On the 13th of June in Geneva, the WSIS + 10 High Level Event (WSIS + 10 HLE) concluded, culminating in the endorsement of two outcome documents, the WSIS+10 Statement on the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes, and the WSIS+10 Vision for WSIS Beyond 2015. The documents can be found here.
The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) was a pair of U.N.-sponsored conferences held in 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis, aimed at bridging the digital divide and advancing the global discussion about internet governance. Some of the main outcomes of WSIS were the Tunis Agenda and the Geneva Plan of Action, which among other things acknowledged the importance of all stakeholders in harnessing benefits of ICTs and the internet, and established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as well as action lines for development. The Tunis Agenda also called for a 10-year review of WSIS (WSIS+10), to be lead by the U.N. General Assembly, and facilitated by various UN agencies.
To develop the statements endorsed at last week’s HLE, the ITU facilitated a Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform (MPP), which has been laudably open to essentially anyone who is willing to the (somewhat tedious) work of reviewing and inputting into the draft documents. Access and other civil society partners have been participating in the process (our submissions can be viewed here). While the MPP suffered an eleventh hour breakdown in multistakeholderism, as parts of the final statements were briefly negotiated behind closed doors, the HLE and the larger MPP process, this initiative is still historic in that it marks the first embrace of multistakeholderism by the notoriously closed ITU.
At the conclusion of the HLE, Access joined APC, CDT, CTS/FGV, Global Partners Digital, IFLA, the Internet Democracy Project, IDEA, and KICTAnet in making the following statement:
As civil society organisations that have been engaged throughout the WSIS+10 Multistakeholder Preparatory Platform (MPP), we welcome the adoption of the WSIS+10 MPP outcome documents.
Though the road was a long, and at times difficult, we believe that throughout the MPP a collaborative spirit prevailed in the meetings. Under the able guidance of the Chairperson, Professor Minkin, and with the active participation of all stakeholder groups, we saw for the first time a full-fledged multistakeholder process being implemented in the ITU. And we trust, indeed expect, that this same commitment to multistakeholderism will be carried through into the modalities of the overall WSIS review going forward.
During the last-minute negotiations in the days just preceding the adoption of the text, the multistakeholder aspect of the negotiations disappeared somewhat into the background, providing food for thought as to how we can ensure full stakeholder participation in decisions even at the very last steps of the negotiations. Whilst accepting that the nature of such negotiations are complex, the informal nature of the final negotiations leaves room for improvement.
Nevertheless, in addition to the issues that several of us noted in our statements during the High Level Event, we are particularly pleased about the reinforcement of the importance of multistakeholder processes, and the recognition of the importance of engaging with all stakeholders and of inclusive and open governance mechanisms. We also greatly value the increased recognition of the importance of protecting and promoting human rights that the final version of the input documents contains.
Finally, we welcome the renewed recognition of the importance of linking ICTs to development in the document, and would like to use this opportunity to urge governments, indeed all stakeholders, to refocus on the development dimension of the WSIS. There is no doubt that governance issues have an important role to play in facilitating the development dimension of the WSIS. However, we must ensure that the original goal of the WSIS – that of harnessing the potential of ICTs for development – becomes the central focus of the WSIS going forward.
Statement on behalf of:
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)
Center for Technology and Society at FGV (CTS/FGV)
Global Partners Digital
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Internet Democracy Project
Internet & Digital Ecosystem Alliance (IDEA)
Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet)