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 NEWSROOM : FIRST PHASE, GENEVA : PREPCOM-3 : DAILY HIGHLIGHTS
 Wednesday, 17 September 2003

 

Policy Meets Action: Work Begins on Draft Action Plan 

Day three’s work took place on multiple fronts. Subcommittee-2 began work in earnest on the Draft Action Plan, with numerous contributions from stakeholder groups and Member States aimed at refining the current draft. The WSIS Executive Secretariat received strong praise from many delegations for the production of this draft, which has been considerably updated since the Paris Intersessional meeting held in July 2003.

Meanwhile, the ad hoc drafting groups held meetings throughout the day to work on the Draft Declaration of Principles, reporting to the Facilitator’s group under the leadership of Ms. Shope-Mafole (South Africa). As discomfort was expressed by some Member States regarding the full participation of Observers in the ad hoc groups, it was agreed that their participation would be limited to making statements at the beginning of the meetings, followed by a briefing to inform them of the outcome of decisions at the end of each meeting.

“In preparing a refined Draft Action Plan,” said Subcommittee-2 Chairman, H.E. Mr. Numminen, “the aim should be to produce a focused, well-structured document that presents a clear set of actions and priorities.” Many participants, who urged that the Action Plan be forged into a truly complementary document to the Declaration of Principles, echoed this. While the actions should reflect the political will formulated in the Declaration, held many delegations, there should be no overlap or repetition between the two documents; the Declaration was a policy statement, while the Action Plan sets out specific actions.

One proposal that received support was to structure the Action Plan according to the four areas identified by H.E. Mr. Nitin Desai, UN Special Advisor on WSIS, on day one of the conference. These four areas are:
1. Regulatory, competition and policy frameworks at national, regional and global levels;
2. Addressing the digital divide;
3. Transforming political and social processes through e-government, e-health, etc.;
4. Restoring confidence by addressing content, language and cultural issues.


Strategies for Implementation Under Debate

As debate got under way in Subcommittee-2, a number of “hot topics” emerged regarding the mechanisms and strategies for implementation of the Action Plan. Funding and financing featured highly, as did discussion of implementation and target setting for new or existing projects, monitoring and study mechanisms, and the scope and level at which Internet governance should be ensured. Reservations were voiced by some about launching too many new development initiatives, whereas increasing support for existing ones may prove more effective.

Many developing countries voiced strong support for the Digital Solidarity Fund initiative proposed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, mentioning the dilemma with which they are faced. To date financial support and aid has been insufficient to bring their populations up to the necessary levels to fully participate in the global economy. Now, at the dawn of the information society, they risk finding themselves pushed even further back on the wrong side of the digital divide. The current Draft Action Plan is a “catalogue of good intentions”, said one delegate. “We are living in a global village, and implementing these actions requires a global vision. But there are homeless people in our global village, and we need to find ways to bring them into an inclusive information society.” 

In addition to concerns about financing, many developing countries expressed unease at the specific target dates that are proposed for implementation of certain projects, such as the plan for ‘All hospitals to be connected by 2005, and health centres by 2010’. As mentioned by H.E. Mr. Nitin Desai, these targets are extremely ambitious. For some countries, the relatively huge leap they would have to make within such a short timescale is simply unrealistic, they said. A number of solutions to this problem were proposed, including that of using relative measures, such as percentages, rather than absolute ones, or that of extending the deadlines by several years – possibly using a sliding scale.


Human Aspects of the Information Society at the Forefront

From rural and remote communities and small-island developing States, to the disabled and the illiterate, the human side of the information society was at the heart of today’s meeting. The calls of many Member States for a stronger “human emphasis” to the Draft Action Plan were joined by voices from civil society and other observer groups. One speaker, from Child Helplines International, pointed out the lack of references to children in the Action Plan. “This is in contradiction with the extent to which children are affected by the information society of today and tomorrow”, said the speaker. “While the Action Plan already foresees the designation of a delegate to liaise with organizations for the disabled on telecommunications and ICTs, a similar top-level representative should also be appointed to liaise on children’s issues, including children’s helplines”, she urged. If the experience of the world’s most ICT-advanced economies, such as the Republic of Korea, is anything to go by, the information society raises serious issues relating to children. 
For an example of how Korea has tackled some of these early problems relating to children and youth see the ITU News article “ICT developments: Not all a bed of roses” in issue No.7, 2003, at: http://www.itu.int/itunews/ 

Private Sector Seen as Valuable Partner for Information Society

Network infrastructure forms “the building blocks of the information society”, said a representative of the business sector, “the Action Plan must be focused on creating a comprehensive basic infrastructure”. In vulnerable communities and countries, it was argued, “markets and well-functioning economies will be the long-term basis for a healthy information society, and innovation and investment are where the private sector has an essential role to play.” Among other delegations, China and Japan also emphasized the importance of infrastructure to ensure access. “Ubiquitous and public access are essential for all communities to become participants in the information society”, noted one delegate. “In particular, broadband, which is fast helping to increase connectivity and the deployment of flexible wireless options, holds great promise for the future information society.” For further information on broadband and its role in the information society, see the ITU report Birth of Broadband, released earlier this week, or visit: http://www.itu.int/birthofbroadband  


An Overview of the Civil Society 

The Civil Society Bureau (CSB) was created to respond to the need of setting up a civil society mechanism that can ensure optimum participation of all constituencies of civil society in all aspects of the WSIS process. This was required because of the great diversity of civil society, the large number of organizations it comprises and the vast array of interests and perspectives it holds.

The CSB is composed of various ‘families’ that represent the different constituencies within the civil society. Each family has some common characteristics: an homogeneous institutional culture, established or informal consultation mechanisms, a coordinator organization of international character that cluster a large number of members under the same reference structure. Thus with communication mechanisms the family allows information dissemination and exchanges between members of the same group. The family offers the opportunity to discuss the different ways in which information can be provided to all interested members of this family. The family also provides a channel to disseminate to all these interested members of each family the relevant information on the negotiation process.


The Civil Society Families include:

Science and Technology
Gender
Creators and Promoters of Culture
Network and Coalition
Youth
Media
Cities, Local Authorities and Regions Worldwide
NGOs
Education, Academia and Research
People with Disabilities
Volunteers
Think Tanks
Trade Unions
Philanthropic Institutions and Foundations
Multi-stakeholder Partnerships
Indigenous People 

Within the Civil Society Bureau 5 Regional Groups are also established to assure the widest dissemination of information. These regional bodies facilitate contact between thematic families at regional and local level in the framework of the WSIS Process providing a major impact on the WSIS issues.


Regional Groups:

Africa
Asia and Pacific
Europe, CIS and North America
Latin America and the Caribbean’s
Middle East and West Asia

According to the different thematic issues to be covered families and regional groups are then divided into civil society caucuses. These are smaller sector-based working groups.


List of Thematic Caucuses:

Gender Human rights
Youths Governance issues
People with disabilitie Copy right, patents and trademarks
Indigenous people Communication rights
Academia and education Think tanks
Science and technology Cities and local authorities
Media E-governance/ E- democracy
Community media Values and ethics
Global unions/ Trade unions Health
Creators and promoters of culture Language and culture
Environment and ICT Girl child
Volunteering and new technologies Scientific information
Information security Applications- Global concerns


For information on the Civil Society click here. 

This is not an official document. For your information only


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

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