Alternative summit to WSIS under heavy political pressure

TUNIS, Tunisia, 12 November 2005

The Citizens’ Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) was forbidden from holding its event in the confirmed hotel conference room at Tunis, venue of the currently-underway World Summit on the Information Society.

While the hotel sent a confirmation for conference room reservation and immediately after having received a bank copy of the money transfer for payment, Hotel Oriental Palace announced to the organisers by fax that, "following unforeseeable works in room Farabi", they are compelled to cancel the reservation, and that they will ensure reimbursement of the advance payment awaiting the CSIS’ technical suggestions.

The Citizens’ Summit organisers also sent a letter to ITU and WSIS Secretary General Yoshio Utsumi, to ask him for a clarification and reminding the ITU and the WSIS about neutrality regarding side events, after statements attributed to him in the Tunisian press appeared to indicate that there would be zero-tolerance for an alternative summit.

"There will be only one Summit in Tunis. Only one plenary and parallel events. Everything else is beyond our concern. I don’t think there could be other meetings. This is impossible, from the logistical point of view as well as from the participation point of view. There is room for everyone in the Summit, and all the civil society components are welcome," Mr. Utsumi was quoted as saying earlier last week in the Tunisian daily La Presse.

[See the complete article under:]

In the letter that was sent to Mr. Utsumi, CSIS organisers also addressed the difficulties they are already facing regarding the CSIS venue.

Although the ITU Secretary General has not replied at time of writing, APCNews has been informed by credible sources that the statement of Mr. Utsumi was quoted out of context from a show broadcasted on Tunisian TV.

This information will only be validated fully once Mr. Utsumi replies to the CSIS organisers. But judging from La Presse’s WSIS coverage so far, there’s true concern that political pressure is operating behind the scenes.

Please visit CSIS original press release: [also available in French and Spanish]

The CSIS is a summit organised by and in solidarity with the independent Tunesian NGO movement. Many international NGOs, including APC support and co-organise the still venue-less event. This summit is one of many alternative and independent summits that take a close look at human rights and sustainable developement issues.

Independent NGOs in Tunisia have built a common front in boycotting WSIS for reasons of freedom of expression. Among other aspects, they thereby make it clear that their discourse remains critical of the WSIS participation process.

Incidentally, the CSIS was expected to be "another milestone in the long tradition of UN conferences and Summits being complemented with events organized by citizen groups". Previous such events met with great success, for example during the Cairo Conference on Population and Development (1994), the Beijing Conference on Women (1995) or the Monterrey Summit on Financing for Development (2002).

CSIS’s twin objectives included (i) sending out a strong message of support and solidarity from international civil society to the local civil society and citizens; and (ii) to address the main issues being debated at the WSIS, from the perspective of citizen groups and the public.

Author: —- (APCNews)
Source: APCNews
Date: 11/13/2005
Location: TUNIS, Tunisia
Category: Democratising Communication