic objective (no treaty is expected out of it, nor does it have decision-making power to unleash new funding), we consider that it offers a unique framework at the international level, where not only different visions can be shared among a variety of stakeholders and cultures, but also basic agreements on the shape of future policies could emerge.
WAY FORWARD AND STRATEGIES FOR INTERVENTION & INCLUDING SUMMIT PLANS
Currently, Africa CSOs are in the process of discussing how to best take things forward so that issues of concern can be raised at the upcoming ‘resumed’ session. Discussions are mainly centred on a few number of issues that Africa CSOs feel are priority areas that must be adequately addressed and reflected in the final documents.
While we do not yet now to what level civil society will allowed to participate during this session, it is very important that CSOs prepare adequately on specific issues that they want to raise during this session. The following are a few recommendations on how CSOs should act to ensure some success in getting their concerns raised and included in the final documents for the summit in December.
1. Develop a summary position of key issues or concerns and especially reflecting on the main contentious issues that will be debated in the upcoming session.
2. Identify and lobby governments who are likely to support the position of CSOs and who are already holding key or influential positions at the negotiation table.
3. Collaborate with other CSOs around the world to lobby for support on key issues and also to consider additional/alternative mechanisms to air concerns, should it not be possible to raise issues in the current process. An alternative event is the World Forum on Communication Rights
4. Ensure that whatever processes you are involved with are linked to your local communities and national processes that involve ICT policy. Where possible, hold a national consultation on WSIS. APC has developed a ‘National WSIS Consultation Guide’ that can be used for such a purpose.
5. Think beyond the summit: CSOs need to start thinking about what steps to take with regard to activities or other related plans after the December summit. Among the many issues that have been mentioned is their active involvement in monitoring and evaluation of implementation of the WSIS Plan of Action. CSOs must ensure that our issues are well documented for use during the assessment stage planned for the second phase of the summit in Tunis in 2005.
LINKS TO KEY DOCUMENTS AND RELATED RESOURCES
Resources and other links to stories and documents that may be of relevance to WSIS issues:
This book is aimed at people who want to advocate for more just and enabling policy environments. It is designed to build awareness of and capacity to engage in ICT policy-making spaces at international, regional and national levels, including the WSIS. You can download it free of charge in English, Spanish and French.
This booklet is part of a broad strategy called ‘Speaking for Ourselves’. It recognizes, that while the African perspective on the digital divide is underrepresented in the context of the World Summit on the Information Society, the people most directly affected by the digital divide have the best ideas, analysis and opinions about how to address the issues.
Visit the Africa Civil Society Caucus website on WSIS. The African Civil Society Caucus aims to strengthen African civil society’s capacity to ensure African perspectives on the information society are articulated in the WSIS process.
A detailed list with additional events within the WSIS framework (8th to 12th December) is available on the WSIS website of the Swiss government
The World Forum on Communication Rights will be held on December 11th 2003 alongside the WSIS in Geneva. It is organised by a coalition of civil society organisations, initiated by the CRIS campaign.
- African Media Village – WSIS – YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS NEEDED!!!!!!!!!
African caucus members are planning to make the installation site a cultural centre and meeting place during the summit. Plans are advancing for the installation of an African media village at the WSIS. The installation will sit within a large semi-circular backdrop that will depict a typical rural African setting and present the perspectives of people from both sides of the African digital divide.
For more details of the installation and how to get involved, please visit the pages below.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments and contributions Africa IR Policy Monitor Project
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