Summit Preparations Closer to Agreement
  Only finance still open
 
 
  Geneva, 6 December 2003. The negotiations at PrepCom3B have made significant progress toward a final consensus on the summit declaration and action plan today. The working group meetings and the PrepCom plenary were closed to all observers until the end, but the Swiss government gave a briefing for civil society this afternoon. We also were able to gather infomration from delegates participating in the meetings. As of 24:00 Sunday night, the only open issue is finance and the "digital solidarity fund", where the main conflict is between the EU - mainly Germany - and Africa.

Human Rights

The delegations agreed on a modified version of the text from the Swiss "non-paper" from 1st December. The final paragraph reads like this now:

"We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The last sentence is different compared to previous versions of the draft declaration, where the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been treated as equal.

Internet Governance

This was one of the last issues where fierce fighting was going on, as a number of developing countries insisted on an "intergovernmental" mechanism, while the US and the EU wanted to keep "between governments and other interested parties" as implemented in the current ICANN structure. The agreement in the end was agreeing that they do not agree:

"We ask the Secretary General of the United Nations to set up a working group on Internet governance, in an open and inclusive process that ensures a mechanism for the full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, involving relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums, to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of the Internet by 2005."

This almost looked like a working consensus, until Azserbaijan produced some sweat on the forehead of the Swiss facilitators. The Azserbaijan delegation asked to replace "occupied territories" by "occupied countries". This language is still hanging, but it looked like Azerbaidjan will not want to jeopardize the whole summit on this.

Security

On the security paragraph, there is now an agreement on the consensus language from the Swiss "non-paper". Russia accepted to take out "military security", in exchange the US agreed on the term "information security". This deal had already been reached in November, but then it was blocked by the Chinese delegation's insistence on national exceptions from human rights. This issue could be solved, as the EU in turn accepted to take out "consistent with the free flow of information". The final security paragraphs now read as follows:

"Strengthening the trust framework including information security and network security, authentication, privacy and consumer protection, is a prerequisite for the development of the Information Society and for building confidence among users of ICTs. A global culture of cyber-security needs to be promoted, developed and implemented in co-operation with all stakeholders and international expert bodies. These efforts should be supported by increased international co-operation. Within this global culture of cyber-security, it is important to enhance security and to ensure the protection of data and privacy, while enhancing access, and trade. In addition, it must take into account the level of social and economic development of each country and respect the development-oriented aspects of the Information Society."

While recognizing the principles of universal and non-discriminatory access to ICTs for all nations, we support the activities of the United Nations to prevent the potential use of ICTs for purposes that are inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security, and may adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure within States, to the detriment of their security. It is necessary to prevent the use of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist purposes while respecting human rights."

"Intellectual Property" and "Knowledge Sharing"

In this group, to the surprise of many observers, an agreement was also reached tonight. It was very much based on the proposal from the Brazilian government, which was able to maintain its position until the last hour. The text now has been stripped of any references to existing "agreements" like the WIPO or TRIPS treaties. The text clearly is an improvement over previous drafts from the perspective of civil society:

"Intellectual property protection is important to encourage innovation and creativity in the information society; similarly, the wide dissemination, diffusion, and sharing of knowledge is important to encourage innovation and creativity. Facilitating meaningful participation by all in intellectual property issues and knowledge sharing through full awareness and capacity building is a fundamental part of an inclusive information society."

Part of the deal also was to delete all references to intellectual property protection in the action plan.

Media

In this section, there was also an agreement reached today. The general consensus was endangered until the end, because the EU wanted to take out the reference to "highest ethical standards" for media.

"We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of media, which are essential to the information society. Freedom to seek, receive, impart and use information for the creation, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge are important to the Information Society. We call for the responsible use and treatment of information by the media in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards. Traditional media in all their forms have an important role in the Information Society and ICTs should play a supportive role in this regard. Diversity of media ownership should be encouraged, in conformity with national law, and taking into account relevant international conventions. We reaffirm the necessity of reducing international imbalances affecting the media, particularly as regards infrastructure, technical resources and the development of human skills."

Still Open: Finance

There was significant movement earlier today, when Senegal and Japan came up with a joint proposal on this issue. It took note "on the one hand, of the willingness of some countries to create a voluntary digital solidarity fund, and on the other hand, of the willingness of others to join in a the feasibility studies of the creation of such a fund." This was not greeted with too much excitement. But it was an important move, because if Japan is going along with Senegal as one of the main supporters of such a fund, it is harder for the EU to maintain their opposition.

This afternoon, there was a meeting between the European Union and the African Group, that still ended without a solution. There was a "clear division between the South and the North", as a delegate from Rwanda put in the evening plenary. The meeting went back to the text of the Swiss "non-paper" in the end and modified it. In the evening plenary, there was a long discussion and another series of informal consultations on this, but no consensus could be reached. There will be more consultations on this issue on Tuesday, 8th December, from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning.

At the moment, it looks like the whole summit agreement is depending on the German government. All other issues have been more or less solved. The remaining conflict is between the EU and the African Group over mentioning a "digital solidarity fund". The EU is massively blocked by Germany here, specifically the German ministry of finance. They currently do not have a delegate here in Geneva. It remains to be seen if the minister for economics and labour, Wolfgang Clement, who will lead the German delegation at the summit, has a mandate for deciding on this matter. It would be terribly difficult to sell to the public why the whole summit can fail reaching an agreement over an explicitly  "voluntary" measure.


 
 
 
 
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