NEW DRAFT OF SUMMIT DECLARATION IS BEING DEBATED
  Closer to final document, but conflicts remain
 
 
 
Paris, 17 July 2003. Two hours ago, at 16:30, the new draft of the summit declaration was released by the secretariat. It incorporates the rough consensuses reached during the first two days of of the Paris Intersessional Meeting. With this new basis for further negotiations, the delegates are much closer towards agreeing on a final draft for the heads of state and government, who are to sign it at the summit in December. The document has also been cut down and become more focused. The delegates are currently discussing the new draft and will probably not finish before later this evening.

Though there has been some progress, the main conflicts areas remain contested. First of all and most prominently, the government delegates could not agree on the right to communicate, which had been the focus of a number of civil society groups, most prominently the CRIS campaign (Communication Rights in the Information Society). In yesterday evening's ad hoc drafting group on concepts and rights, the European Union had made the suggestion to just intruduce a "freedom to communicate". This was mainly blocked by Egypt. The new draft declaration now gives the plenary three options to decide between: a) Recalling Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (free speech), b) introducing the "freedom to communication and freedom of information", or c) introducing the "freedom to access information and utilize it".

Another area of debate is the "intellectual property rights" regime, which was strongly contested by a number of developing countries and civil society organizations. The latest draft is very inconsistent here. In paragraph 5, there is clear supporting language on the "individual and collective ability to create and share knowledge". Paragraph 23 goes in the same direction in supporting a public domain of information. On the other hand and quite contrary to this, a new draft paragraph 40 states that "intellectual property protection is essential to the information society". Not surprisingly, this paragraph includes text proposed by the US government, which has for long been a supporter of the interests of big media companies. It is far from clear how these contradictions will be resolved.

The internet governance issue (see article from yesterday) has not been resolved either. While the US and some other governments want to keep it run by ICANN as a private-public partnership in control of the US department of commerce, others demand a more prominent role of international organizations like the ITU. The general demands of civil society groups for more openness and democracy in internet governance, regardless of the organization running the internet, is being blocked by the Chinese and some other delegations. The whole paragraph 44, which is dealing with internet governance, is still in brackets, which means there is no consensus on it yet. In the meantime, the ITU managed to sneak into the draft declaration with a prominent role for this in paragraph 17.

In the ad hoc drafting group on "security" which was chaired by the European Union, government delagates almost reached a consensus last night with a remarkably balanced new paragraph 34. It includes language proposed by the Siwss delegation that puts security, authentication, privacy and consumer protection on the same level. The new consensus paragraph even includes a proposal made by Brazil, recongnizing that the development orientation of the summit should not been overrridden by security concerns. The problems appeared when the Russian delegation showed up late and insisted on adding two more paragraphs. These would introduce language on "the use of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist ends" (paragraph 35D) and on the "national souvereignty" that must be secured in the use of information and communication technologies. These paragraphs are understood by most delegations and civil society groups as aiming towards censorship and surveillance in the information sphere. They are therefore informally called the "Chechnya paragraphs". A statement by the civil society working group on security and privacy published this afternoon also clearly asks for their deletion. It is unclear how this will be resolved in the plenary negotiations.

Even the consensus areas of the draft declaration are not automatically to be welcomed. A number of civil society groups are very concerned that some important isses have been cut out of the draft declaration in order to proceed with the negoatiations. Among them are the strong words in support of Gender equality that had been in the previous drafts. The NGOs on location in Paris are currently lobbying for getting these back into the declaration.

 


 
 
 
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