Conflicts will be negotiated in ad-hoc drafting groups
Paris, 16 July 2003. The PrepCop subcommittee two (SC-2) on content and themes has started the discussion about the draft summit declaration yesterday. The government delegates in the drafting subcommittee are currently going through the draft paragraph by paragraph and try to identify consensus and conflicts. Even though the drafting group's chairwoman Lyndal Shope Mafole is doing a very efficient job in keeping the contributions short and sharp, it is already clear that the intersessional meeting will not be able to produce enough results before it ends on Friday. According to the original plan, the drafting group should have finished the debate on the draft declaration before lunch today in order to negotiate the action plan from this afternoon on. Instead, the delegates are still going through the draft summit declaration. They are not even negotiating on the real language of the text, but are trying to identify rough consensus for each paragraph or chapter. The final draft language of the declaration will then be produced by the chairwoman of the drafting subcommittee with support from the summit secretariat. This will probably mean that the action plan is only discussed at PrepCom 3 in September.
The progress made in discussing the summit declaration was only possible because all complicated and conflictive issues were postponed and pushed into other channels. They will now be discussed in ad hoc working groups that consist only of a small number of countries. These ad-hoc groups will each try to find a consensus between the different views and proposals. So far, there are already a number of ad hoc groups agreed upon. One is debating the "concepts", which includes the contested "right to communicate" and the decision between "information society" or "knowledge society". It will be chaired by Canada. A second ad hoc group is on "information security" and will be chaired by the European Union. Kenya is even chairing two ad hoc groups. One deals with "internet governance" and will try to find a consensus between the "ICANN" and "ITU"-factions in the WSIS process, the other one is on "open standards". The ad hoc groups will start their work tonight at 18:30. It is not clear yet if they are closed for observers.
Some conflictive issues are not even being dealt with in formal ad-hoc groups. We heard that Switzerland and the United States were asked by the secretariat to find a draft consensus on the highly contested issue of "open source / free software". This closed-shop approach is directly contradictory to the idea of an inclusive information society. Civil society groups are strongly lobbying for more openness of this process. Closing it would again mean that the observers are locked out of the most influential decisions.