WSIS Report from Information Society Week in Geneva

First: I will upload the most important documents and statements mentioned in this update on www.una.dk/wsis as soon as possible. Warm regards, Jane.
The main topic to follow during the past week has, perhaps surprisingly, been the proceedings of the 9th session of the CSTD, although especially the discussion on the action line implementation also required some attention. It is not yet quite clear in which direction things are going. However some core were issues debated throughout the week, these included:

1. First of all it had, at the beginning of the week, not yet been firmly settled the CSTD (via ECOSOC) is going to be responsible for the system-wide follow-up, although this is actually stated in paragraph 105 of the Tunis Agenda. During the week however it seemed that this was widely accepted.

2. Secondly and even more important was the question of the role of CS and the private sector.

3. The proposal of an open ended working group

4. Issues relating to the linkage between the work with the action lines, general content and the work of the CSTD.

5. And overall the reformed structure of the CSTD

In response to these and other questions, the CS entities here prepared a basic outline of elements being debated here and CS initial response to these (see Renata’s posting to plenary today May 22nd, which I have also attached to this update). The outline is just meant as a point of reference and can be both altered at elaborated on as the process moves along. However it seemed important to have some common text to feed into the proceedings.

We had two informal sessions during the IS week, Tuesday and Thursday, where CS have been on the presentation panel and have been able to also freely engage in the discussion from the floor. It is still very clear that the CSTD is not quite used to this type of open exchange and their idea of a multi-stakeholder approach is to invite experts to sit on panels or contribute to publications. However on Tuesday the debate did get into really discussing the concept of “multi-stakeholderrism” and most governments at least said that they supported and wanted other actors involved. There were however, quite diverging opinions on what this meant and this was also tied very closely to the debate on the reformed structure and new mandate of the CSTD and also to some extent the role of the Global Alliance in the follow-up measures. It was feared by CS entities present that the Global Alliance would be used to legitimise the lack of broader multi-stakeholder presence in the CSTD procedures and annual sessions on WSIS follow-up. CS entities present therefore also argued that this was the only intergovernmental commission which would deal with follow-up and that precedence had been set by other summit follow-up commissions to include stakeholders, which had been present in the summit process, but had no ECOSOC status (see CS statement). This “fast track” approach was, at least informally, on Thursday accepted as a possible outcome. Another big issue tied into this though was also in which format this follow-up should take place and in what way it should be structured. The background note issued by UNCTAD and which was used as a frame of reference for the discussions (see attached) suggested that a two-year “cycle” (as is the case also now) where one annual session would be devoted to review and the other to policy, would also include WSIS follow-up. It was therefore of key importance to secure that WSIS CS entities would be able to be involved in these sessions especially if, as it seems to be the intention, that action line follow-up and reporting will take place during these follow-up sessions. This was also why a number of international organisations, esp. ITU, and some governments were very keen on underlining that there is great distinction between implementation (such as the action lines) where procedures and sessions are open to all stakeholders and system-wide follow-up, which at least at the outset are guided by the participatory rules of the UN.

It is however also key to note that most of the debate focused on structure, mandate and strategy for the future work of the CSTD and very little was said about the actual content of the future work of the Commission. It was noted by many stakeholders however, that the work of the CSTD had so far focused on Science and Technology for Development, i.e. a very technical approach and very little time had been devoted to also take the broader implications of the information society on both social and political development, including the rights based approach, into consideration.

As it did not seem to be possible to finalize a common approach to these issues by the end of the information society week, the delegation of Chile suggested that an open ended working group could be set up to formulate suggestions either in the interim period or during the ECOSOC substantial session in July, where the final mandate, structure and format of the CSTD and it’s role in WSIS follow-up will be determined. The Chilean delegate noted that the working group would be “with the participation of representatives of civil society and the private sector, with the task to prepare draft proposals on the reform of the Commission, which could be considered by ECOSOC
in its July substantive session. UNCTAD, as the CSTD’s secretariat, could organize this encounter in cooperation with interested parties”. As the working group seemed to be a good way of securing CS views, also in terms of future inclusion, the CS entities present supported this approach (see statement).

Although a lot of time was devoted to follow the CSTD sessions, Action line (AL) implementation discussions took place all week. A broad range of the action lines – C1, C2, C4, C5, C6, C7 (e-government, e-business and e-employment) were discussed throughout the week and some talked about the possibility of continuing the format of the Information Society week, thus having action line discussions and other implementation approaches debated in connection to the annual CSTD session. The discussions on the action lines varied according to how structured debate was, who facilitated the debate and the format of the proceedings (for more information on AL proceedings and submission of comments see http://www.itu.int/wsis/implementation/index.html. However some overarching issues influenced the discussions. First of all there is the ever-present issue of multi-stakeholder inclusion. In this case the discussion is not focused on if, as the consultations are open to anyone, but rather how and in which format. So far most facilitators have set up web-sites where organisations and individuals can submit inputs (again se http://www.itu.int/wsis/implementation/index.html) but the question in the long run is how to initiate a more substantial discussion and how best to exchange best practises and not least challenges. At the moment the approach is to set up mailing lists for those interested in discussing specific issues and perhaps use questionnaires and sites like the WSIS stocktaking website to exchange best practises, however it will still take an effort to reach broader segments and actors. In addition it is important to note that it is possible to sign up as co-facilitator, which allows for the possibility that each AL has a key facilitator in the organisation, which was appointed to do so and a co-facilitator from each of the other stakeholder groups.

Another important issue is how to coordinate with other relevant and related action line discussions and related to this the range of themes and approaches taken on in each AL.

The final item of the week was the open consultation on the Internet Governance Forum, key issues being how to structure the work of the MAG, the themes for the coming meeting in Athens and how to include as many stakeholders as possible in the process prior to and during the Athens meeting. Especially the MAG and its composition and the themes for Athens have, as you are aware, been widely discussed on-line. I only attended the morning session Friday May 19th. It was quite clear that both the IGF and the MAG were new elements in the system and the chair Nitin Desai also noted that the MAG format was an experiment and the experiences gained from this approach will aid in determining the future format of work, proceedings etc. in the IGF.

The discussion on Friday morning was therefore also quite open and aimed at just getting some input from a broader spectre of interested parties. In relation to inclusion, suggestions ranged from the level of openness in the core proceedings (comparisons were made between the approach of the UN and the set up of the Social Forum), whether or not to include side-events and in which format to last but not least remote participation.

The bulk of interventions however, focused on the themes to be taken up at the Athens meeting. Core issues were (at the top of the “list” and with inherent sub-issues) capacity building, access, interconnection costs, policy and financing, civil liberties/human rights and privacy and security. UNESCO, APC and IP Justice however underlined that issues such as capacity building and not least the broad range of human rights issues, do not exist outside the debate of the other topics, but are engrained in them (for more details see the posting by Robin Gross to the plenary list on May 22nd).

I hope this short report conveys to you a little of what went one during the IS week and give you an idea of where we are at the moment. I think on the one hand that there are ample opportunity for US and CS to influence both implementation and follow-up on the other, it is quite evident that the idea of a multi-stakeholder approach and especially what it entails in post-WSIS terms is not yet a given and CS must continuously insist on being included at all levels.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.