Working Group on Human Rights
  From Right to Communicate to Right to Development
  Geneva, 17 September 2003. The first meeting of the ad hoc working group dealing with the question on whether to implement a right to communicate in the WSIS Declaration of Principles ended in conflict today. The intergovernmental meeting, chaired by Canada, did not proceed to the relevant Article 1A. Several countries proposed instead to establish a right to development.

Observers from civil society were given the opportunity to give input at the beginning. The civil society human rights caucus proposed specific wording for Paragraph 1, which was appreciated by governments for its good drafting and elegant language. The US, Spain (speaking for the EU) and Switzerland as well as the Canadian chair expressed their strong support for the proposal of the human rights caucus. The CRIS campaign brought forward, that they would appreciate a reference not so much to the right to communicate, but to communication rights as a concept. This was opposed by the chair, as there is a convention stating that rights have to be implementable.

Iran, Egypt and China strongly supported a mention of the right to development within paragraph one. This was opposed by Switzerland and Spain, who argued that a reference to this right would be too specific. Iran pointed to references of the right to development in other declarations, and Spain proposed to look at recent declarations and how they integrated the right to development. However no concensus was reached on this point. Informally, EU delegates said that such a prominent reference to a right to development, putting it above other rights, was unacceptable.

As further amendments to paragraph one, the US delegate asked for the term "universal access" to be replaced by "freedom of access". Egypt proposed the mention of the "the rigtht of freedom of religion". The canadian chair prefered to keep the paragraph general to avoid discussion on the diverse "pet rights" of everyone. The discussion is to be continued on thursday at 9 a.m. at CCV in Geneve.

Jan Schallaböck, 17th September 2003

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