Another online world is possible but only if governments and civil society work hand-in-hand
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 12 December 2003
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. Fortunately it was captured on tape and translated into English by APC.
“Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for this opportunity. I am Director of the Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor, RITS (Information Network for the Third Sector), a Brasilian non-governmental organisation committed to digital inclusion in my country. I will begin by recalling the three sessions of the World Social Forum held in the city of Porto Alegre, in Brasil. Over the last three years, the World Social Forum has brought together thousands of civil society representatives from dozens of countries seeking to prove – and working to prove – that a different world is possible. A world of equal opportunities, solidarity, social justice and participation, of freedom of expression and respect for human rights. It is strange, and at the same time disturbing, to see that no member nation of the United Nations has proposed a formal rejection of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet most of these nations’ governments systematically violate these same rights, including the governments of the most powerful nations on the planet – a symbolic reflection of the hypocrisy of some international fora.
Nevertheless, we believe that a different world is possible, starting with a new relationship between governments and their civil societies. A relationship of real partnership and mutual confidence. In the area of Information and Communication Technologies in our country, Brasil, we have had the opportunity to experience effective partnerships for digital inclusion, that seek to combine public policies that will stimulate universal access, with community-managed digital inclusion activities. We believe that digital inclusion in our country and in other countries will only be possible with the decisive support of a national public policy, in partnership with civil society. This specifically relates to our country, a nation of 170 million inhabitants, and 8,5 million km2, where a large concentration of wealth in still in the hands of the few, and social injustice is suffered by the majority. Results of partnerships between state and civil society have been seen in all countries working towards public policies, such as those guaranteeing the treatment of AIDS victims through strategies of mass producing generic medicines, and bypassing patents and the interests of transnational drug companies.
We want to say that a new Internet is possible, with effective national policies of digital inclusion, to accompany effective processes of social, economic and political inclusion, with freedom of expression and communication. With governance on all levels, and effective participation by all interested groups – as much within the scope of ICANN’s present coordination, as within each country’s regional internet governance. The internet, as a whole, should be considered as public property, and should not be subject to the financial interest of any telecommunications or domain administration companies. A different kind of governance is also possible.
In conclusion, I would like to say that a new World Summit for the Information Society is possible, in which the Civil Society Declaration, drafted in an adequate, careful, intense and democratic discussion process over at least two years, with the participation of thousands of organisations from many of the world’s countries, will be integrated into the official documents. I have confidence and hope that, as a new world is possible, so a new Summit will be possible, and we are going to build it from now until 2005, in Tunisia. Thank you very much.”
— Carlos Afonso is the Director of Planning of RITS (Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor – , Information Network for the Third Sector).
This text is a transcript of the speech made on December 12, 2003, at the Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society, in Geneva. Translated into English from the original Portuguese transcript by APC.