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 NEWSROOM : SECOND PHASE, TUNIS : PREPCOM-3
 PrepCom-3 Highlights: 19-21 September 2005

 

Day One – Monday 19 September


PrepCom-3 Gets Off to Slow Start

ITU Secretary-General Urges Delegates to Set Aside “Narrow Interests”

 

Mr Yoshio Utsumi, ITU Secretary-General and Secretary-General of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), opened the meeting of the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-3) taking place in Geneva from 19 to 30 September 2005 by urging delegates to work hard “to prepare a roadmap to a more equitable and just Information Society.”

 

Mr Utsumi reminded participants of the critical importance of this final preparatory meeting for the outcome of the Tunis Summit. He told delegates that during the meeting they should strive not to “be trapped by tradition and narrow interests”, but rather should endeavour to achieve a far-sighted and dynamic draft outcome document that would be worthy of agreement by world leaders.

 

“Let’s create a concrete implementation mechanism for the Action Plan of Geneva,” he said. “Let’s find a way forward for Internet governance, based on a multi-stakeholder process that is multilateral, transparent and democratic.”

 

Tunisia Urges International Solidarity
Speaking on behalf of Tunisia, host country for the second phase of WSIS, Tunisian Minister for Communications Technology Dr Montasser Ouaili stressed that the success of the process would depend on the ability of PrepCom-3 to forge solidarity among the many different stakeholders. “International solidarity will be very important in meeting future challenges and reaching our goal of creating a solid foundation on which to build the Information Society,” he said. “We are convinced that this Summit will yield tangible results that will benefit all of humanity.”

 

Swiss Emphasize Access to Information
Mr Moritz Leuenberger, Federal Councillor of the Swiss Federation and Minister for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, followed with a forthright address stressing the importance of free and equitable access to communications and information. He reiterated the value of the WSIS process, which, he said, by providing a platform for international, multi-stakeholder debate, was an essential part of the policy-making process.

 

Election of key conference posts
Following the opening addresses, the Plenary, under the Chairmanship of the PrepCom President, H.E. Mr Janis Karklins, Ambassador of Latvia to the UN Office in Geneva, moved to elect the officials who will preside over the conference process for the coming two weeks.

 

Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan was named Chairperson of Sub-Committee A, which will deal with Internet Governance. Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole, Director-General of the Department of Communications, South Africa, was confirmed as Chairperson of Sub-Committee B, which will concern itself with all other agenda items.

 

Dr George Papadatos of Greece was named Rapporteur of the conference.

 

Debate bogs down at the first hurdle
With the formalities out of the way, the Plenary settled down to approve the next agenda item: Accreditation of NGOs, Civil Society and the Business Sector. However, debate quickly stalled following a question from the USA regarding the omission of the NGO, Human Rights in China, from the list of 286 approved civil society organizations.

 

The issue was taken up by Mr Charles Geiger, Director, WSIS Executive Secretariat, who explained that Human Rights in China (HRC) was not included on the list because of the organization’s inability to provide fully transparent details of its funding, as required by the accreditation guidelines developed during PrepCom-1 of the Geneva phase, back in 2002.

 

A long debate ensued, with a number of interventions on the part of China, the US, the UK (on behalf of the EU) and Canada. While some delegations argued that an exception should be made on the basis of the organization’s demonstrated goodwill, the Chinese delegation argued that making an exception would open a “Pandora’s Box” that would call into question the rejection of applications by dozens of other civil society organizations.

 

Ambassador Janis Karklins’ suggestion that the matter be discussed “offline” so that the Plenary could move ahead with its agenda was rejected by China, and the matter finally went to a vote of the Plenary. The result was 52 countries in favour of upholding China’s position that the status quo should be maintained, 35 nations in favour of re-opening the accreditation process, and 35 abstentions.

 

 

Parallel Events Day One

 

Children and Telecoms
Child Helpline International

A discussion on Children and Telecoms, organized by Child Helpline International, focused on child trafficking, exploitation and abuse.

 

The panel, chaired by Ms Jeroo Billimoria, Executive Director of CHI, highlighted the importance of providing children access to ICTs, so that through information and awareness, children can be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation.

