After long and heated debates during the first week of Prepcom 2, the Civil Society Bureau was finally endorsed by the Civil Society Plenary on Friday morning. The role of the bureau is to facilitate civil society participation in the WSIS process.
The bureau consists of more than 20 civil society "families" which are each represented by one "focal point". During the Friday plenary, those focal points reported on how each family had constituted itself and which family activities had already taken place. As in the previous days, much criticism about the general concept of a civil society bureau was raised, with many people expressing doubts over the necessity of a bureau, as well as scepticism about creating hierarchical structures. In general, however, the plenary was prepared to allow the bureau a real-life test. It was decided to create the bureau on an interim-basis and to re-think and re-define its role after the PrepCom.
What was still unclear was the division between process and content issues. According to the original proposal, the bureau and the families are responsible purely for procedural questions, while content should be discussed in the thematic caucuses and working groups. However several families expressed their wish to work on content as well, or had already prepared issue papers.
Also, it became once more apparent that the concept of civil society is still unclear. The civil society bureau includes families with close ties to state actors (e.g. "cities and local authorities") or to business actors (e.g. the media family). The definition of civil society will probably need further clarification.
At midday, the Civil Society Bureau met for its constitutional meeting. More information is available on www.geneva2003.org.
Meanwhile, progress of debates within Subcommittee 2, whose task it is to create a draft declaration, is very slow. On Friday afternoon, delegates had still not agreed on a general structure of the documents they were going to draft. The Civil Society Subcommittee on Content and Themes submitted a proposal on how to structure the declaration.