Contribution on Common Vision and Key Principles for the Declaration

World Summit on the Information SocietyPrepCom-2 - Geneva, February 2003

25 February 2003  16:00

WSIS- Civil Society Working Group on Content and Themes -- Drafting Committee
Contribution on Common Vision and Key Principles for the Declaration


A. Preamble

Recognizing the efforts of governments for developing the Compilation of the Outcomes of the Regional Conferences (Document WSIS/PC-2/DT/1(Rev.1)-E), the Civil Society Working Group on Content and Themes contributes this document.

This document includes input from over twenty thematic caucuses.

B. Comments on Common Vision

We particularly welcome and underline the following references in the compilation document and recommend their inclusion in the declaration:

  • "Freedom of opinion and expression" fundamental to the information society (as embodied in article 19 of the UDHR); "the right to communicate and the right to access information"
  • "Knowledge and information constitute fundamental sources of well-being and progress"
  • Recognition that the digital divide "reflects and is a factor in the differences that exist between and within countries"
  • Development of an information society based on "respect for human rights., democracy, environmental protection, the advancement of peace, the right to development, fundamental freedoms, economic progress and social equity".
  • Pursuing the Millennium Declaration goals: "reducing poverty and unemployment, raising levels of education, improving health services, enhancing empowerment and minimising loss of environmental resources"; also the aim to pursue "goals of promoting sustainable economic and social development, improve quality of life for all, alleviate hunger and facilitate participatory decision-making processes".
  • Serving "the needs of developing countries" and their "opportunity to harness ICTs for shaping their future without the risk of losing cultural identity."
  • "The process of transformation into an information society should be sustainable and equitable."
  • The "need for a people-centred approach"
  • Harnessing "the knowledge and experience of citizens" as the "driving force behind the Information Society"
  • The "genuine participation of all stakeholders"
  • "Women's equal access to information and knowledge as well as equal opportunities as participants and decision-makers in (.) shaping ICT policies and frameworks"

In addition we propose to include the following ideas:
We envision inclusive information and communication societies founded on human dignity, human rights and intercultural dialogue for the advancement of world peace, in an environment free from violence and hatred.

The right to express and communicate information and opinions freely is fundamental to the information society. It encompasses the right to create, innovate, research, access, and impart information and knowledge freely.
Societies where every citizen has the opportunity not only to access information but also to produce it and exercise their creativity.
Societies that mobilise global solidarity to overcome social and geographic inequities and contribute to a more equitable distribution of technological and information resources.
Knowledge and creativity are at the heart of the information society. The diversity and plurality of knowledge plays a crucial role.  
Knowledge is the heritage of all humanity. It is an unlimited resource, that grows and is enriched as it is shared.  Extending and protecting the information in the public domain (global information commons) is a major way of bridging the digital and information divide within and between countries and ensuring conditions for intellectual creativity, technological innovation and participation in the information society.

The personal and public domain knowledge shall be shared between people.
In a democratic society, Information and communications are the foundation for transparency, debate and decision-making and for informed choice of an active citizenry.
C. Comments Key Principles

General Principles:
We welcome and underline the following issues in the compilation document and recommend their inclusion in the declaration:

  • Communication as "the basis of individual and societal existence", and its contribution to securing "the fair, balanced and harmonious development of all people of the world", particularly "the most disadvantaged".
  • Addressing "the interests of all nations, most particularly the interests of developing countries", as well as the "special circumstances of regional, small island developing states".
  • Centrality of "social and economic progress of countries and the well-being of persons and communities' well being; use and benefit of ICTs in order to satisfy needs of individuals, communities and society.
  • "Pooling global and regional available resources" to "extend the benefits of ICTs to all inhabitants of the world".
  • Attention to overcoming "unequal power relations" and "the use of ICTs for  empowerment of women".
  • "Averting new forms of exclusion and reducing disparities between developed and developing countries."
  • "Ensuring equal opportunities for access to information and communication technologies."
  • "Invoking use of ICTs as a tool for environmental preservation and sustainability, (and.) disaster mitigation and prevention."
  • Promoting "appropriate and affordable technologies."

