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GISWatch 2024 Special Edition

In anticipation of the WSIS+20 High Level Meeting taking place in Geneva at the end of May, APC, in partnership with IT for Change and with the support of WACC Global, are publishing a series of reports as part of the GISWatch 2024 Special Edition, WSIS+20: Reimagining horizons of dignity, equity and justice for our digital future.

Looking back at the evolution of the information society – or, as carefully noted by civil society at the first WSIS summit, information societies, in acknowledgement of our diversity of experience – we can see many changes have taken place while many new challenges have arisen.

The following two reports, which are included in the GISWatch 2024 Special Edition, are thoughtful analyses on the vision and agenda set forth at the WSIS summit twenty years ago, and reflections on its value and need in civil society advocacy as we move forward.

Shaping information societies for human needs: The relevance of the WSIS civil society declaration, 20 years on

by Sally Burch (Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI))

The global future of our information societies is again in debate in the United Nations (UN), in the lead-up to the 20-year revision of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+20), due to take place in Geneva in 2025. The vision constructed in the framework of the international community at WSIS two decades ago – “to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life”– is still far from becoming a reality. However, there is broader awareness today of the importance and urgency of defining what information societies we need and identifying the steps to achieve them.

WSIS+20 will involve evaluating progress regarding fulfilment of the original WSIS agreements, as well as readjusting priorities for the future, given the rapid advances in technology and the information society itself. Over the coming months, governments, civil society organisations and private enterprise will be fine-tuning and updating their respective proposals and priorities. But much wider public debate and involvement will also be needed if we are to redress the present imbalance between private and public interests in the digital realm.

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Reflections on WSIS+20: The value of WSIS moving forward and advocacy priorities for civil society

by Ana Neves (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia – Unidade FCCN)

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a unique United Nations summit that happened in two phases (in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005) and set the governance of the internet on a multistakeholder course. The consensus around this decision has endured for almost two decades. It emphasised the importance of strengthening partnerships and collaboration between different stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, the technical and academic communities, civil society and international intergovernmental organisations (IGOs).

Since then, there has been a strong call to build on the WSIS process by advocating for inclusivity and increased civil society participation at various levels. Empowering civil society to shape debates at the grassroots level was seen as crucial to bringing about significant change. The WSIS process has created space for civil society participation and cooperation within the UN system.

The outcomes of the two phases of WSIS – the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action in 2003 and the Tunis Commitment and Tunis Agenda for the Information Society in 2005 – are notable for incorporating the perspectives and involvement of non-state actors, reflecting a comprehensive and inclusive approach. The WSIS documents strike a balance between broad overarching principles and specific subject areas, providing a holistic yet detailed framework.

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We will be announcing more news about the upcoming launch of the GISWatch 2024 Special Edition ahead of the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event at the end of May. Stay tuned!

For more information, subscribe to the APC newsletter, join the conversation on social media, and visit GISWatch online.

These reports were originally published as part of a larger compilation: “Global Information Society Watch 2024 Special edition: WSIS+20: Reimagining horizons of dignity, equity and justice for our digital future"

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