 

Mr Roberto Blois, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU, pointed out that ITU was a pioneer in CHI’s endeavour to use technology to help children, adding that the Union will continue to support these efforts through future collaboration with CHI as part of the WSIS process and beyond. The 2006 World Telecommunication Development Conference, for instance, already includes some discussions on issues related to the welfare of children as part of the agenda, and young people will be the focus of the World Telecommunication Day in 2007.

 

World Summit Awards
The International Centre for New Media organized an event related to the World Summit Award (WSA) that will take place during the Tunis Summit. WSA is an initiative aimed at selecting and promoting best practices in e-Content. Mr A. Bruck, chairman of WSA, emphasized that e-Content and WSA are not about connecting and wiring another village; they are about what can be done once that wiring is in place. It is a creator-driven and market-oriented activity aimed at giving exposure to innovative e-Content projects.

 

 

Plenary Afternoon Session Day One

 

The afternoon session opened with the Report on activities leading up to PrepCom-3 by ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi. Briefing delegates on decisions taken by this year’s ITU Council, Mr Utsumi said ITU was willing to work on the implementation and follow-up of WSIS in partnership with UNESCO.

 

He added that Summit preparation work was progressing well in areas like security, registration, media and other aspects. ITU staff had visited Tunis and negotiations on the host country agreement were continuing.

 

Mr Utsumi thanked all those who had made generous financial contributions, raising the amount until August to 60 per cent of the target. Fresh contributions were announced by Germany (EUR 75 000) and Japan (CHF 385 000).

 

SPU’s Tim Kelly went on to present an update on the stocktaking exercise. In total, 2200 submissions had been received by the end of August, and fresh inputs were still coming in.

 

Ambassador Karklins, President of the Tunis phase of PrepCom, submitted the report of the Group of Friends of the Chair, which had been mandated by PrepCom-2 to work on chapters 1 and 4 of the Operational Part. The Group produced a recommendation on the implementation and follow-up of WSIS, looking beyond Tunis at issues of implementation, evaluation, and the policy debate. Sub-Committee B will decide whether this document should be taken into account.

 

Mr Nitin Desai, Chairman of the Working Group on Internet Governance, next made a formal presentation of the WGIG report. He said that while recommendations were mainly unanimous, when it came to oversight function the Group decided to present four Models. The report will form the basis of work by Sub-Committee A.

 

Reports on WSIS Regional Conferences and thematic meetings followed, with presentations by Iran, Brazil, Egypt, Senegal, Japan, Germany, Korea, UNESCO, ITU, WIPO, UNECE, and the Austrian International Centre of New Media.

 

 

 

Day Two – Tuesday 20 September

 

Internet Governance Debate Kicks Off
Broad support for new international forum

 

Sub-Committee A
The first meeting of Sub-Committee A on Internet governance finally got underway on Tuesday morning, following the delay caused by Monday’s Plenary session running over time. Opening remarks by Chairman Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan were followed by statements from the various regional groups.

 

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Asian group, urged delegates to work towards a balanced outcome that helps build an inclusive, people-centred Information Society. Nicaragua, speaking for the Latin American group (GRULAC), stressed the need to create an Internet that helps people fulfil their potential, emphasizing the importance of the principles of transparency, democracy, legitimacy and multilaterism agreed at earlier PrepComs.

 

The UK, speaking on behalf of the EU, advocated building frameworks for international cooperation and dialogue based on existing structures. It would be important, said the speaker, to avoid creating a single point of failure. Technical neutrality and flexible frameworks should be emphasized, and there should be no government involvement in day-to-day operational issues, she said.

 

Honduras was next to take the floor as speaker for the Group of 77, stressing the need to give developing countries a say in the future of the Internet. Brazil contributed a forthright statement that focused on the Internet’s current “lack of legitimacy”, rejecting the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” rationale in favour of a maxim by economist Herbert Stein: “Things that can’t go on forever, don’t.” The Internet in its current form, it said, was unsustainable, citing areas of concern including root zone management, uneven distribution of costs, lack of international mechanisms for dispute resolution, lack of mechanisms to ensure stability and to counter cybercrime, no globally coordinated approach to spam, the urgent need for better IP addressing systems and domain name allocation, concerns about consumer rights and freedom of expression, and an absence of transparency and multi-stakeholder involvement.

