WSIS II: A walking dead

Ladies and gentlemen this is a pseudo-transcript of the proceedings of the Civil Society press conference held on November 15, 2005 (Tuesday) at 16:30. The second round of WSIS has not even started yet but hearing the pronouncements below one would think that it is already over!

(Compiled by maxigas, edited by Frederick Dubois. If Allah is on our side we might have audio and video as well.)

Jeanette Hofmann (Member of the German Civil Society Coordination Group): The U.S. is not willing to talk about internet government oversight. Most likely the Summit will ask Kofi Annan the Secretary General of the U.N. to set up a Forum on internet governance and the U.S. is expected to participate. The Forum would take up a range of issues including Information Technology for Development and political oversight.

Rikke Frank Jorgensen (Civil Society Human Rights Caucus):

Many have asked about the human rights situation. Status is that in September during PrepCom 3. in Geneva some civil society partipants, in cooperation with Tunisian NGOs, decided to arrange a Citiens’ Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) as a side-event to WSIS. This is not unusual, this has been done in a series of U.N. Summits in order to connect people that cannot participate in the official process. We have booked several spaces for this event in Tunis and these were repeatedly cancelled, sometimes even after prepayment.

Ten-fifteen of us were to hold a coordination meeting at the Goethe Institute yesterday. The Tunisian civil society people were not allowed to enter, and were kept out by men in civilian clothes who introduced themselves as "security personel". I am not sure what kind of police it was. When myself and other members of the international civil society stayed outside in solidarity, we were forcefully removed. Then we walked around the city to find another place to peacefully gather – to exercise our right for peaceful assembly. Each time we were removed again, we were pushed, and some people were even tried to be taken into cars and taken away. In the end the German ambassador arrived and tried to enter these premises with his guests of his own choice but he was not allowed. After that each of us contacted our respective delegations, and asked for support from the governments to basically provide for a space where we can have this Citizens’ Summit.

Large number of NGOs decided to cancel their events in order to call attention to local conditions.

CSIS would not be on Tunisia specifically but to address perpectives that are addressable in the diplomatic negotiations of the official WSIS and concern people everywhere.

Parmindeer Jeet Singh (Coordinator of the Civil Society Caucus for Follow-up and Implementation):

I am presenting the specific disappointment of the civil society. The Tunis round was presented as a "Summit of Solutions" by its organisers. We did not find any effective solutions to the problems that brought us here, of using the new communication opportunities for more adequate development in the developing countries. Countries of the North did not show the political will to getting forward with the policy of internet governance and did not establish any follow-up process. Financing ITC4D (Information Technology for Development), which is a very important issue, was not addressed at all and no commitments were made. At present the governments are trying to cover up the possibility of a complete failure of the implementation of the WSIS process. As for the plan to give the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Commission on Science and Technology for Development a mandate to follow-up, it represents a deductionist and technology-centered view. Even if the ECOSOC is to take up this task its structure have to be completely changed and its name changed to reflect this new mandate to the Commission on Internet Society. Thank you.

Bertrand de la Chapelle (CS working group coordinator on implementation and follow-up)

Apart form the important human rights perspective, WSIS is about roles and responsibilities of the three categories of stakeholders: governments, private sector and civil society. Tunis was intended to be the testbed for the establishment of multi-stakeholder mechanisms, and as a matter of fact, the Tunis phase if the test of the political will of the governments to be true to their commitment of establishing multi-stakeholder mechanisms. The true dimensions of the internet governance process or the debate on implementation and follow-up. Much more could have been accomplished and a much stronger commitment of governments should have been done for the establishment of multi-stakeholder follow-up processes – two-years were available. But the process is not over – the Summit is over but the process is not over. Provided that the present draft is maintained, there are only a few elements on which we can build to finally reach the objective of a truly effective multi-stakeholder mechanism and implementation process. A positive note can be made and the year 2006 will be very important because of the report on follow-up and implementation of the multi-stakeholder process, and the ECOSOC will be asked to review the mandate of the Committe on Science and Technology for Development. I leave it here. The discussion is not over. So we cannot even be sure, that those stepping stones will be in the final documents.

Answers to questions

Q: Were you considering boycotting the whole process?

A (Hofmann): Boycotts were discussed from the beginning, but we would not like to do it. Local people think in a long-term basis. We have to keep these issues in mind. This is actually the worst possibility.

A (Peake): If they felt it was necessary to boycott, I did not take part in panels, if they felt they would like to talk about it, I talked about it.

Q (indymedia/Sascha): (1) Sources tell us that the US Deptartment of Commerce was asking Amnesty International to put out press releases about the incidents in Tunis. Can you please comment on the possibility of the U.S, and specifically the ICANN using the incidents to undermine the reputation of the United Nations and appear as the appropriate king of the domain, while drawing attention away from its own human rights and free speech record? (2) During the Geneva phase there was a petition and a campaign against RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips in registration cards. I understand there was a promise at that time that the next phase will not have RFID built into the cards. However, the system has not changed since Geneva.

A (Hofman): During PrepCom 3 it was made clear that the system remains, including the RFID.

A (Peake): (1) ICANN is not a significant enough institution to play such games (2) Yes, we are using RFID in the same way: almost every room has an identificator, so it is technically possible to follow each person around inside the WSIS. However, I don’t think it tells anybody that i am sitting here in this room. I don’t know if the organisers have the willingness and the capacity to perform ‘data mining’ on this information.

A (Jorgensen): At least we had managed to put some privacy principles into the host country agreement. Of course these are only principles, and we have to push very hard for the implementation, but we did not have them in Geneva.

Q (a shouting Tunisian man apparently fed by his government): […] You should not talk about the Tunisian situation at all! That is not why everybody came here! This is an international conference about technology! […]

A: Was that a question or a comment? ;j

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