United Nations  International Telecommunication Union  




 Thursday, 27 February 2003

Observers Call for e-Strategies, Sustainability and Audacity

Speakers from the business community, international organizations, media and environmental groups launched the day’s discussions with food for thought on what they see as essential elements to be reflected in the draft action plan.  Among other factors, the need for national e-strategies, or ICT strategies, was stressed. This echoed similar comments already heard during governmental working group discussions. E-strategies at the national level, pointed out one speaker, can reflect and respect cultural diversity, while also creating a framework for services and international cooperation to flourish.

If strategies are one side of the same ICT development coin, technologies are on the other, was the next speaker’s point. Broadband holds the key to always-on, affordable access, and can help achieve economies of scale to bring down costs, argued a speaker from the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO). Calling for “audacity”, he stressed that “the most needy people in the world are those in rural, remote, small, landlocked, island and poverty-stricken places”.

When considering strategies and technologies for sustainable development, the ecological pros and cons of ICTs need to be taken into account, said a spokesperson on environmental issues. For example, he said, the disposal of technological waste can be an environmental hazard, while the benefits of teleconferencing and teleworking help cut down on environmental pollution from cars and planes. Other international treaties such as the Johannesburg Summit, Basel Convention and Kyoto Protocol deserve a mention, he urged, as they encouraged governments to take responsible actions.

Working Group on Draft WSIS Documents Winds Up

The final meeting of the working group continued to discuss the working draft action plan contained in Document DT/3. The document contains fewer inputs and has had less time for consideration than the working draft declaration (document DT/2), explained the chairperson. Nevertheless, most commentators saw the document as a feasible working document as the basis of ongoing work on the draft action plan.

Comments made at the group’s previous meeting were echoed again, with broad agreement that the document should be concise and should contain concrete proposals for action. Many delegates reiterated the need for benchmarks to be clearly defined, and for the set timeframes to cater for the difficulties that developing countries might face in meeting them. But there was a strong sense that concrete achievements could be expected between 2003 and 2005, by the second phase of WSIS.

In a spate of general points raised by delegates, the delicate questions of balance of inputs, and of the delicate equilibrium needed between rights and obligations, were raised. Many also reiterated that a “global culture of cybersecurity” needed to be instituted with the help of a democratic, multilateral, intergovernmental body to oversee Internet governance.

 As it stands, the document does not yet constitute a draft action plan, the chair clarified. “We have a lot of work before us before PrepCom-3” she warned. Thanking the working group for its discipline, she said: “Working with you, I had a few sleepless nights. But you know, a mother who spends a lot of sleepless nights with a baby thinks it is worth it because of the joy she gets. Likewise, it has been a real pleasure working with you, thank you very much.”

Output from the Working Group consists of the working draft declaration and action plan, together with two information documents containing synopses of written and oral contributions and inputs received to date. The group recommended to Subcommittee 2 that, following PrepCom-2, revised versions of these documents would be distributed to administrations and posted on the WSIS website within a three-week period.

Subcommittee 2 Wavers On Procedural Matters  

The status of civil society, business sector and NGO observers came into the firing line once more, in what some delegates saw as a throwback to PrepCom-1. While there was strong consensus among government representatives that the value of the inputs from the observer groups was incalculable in meeting the goals of the Summit, the practicalities proved harder to surmount. To follow the recommendations of the Working Group to Subcommittee 2 in incorporating the inputs from observers in the revised working documents might constitute a breach of the rules of procedure. The crux of the question appeared to be whether inputs from observers, who do not have negotiating rights, could be included in such a text on an equal footing with governmental inputs.

“We are on the horns of a dilemma,” said one delegate. Recognizing the strong input from civil society and private sector, he confirmed “an information society which deprives the engine of that technology from having any voice would render it largely meaningless”. On the other hand, the question was raised of how to ensure that “the established norms of negotiation are not compromised”.

Others feared that “the sense” of the work of the Summit in its aim to inclusively take on board issues affecting all of society might be jeopardized over a procedural issue. The challenge is “to re-read our practices within our new and changing environment”, thought the President of PrepCom, Mr Samassékou. Greater inclusiveness could only give rise to better ideas, others suggested.

As a lengthy debate ensued on whether to include observers’ inputs in a single document, a separate document or as an annex, one delegate wondered, “Are we drowning in a thimbleful of water?”  We are nowhere near anything binding or committal, she argued. Placing the achievements of the PrepCom in a more optimistic perspective, it was recalled how from nothing, two working documents have been produced.

The issue was temporarily resolved with the insertion of square brackets in two paragraphs of the draft report of Subcommittee 2 to plenary, pending further discussions.



This is the final edition of PrepCom-2 Highlights.  The final Press Release will be distributed and posted as soon as possible.

The Highlights were produced by:

Gary Fowlie
Joanna Goodrick
Lucy MacDermot
Melissa Arditto

For media information concerning the second phase of the Summit, click here

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