 

Speaking on behalf of the African group, Ghana said its group’s concerns included the need for lower interconnection and equipment costs, internationalization of root server management, national administration of top-level domains, and greater attention to multilingual issues. The speaker also expressed support for international assistance in setting up regional root servers and IP backbones, the empowerment of African institutions to participate in technical management bodies, and the strengthening of AFRINIC.

 

The final speaker representing regional groups was Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Arab group. The speaker affirmed the group’s support for general principles of democratic, multilateral and transparent management of Internet resources, emphasizing the importance of multilingualism.

 

Strong support for governance forum
Following these contributions from the regional groups, the floor was thrown open to interventions from national delegations.

 

There was very broad support on the floor for the creation of the new global multi-stakeholder forum for Internet governance issues. Some delegations, such as Norway, Iran, Russia and Switzerland, felt such a forum should be linked to the UN to confer legitimacy. Many delegations stressed the need for a lightweight, efficient and inclusive structure, and many also agreed that while government should have a key management role, it should not be involved in the day-to-day operation of the Net. The creation of national and regional Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) to help cut costs and improve access for developing countries also received widespread support.

 

China took the floor during the course of the debate to make an impassioned statement critical of the intervention of an unnamed delegation during Monday’s plenary. The speaker said the consensus reached during the first phase of the Summit should not be reopened, and that the WGIG report provided a strong basis for ongoing discussions. The US responded by stating its commitment to freedom of expression, noting that the Internet is already highly decentralized, with over 100 mirror servers and more than 9,000 ISPs. Many delegations emphasized the importance of ccTLDs as vital national resource.

 

Interventions from national delegations were followed by comments from international organizations and civil society. Mr Houlin Zhao spoke on behalf of ITU, stressing the Union’s work in areas like IPv6, ccTLDs, IDN, spam and cybersecurity. The Coordinating Committee of Business Interlocutors (CCBI) emphasized the lead role played by business in the technical and economic development of the Internet, and urged that business be allowed to continue in this role.

 

Speakers from civil society included Adam Peake of the Centre for Global Communications (GLOCOM), who proposed three separate working groups on the issues of the forum, the oversight mechanism, and resource allocation; Magaly Pazello from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), who complained of barriers to civil society participation in the Internet governance debate; William Drake from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), who supported a multi-stakeholder governance forum of peers; Milton Mueller of the CS IG Caucus, who proposed that the US make a commitment never to unilaterally remove or alter a country’s root zone entry; and Jeanette Hoffman of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, who urged delegates not to lose sight of human rights issues.

 

Chairman Khan closed the morning session by noting that the morning had revealed many diverse, and sometimes divergent, views, and urging delegates to get together, to chat, and to try to “redraw some of their red lines”.

 

 

Parallel Events Day Two

 

WSIS and e-child protection
UNICEF/ECPAT

ECPAT organized an expert panel on e-child protection, consisting of Carmen Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT International; Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who led a UN Study on Violence Against Children; a representative from Microsoft; Karin Johansson from the Council of Europe; and Pamela Shifman from UNICEF’s Child Protection Programme. While all panellists agreed on the benefits ICTs bring to children worldwide, they drew attention to threats and dangers inherent in new technologies like the Internet and mobile phones – an explosion in child pornography, children’s exposure to sexual predators, and the availability of illegal and harmful materials online. It was noted that abuses of children has become one of the fastest-growing computer-related crimes worldwide.

 

Findings from the UN study on Violence against Children reveal that violence against children is a problem in all countries around the world - rich as well as poor. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was hailed as a crucial landmark, but it was noted that many countries are still to implement this important treaty. The Council of Europe’s Karin Johansson then took the floor to explain the child protection aspects of the Convention on Cybercrime, which entered into force in July 2004 as the first binding international treaty in this field.

