Civil Society inclusion was not enough
  Paris, 18 July 2003. This afternoon, the Paris intersessional meeting ended with little more results than were already in place yesterday. The summit declaration is still a draft working document with a whole number of bracketed (i.e. not agreed upon) paragraphs and formulations. The action plan was not even discussed in depth. The chair of the drafting committee, Lyndall Shope Mafole, announced that a new draft Declaration would be distributed, which incorporates some views from observers. A second document is to be distributed reflecting discussion of the plan of action. These documents then were printed and disseminated here in the afternoon and will be available at the ITU website soon. The president of the preparatory committee, Adama Samassekou, announced that the work on the action plan will be carried further on a regional basis before the third PrepCom meeting in Geneva in September. A refined version of the draft action plan will be released on the ITU website by 23 of August.

The morning session in the plenary was dominated by strong statements from civil society representatives. Meryem Marzouki from the Human Rights Caucus, speaking on behalf of the Civil Society Plenary, voiced the "profound sense of disappointment and frustration" felt by many civil society participants: "Our participation in the WSIS process has been intense, in both human and financial terms, and many people of course have been unable to participate, notably from the poorest countries. Despite these constraints, civil society has produced many contributions to this meeting. We have offered diverse and practical recommendations. We have spoken about our suggestions with you, but we do not have the feeling we have been heard, or even listened to", she said. Especially the lack of a clear vision beyond the techocratic considerations of "internet for all" was criticized. The lack of a vision for the information society is reflected by clear drawbacks in a number of fields, compared to already established international norms like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. For example, the first part of the current draft only mentions a "new kind of society", without any reference any more to the fact that this has to be "based on human rights and human dignity", as was the case in earlier drafts.

The African Caucus made an excellent point by not referring to the draft summit papers, but by instead telling a number of true stories from the real world. It made very clear how ridiculous the debates in the summit process sometimes are, when in fact the "information society" to some people in Africa would mean a small school library that just consists of a box of books. The idea of the summit therefore should be to help the developing world become better connected to the global information sphere, but with the way how to do it being determined by the people themselves and not by big western companies. The presentation struck most delegates and was applauded by them.

The issue of Gender equality, which had been deleted from the most recent draft, was solved today. A number of NGO members had been lobbying hard to get it back in. They got strong support from the European Union, whose delegates obviously had to recognize that the desire to shorten and streamline the declaration must not be fulfilled at the cost of human rights and gender equality.

The intergovernmental debate that followed the observers' statements mainly focused on financial questions. The Western countries clearly opposed any monetary commitments, while a whole number of developing countries demanded support. Many of them supported the idea of an international digital solidarity fund. No conclusion was reached, and the action plan will obviously need a lot of further work before PrepCom3. It remains to be seen if this will be open to observers or be done behind closed doors.



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