Access to information
APC at the World Social Forum 2004, Mumbai: A Personal Account from APC’s African Policy Coordinator
Emmanuel Njenga Njuguna of APC’s Africa ICT Policy Monitor project has been involved in various global policy-making processes on communication rights issues. He gives us his impressions of the World Social Forum as he went to Mumbai to run an ICT Policy for Civil Society’ workshop for Forum participants.
APC takes you through the main events in the run-up to the first World Summit on the Information Society phase in Geneva 2003 from the perspective of civil society representatives.
A UN summit designed to shrink the technology gap between rich and poor nations has ended with agreement on lofty principles, but no commitments to practical measures.
"How information and communication policy is decided today will shape the future of contemporary societies," says APC in a new book presented at last week’s World Summit on the Information Society.
APCNews asked the editor of APC’s new book "ICT Policy: A Beginner’s Handbook" Chris Nicol to comment briefly on motivation behind the handbook which was published in December.
APC’s partner IPS (InterPress Service) sent a letter of complaint to the Secretary General of the ITU (organisers of last week’s World Summit on the Information Society) following the removal of many hundreds of their independent newspapers, Terra Viva, by Tunisians trying to suppress criticism of their government. The same people were disrupting meetings critical of the Tunisian human rights record, including the World Forum on Communication Rights which also took place last week in Geneva.
The first victim of war is the truth, so goes the old proverb. At a conference yesterday in the World Forum on Communication Rights, a parallel forum to the official World Summit on the Information Society, speakers from the United States, Colombia, and a Kenyan technologist working in Rwanda took up the theme of how war situations deny communities the right to communicate and how citizens can and are responding to break the silence.
Carlos Afonso, Director of Planning at APC member in Brazil, RITS (Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor – Information Network for the Third Sector) left government delegates clear during his speech on behalf of civil society at the Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society that "digital inclusion [..] will only be possible with the decisive support of a national public policy, in partnership with civil society." Carlos’s powerful speech was delivered spontaneously and without notes and translated into English by APC.
At a conference this afternoon, civil society representatives presented an ‘alternative’ declaration to the official Declaration expected to be approved by the world’s governments tomorrow at the final day of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva.
The civil society declaration
called “Shaping information societies for human needs” was needed because the process has constantly been disillusioning and frustrating said representatives at the heavily-attended conference. They recognised that some impact was made on the official WSIS Declaration especially involving the vision and the principles, which were previously technocratic and have become more human-centred. However, the civil society declaration goes further, calling for information societIES that are free from discrimination, violence and hatred, and based on a framework of social, political and economic justice and a more equitable distribution of resources.
Several issues which civil society has been advocating in WSIS negotiations are not adequately addressed in the current ICT policy framework of the Philippine government. This was the general observation that surfaced in a workshop which the Foundation for Media Alternatives organized to open up discussions on WSIS and its impact on local policies here.