 

WSIS Book Launch
UN ICT Task Force

The UN ICT Task Force launched a book entitled WSIS: From the Past into the Future. Edited by Ambassador Daniel Stauffacher and Prof. Wolfgang Kleinwachter, the book contains a foreword by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a preface by ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi.

 

 

Sub-Committee B

 

Chairman Lyndall Shope-Mafole (South Africa) opened the first session of Sub-Committee B, which deals with issues other than Internet Governance, inviting observers from civil society, the private sector and international organizations to make their interventions.

 

ITU made the case for coordination of the implementation of the WSIS action lines and follow-up mechanisms after Tunis. UNICEF stressed the possibilities that ICTs offered in protecting children, even though ICTs were also sometimes used to abuse and exploit them.

 

The International Chamber of Commerce emphasized the importance of the private sector in promoting economic growth and development.

 

The African Civil Society spokeswoman called for an effective and flexible framework for implementation to ensure a successful WSIS follow-up. She criticized the current draft as being too weak, and reaffirmed civil society’s demand for a true multi-stakeholder approach.

 

Pakistan, on behalf of the Asian group, welcomed the consensus on the Digital Solidarity Fund inaugurated in March 2005, and called for a similar consensus on the chapter on financial mechanisms.

 

The African States, represented by Ghana, stated that all agreements made during the WSIS process should be fully implemented, and stressed the importance of regional inputs in this implementation process. Ghana proposed the creation of a follow-up committee to monitor progress and a regional biennial conference to showcase all measures undertaken.

 

Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab League, wanted countries to contribute financially, morally and politically to social development through ICTs.

 

Delegations unanimously adopted a suggestion from the World Blind Union to strengthen e-strategies for the benefit of the disabled to build a truly inclusive Information Society.

 

Operational business on the Document WSIS-II/PC-3/DT6 concluded with discussion on four paragraphs out of 29.

 

 

 

Day Three – Wednesday 21 September

 

Internet Governance Discussions Move Ahead
Focus on forum and oversight

 

Debate resumed this morning with endorsement of the final report of WGIG, which was praised by many delegations as a solid foundation for PrepCom-3 discussions.

 

Again, delegations from around the world expressed almost unanimous support for the creation of an international multi-stakeholder forum to deal with Internet governance. Many countries also continued to stress the importance of the Geneva Principles – transparency, democracy, multilateralism and legitimacy – in any new approach to Internet management.

 

Accessibility and affordability were also key words – Malaysia, Cameroon, Senegal and Uganda all spoke of the need to ensure that developing nations have better access to the Net, through the creation of new regional backbones, capacity building and attention to interconnection issues. Senegal also reiterated the plea that African nations be empowered to participate more fully in Internet governance policy making through assistance to local and regional institutions.

 

Discussion on the governance models put forward in the report elicited support from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Tanzania and Uruguay for Model 1. Bangladesh and Tanzania also lent support to Model 4, and Uruguay to Model 3. Discussion then moved towards developing a text that could eventually serve as an outcome for WSIS. Chairman Masood Khan noted that 58 speakers had made interventions, 48 of which represented governments. He proposed that the Sub-Committee moved to consider a first cluster of points from the report: the introduction, the Geneva Principles, the WGIG mandate, and the working definition of Internet governance.

 

A number of delegations, including Brazil, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Iran, and South Africa, expressed concern that the proposed order of discussion would repeat issues already covered by WGIG. Brazil – supported by others, including China and Saudi Arabia - urged the meeting to tackle the two principal issues: whether or not to create a forum, and oversight mechanisms.

 

Russia and the USA both raised the issue of the working definition on Internet governance prepared by WGIG, noting that the definition in the report is not the only possible definition. Chairman Khan expressed his desire that the issue of definition not be reopened at this stage.

 

The session wound up just as discussion moved to document DT7, the compilation of comments received on the WGIG report.

 

 

Parallel Events Day Three

 

The Internet Governance Forum Function
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

The first of two meetings planned during PrepCom-3 with a view to stimulating dialogue on the WGIG recommendations, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) led discussions on the functioning of a potential future Internet governance forum.

