By Olinca Marino MEXICO CITY, Mexico, 01 April 2005
Despite certain substantial differences, the groups of regional governments appeared very much consolidated at PrepCom 2. The group of governments from Latin America (GRULAC) banded together on various issues. One of which was the Digital Solidarity Fund. Also, the unity of the Latin American governments was increased by the defence of the Argentine Ambassador, Ileana Di Giovanni, when she was criticised for the manner in which she conducted the Subcommittee on the issue of Financing Mechanisms, and consequently the associated plenary debate during the second preparatory committee. GRULAC decided to express its approval and total support for the professionalism with which the Argentine Ambassador handled the development of the discussions on the issue.
Nevertheless, two extremely important subjects for the region’s civil society remained far from reaching a consensus within the group of governments from the Latin American and Caribbean region. Some differences became apparent when the concept of “community radios” made its appearance. Introduced in a proposal by Argentina and supported by Brazil, the concept of community radios was strongly rejected by the Salvadoran delegation. Rumour has it that there are close links between the International Radiobroadcasters Association (Asociación Internacional de Radiodifusores, AIR) which groups regional media moguls with the Salvadorean government.
On the other hand, there was the concerted effort of the Brazilian delegation, seconded by Cuba, to insert the proposal to “raise awareness on the possible effects that are generated by the development and use of free and open source computer programmes”. It was impossible to reach a consensus on this point when the governments of Mexico and El Salvador made their refusal to support it evident.
For us, the civil society organisations that consider free software and community radios two guarantees of broad access to technology, the positions of our governments that try to halt the democratization of technology, are among the most painful differences found within the complex process that WSIS represents. We can specifically say that, for the Mexican organizations that have worked in favour of the democratization of communication and technology, it is devastating to see how our government brings proposals of other governments that we consider crucial to making technology available to all sectors of society to a standstill. While we seek to broaden the access to and the democratization of information and communication technologies, the official delegation that represents us manifests the opposite in the name of the country, without having offered room for joint analysis.
In the framework of this second phase PrepCom 3 remains. And there are already rumours of a fourth. Also, the Ministerial Latin American and Caribbean Regional Conference in Rio de Janeiro, where the Regional Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan (eLac2007) will be drafted, has yet to be held. Furthermore, CEPAL, UNESCO and the Ecuadorian government are sending out invitations to a prior meeting to get a head-start on the drafting of these materials.
We should remember that Internet Governance and Financing Mechanisms are still the central axes of the second phase. We know that both axes can only reach a successful and legitimate solution if all the affected or interested parties have an opportunity to influence the outcome. Hence it is essential to guarantee a space for a plural debate and facilitate agreements based on this.
In the regional case of Latin America it would be fundamental to develop the concept of democratic internet governance within the context of the relationship between decision-making at the local and global level. Internet management would have to flow from the basic concept of the web as a common good, that cannot and should not be monopolized by any single country, nor public or private entity for individual motives.
It would also be important to guarantee other aspects, such as the recognition of and respect for the practices developed by indigenous peoples and specific local communities; the recognition of traditional communicative practices, the use of fair trade supported by ICT; the integration of access, infrastructure, citizen capacity building; the generation of local content; the effective application of the Digital Solidarity Fund, among many others.
Although some of the previous concepts are positions that have been expressed by many civil Latin American organizations on numerous occasions; few countries have achieved multisectoral discussions. Even fewer are the joint agreements destined toward public policies that have been achieved.
Hopefully, Latin American countries will be able to find mechanisms and participatory, inclusive ways to attain minimal national agreements to be presented by the governments. This, without a doubt, would mean that the democratic processes in our countries have matured.
This report was written for APCNews by Olinca Marino from LaNeta, APC’s member in Mexico, and vice-chair of APC’s Executive Board.
The participation of LaNeta at the WSIS PrepCom 2 was possible thanks to financial support obtained by the APC. LaNeta has been a member of APC since 1993.