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Agreement brokered at the World Summit on the Information Society

Consensus on co-operative international approach to governance
writes new page of Internet history

Geneva, 16 November 2005 — The final Preparatory Committee meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society (PrepCom-3) concluded its work late Tuesday night, just hours before the Summit’s opening, with the long-awaited announcement of agreement on all outstanding issues.

The two Summit outcome documents — the “Tunis Commitment” and the “Tunis Agenda for the Information Society” — are now ready for adoption, and are expected to be approved by world leaders at the closing plenary of the Summit on Friday afternoon.

Commenting on the outcome of the PrepCom process, Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the Summit, expressed his satisfaction regarding the results of the negotiations. “This Summit has made remarkable achievements on all fronts, and I am extremely pleased about a result that will chart the way towards a stable, reliable, democratic, transparent and sustainable Internet, and build a more just and equitable Information Society”, adding “as Secretary-General of the ITU, I am pleased that the document recognizes the fundamental role than the ITU should play in building the Information Society and in providing the benefits of ICTs to citizens in every country of the world. ”

Global agreement on Internet governance and implementation mechanisms sees WSIS hailed as a resounding success

Three key issues dominated the PrepCom-3 agenda: Internet governance, financing mechanisms and implementation mechanisms for the Action Plan developed by the first phase of WSIS in 2003, in Geneva.

Internet Governance

The agreement brokered at the resumed PrepCom-3 in Tunis is based around a two-fold process.

The first element is the creation of an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to foster and enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy issues. This Forum will provide an international venue to discuss cross-cutting public policy issues not adequately addressed by current mechanisms.
The concept of the Forum recognizes that decisions regarding country code top-level domains properly fall within the sovereign rights of each country, and that decisions affecting each country’s ccTLDs need to be respected, upheld and addressed via a flexible and improved mechanism. Strengthened cooperation is also called for among stakeholders regarding public policies for generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). The new Forum is expected to be created by the second quarter of 2006.

The Forum will also help find solutions to issues of concern to every day users arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of relevant decision-making bodies, and make recommendations. It will draw upon the proven expertise of ITU. While the IGF will have no oversight function, will not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations, and will have no involvement in the day-to-day running and technical operation of the Internet, the agreement providing for further internationalization of the governance of Internet marks the dawn a new era.

The second element is the recognition that all governments have an equal role and responsibility for international governance, and need to develop public policy in consultation with all stakeholders. Such cooperation, embracing globally agreed principles related to the coordination and management of critical Internet resources, will involve international organizations responsible for essential Internet-related tasks. The process of moving towards such enhanced cooperation is to be initiated by end Q1 2006.

Financing mechanisms

The WSIS outcome texts reaffirm the Geneva agreements that information and communication technologies (ICT) are a key tool in national development strategies. For that reason, financing of ICT deployment is vital to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The document welcomes the creation of the Digital Solidarity Fund. It underlines the importance of providing quality, affordable communication access to all citizens, and notes the inequalities that presently exist.

It also identifies areas where existing financing mechanisms could be improved, and where ICTs could be given a higher priority by both developing countries and their development partners, based on existing financial commitments such as the Monterrey Consensus. While it is recognized that financing of ICT infrastructure is no longer public investment-based, it is also recognized that market forces alone cannot guarantee the full participation of developing countries in the global market for ICT services. Strengthened cooperation and solidarity is therefore encouraged, along with national development policies that support an enabling and competitive environment.


While much has been done since the Geneva phase to implement the WSIS Plan of Action, many countries felt that even greater emphasis must be placed on targeted mechanisms for implementation and follow-up activities, in order to ensure that the global community will be connected by 2015.

The text balances the recognition that implementation must be based on a multi-stakeholder approach with the need felt by developing countries to identify specific actors to facilitate the 11 different WSIS “action lines”.

The agreed outcome text calls on members of the UN system to facilitate implementation activities and on ITU to maintain a stocktaking database of all activities. Governments are called upon to develop national e-readiness strategies, and ITU, UNESCO and UNDP are all called upon to play leading facilitating roles in implementing the 11 Action lines in their respective areas of competence and expertise.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, in consultation with the Chief Executive Board — a body gathering all chief executives of UN agencies — is requested to create a UN group on the Information Society.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is expected to play a role in the follow-up of WSIS, as part of the overall reform of ECOSOC requested by world leaders at the September UN Summit in New York.

Finally, appropriate indicators including community connectivity indicators based on a common set of core ICT indicators should be developed to measure the magnitude of the digital divide, and to benchmark progress in closing it.

The full text of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society can be found here.



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Updated : 2005-11-18