 

Meeting chairman, William Drake invited five speakers - Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus; Milton Mueller, Syracuse University; Peng Hwa Ang, Nanyang Technological University; Karen Banks, Association for Progressive Communications; and independent consultant Avri Doria - to present their views on the creation of a forum and on alternative solutions.

 

Discussion ranged over forum participation, the organization’s mandate and authority, decision-making procedures, relationships to other organizations, and funding. Speakers also debated whether the forum should be a new entity or linked to existing organizations.

 

Speakers noted that before a decision on the creation of a forum can be taken, ensuring its legitimacy will key.

 

Information Society and Sustainable Development: Next generation policy intersections
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

Can national ICT policies reduce the gap that exists between communities and national policies on the Information Society and sustainable development? This question was explored by a panel comprising Maja Andjelkovic of the IISD, Steve Vosloo of Empowerment for African Sustainable Development (EASD), and Wainaina Mungai of OneWorld International, Kenya.

 

Messrs Vosloo and Mungai presented their experiences as participants in a project on Next Generation Policy Intersections, conducted by IISD. The goal of the project was to engage young researchers from seven countries in the search for connections between these policy areas. The results of their research have been collected in an IISD book, A Developing Connection, to be released in November.

 

The panelists presented case studies of South Africa and Kenya, two countries where large numbers live below the poverty line, and where higher penetration of ICTs could boost sustainable development projects. Mr Vosloo examined the importance of developing local content, which he said “is fundamental to building sustainable development”. Presenting the case study of Kenya, Mr Mungai pointed out gaps in that country’s current ICT and sustainable development policies, including a lack of strong ICT policies and divergences between policy and implementation. Among his proposed solutions, he advocated a more aggressive use of existing ICT infrastructure, particularly mobile communications and satellites.

 

Children and Telecoms (Part 2)
Child Helpline International

The second part of the Children and Telecoms parallel event, hosted by Child Helpline International, introduced the work of seven organizations dealing with children’s issues: UNICEF (Pamela Shifman), ChildNet International (Will Gardner), Child Rights Information Network (Tom Hewitt), ECPAT (Carmen Madrinan), Plan International (Pauline McKeown), the Tunisian Childs Rights Association/Child Rights Caucus (Jamal Khemakhem) and the Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Bruno Romazzotti).

 

ICTs, panelists affirmed, are a major tool in the fight against sexual exploitation of children. UNICEF’s Pamela Shifman noted that “Not having language on children’s issues included in WSIS would have a negative impact.”

 

 

Sub-Committee B

 

As negotiations evolve in PrepCom-3, delegations are concentrating on some of the most crucial issues pertaining to the Tunis document. While Internet Governance is debated in Sub-Committee A, Sub-Committee B, chaired by Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole is taking a close look at the other issues. How shall WSIS results be implemented and evaluated to ensure the creation of an inclusive and open Information Society? What will be the follow-up mechanisms after Tunis? What will be the financial arrangements to bridge the digital divide?

 

An emotional plea for clear and efficient follow-up mechanisms was delivered by the Swiss delegation. The UN Secretary-General, relying on the expertise of specialized UN agencies, should be mandated to define necessary modalities. A timeline to do so should be decided, otherwise nothing would happen. While some delegations expressed their objection, many acclaimed this idea, reiterating their belief that ITU, UNESCO and UNDP should be entrusted with these important undertakings.

 

Countries agreed to base their deliberations on the document that had evolved in the Group of Friends of the Chair (GFC) during the intersessional period.

 

Earlier in the session, the Asian group had announced a “package proposal” concerning new mechanisms for global disaster management systems and early warning systems relying on ICTs. The idea was welcomed, not only by the Asian region, but also by Arab states.

 

The Sub-Committee appreciated inputs from the Civil Society Youth Caucus’ and embraced a number of their comments on the chapter on Implementation Mechanism. Civil Society also articulated some frustration about missing opportunities to comment directly on the work of the Sub-Committee.

 

Promising to take into account comments from all stakeholders, Chairman Shope-Mafole closed the session. She urged delegations to finish the first reading of chapters One, Four and the Political Chapeau by Friday, so as to present a first consolidated text by Monday at the latest.
 

 

 

 

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