In addition we propose to include the following principles:
Any action relating to development of information and communication societies should be based on human rights and sustainable human development, with reference to the human rights framework. This framework is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments adopted by member states.

The principles of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, and especially those articulated in its sections I and V -- "Values and Principles" and "Human rights, democracy and good governance," respectively -- constitute the framework for evaluating these developments. The final Declaration and plan of action of WSIS should include a direct reference to the UN Human Rights framework, as proposed above.

The final declaration of the WSIS should explicitly express the strong connection between free exchange of knowledge and preservation of peace.
Knowledge and education are critical enabling agents in building information societies in which all citizens can participate on an equal footing.  Collective cleverness and innovation based on cooperative work should be promoted.
Research and academic freedom are keystones of the information society. Academic and public research results should be as far as possible included in the public domain. The public domain plays a crucial role in the creation, evaluation and dissemination of knowledge. 
ICTs, communication and knowledge can play a major part in solutions to the major global problems articulated in the UN Millennium Declaration.
Effective and equal participation of both women and men in the information society needs to be assured if countries are to achieve their development goals and priorities.
Technologies should be at the service of people and their needs. Shaping the future cannot be left solely to market forces.
Recognising cultural development as an alive and evolving process, linguistic diversity and cultural identity need to be not only preserved but also actively fostered. ICTs may provide a means of sustaining languages and cultures. Particular attention should be given to indigenous peoples' needs and contributions.
Media, whether based on digital and traditional technologies, is central to any conception of an information society. Policies must be adopted to guarantee the existence of free, independent, plural and diverse media, including community-owned and managed media.
Radio, as the most widespread electronic communications device in the world, is an effective means of reaching the world's poorest communities. Community broadcasting is increasingly recognised as a bridge across the digital divide between those who have access to the world's information resources and those who do not.

A global debate must be fostered on the future of the information society, and in particular on the role of ICTs in social and community development.  An environment should be created that supports social and community appropriation of technology to meet particular needs.
The global commons, developed as it is by means of public funding and the will of creators, and deriving from our shared physical environment, constitutes a public resource that should not be sold for private profit. 
The concept of fair use should be protected to maximise the potential of creativity in the public sphere. Non commercial use of digital contents should be regarded as fair use and thus protected. Authors should be enabled to donate their intellectual contents to the public domain without technological or financial obstacles.
Promote policies to build the infrastructure of the information society in developing countries through responsible re-investment of telecommunications profits made in those countries, whether from the private or public sector.
Recognising young people as leading creators, adapters and adopters of ICTs, with a crucial role to play as agents of change, multi-stakeholder and intergenerational partnerships should be encouraged.
While harnessing the use of ICTs as a tool for environmental preservation and sustainability, there is a need to pay attention to: the energy consumption of ICTs, the potential of ICTs to help dematerialize our economic activities, ecodesign and longer life cycles of electronic equipment, recycling and the trade in e-waste, and improved coherence of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) such as the Basel Convention on Toxic Waste (including electronic waste) with the WTO.

There must be democratic and transparent Internet Governance, including globally shared responsibility Root-Server management. [PPP, Public Private Partnership Model]

Each country should have the right to make their own rights and policies, including intellectual property laws for developing its own knowledge base and culture without any oppression from other countries.
Priority should be given to community-driven communication initiatives, developed in response to local needs and under community control.
Global intellectual rights regimes should be reviewed to restore the balance between common interest of sharing knowledge and culture on the one hand and ensure continuing expansion of creation on the other. They should also protect the access to past knowledge, in any new format and media, as part of the global heritage of humanity.

Current concerns felt by many governments in the area of 'information security' is resulting in the formulation of policies and regulation (in areas such as data retention, data sharing, monitoring, surveillance, interception, filtering, blocking) which run the serious risk of infringing people's right to communicate freely using information and communication technologies and services. It also contributes to an insecure atmosphere which is incompatible with peace seeking.


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