Geneva, 10 November 2003. The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) that met last time without a final agreement in September has resumed its meeting today. The delegates will try to agree on a final version of the summit declaration and a refined plan of action by Friday. The chair of the subcommittee two on content and themes, ambassador Numinem from Finland, summarized the challenges ahead for the week, noting that there are 228 paragraphs to be agreed upon in 34 hours of negotiation.
In the plenary this morning, the governments agreed to take the "Non-Paper" from PrepCom president Adama Samassekou from 5 November as the basis for further negotiations. At the moment, they are going through it paragraph by paragraph. China and Vietnam produced considerable anger among the other delgations when they asked to take out the reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The African Group, the Latin American/Carribean Group, the Arab Group and India and Bangladesh have formed a coalition in support of the 'digital solidarity fund'. They have stated that they will not participate in the process if concensus/compromise is not reached on this issue.
The conflictive paragraphs that were left over from PrepCom3 in September will probably be again dealt with in ad hoc working groups. The Plenary discusses the declaration in sections. These are A (paragraphs 1-16); B (paragraphs 17-58); C (paragraphs 59-60). Civil Society will have one five minute slot for intervention in plenary prior to the discussion of each section. This is much less than at PrepCom3 in September.
Civil Society work online and on site linked with web collaboration tool
Karen Banks from APC was speaking in plenary on behalf of civil society during the opening session. Her statement focused on the lack of impact civil society comments have had so far in the intergovernmental negotiations. It was based on the letter Sally Burch had written on behalf of the content and themes group to PrepCom president Samassekou when she delivered the joint civil society comments to his October "non-paper".
At the civil society plenary, it was very obvious that most of the groups and organisations from developing countries were not able to send anybody to this meeting, as there was no funding available from the ITU. The activists present in Geneva at the moment therefore have to make sure to link all their discussions to the "virtual plenary" email list and other online forms of participation. Derrick Cogburn of Cotelco International Possibilities Unlimited invites interested individuals to participate in a real-time, online organizing meeting to demonstrate the "virtual seminar space" that his team has developed called the "Civil Society ICT Policy Collaboratory" (or "iPC" for short). The meeting will occur on Wednesday 12 November at 16:00h CET in room M2 in the ITU Montbrillant Building. All civil society groups with access to the web are welcome to participate online. Following demonstration of the various interactive tools, there will be an update on the progress of PrepCom3a from observers in Geneva, with opportunities for questions and discussion. Space in the iPC virtual seminar room is limited, and will be open only to the first forty virtual participants. To participate, go here and follow the instructions. See more on this tool here.
Civil Society Work in Geneva
A number of joint civil society working groups are active here in Geneva. At the moment these are:
- Civil Society Content Documents
Task: The group will build upon the work done so far by the group on the civil society alternative declaration / vision document. More information on the structure set up for this is available here. A first draft is available here. The group will also refine the civil society "non-negotiables" paper that was produced in reaction to the Samassekou Non-Paper in October.
Contact: Steve Buckley firstname.lastname@example.org, Karen Banks email@example.com
Call for Input: Some caucuses and working groups were able to submit comments in response to the non-paper, which are now on the ITU website, and have been printed out here. However, some did not have the chance to respond within the 48 time line. All excluded groups are asked to submit comments to Karen Banks by Tuesday, 11 November. If they have forwarded comments to Sally Burch or Bill McIver from the Content and Themes group, but missed the deadline, they are asked to also send them to Karen.
- Monitoring and Information Dissemination
Task: As with all meetings, this group will monitor the plenary sessions and participate in the informal working groups, and shall share those notes with the virtual spaces. The notes will be posted online at http://www.prepcom.net/wsis.
Contact: Rik Panganiban firstname.lastname@example.org
Task: This is a new civil society group that became necessary because of the main conflict between the governments regarding the digital divide and a possible digital solidarity fund. The group will develop a common civil society position on this issue. It will, among other things, be based upon the statement issued by civil society at PrepCom3 in September. More information on that is available here.
Contact: Chantal Peyer email@example.com
- Action Plan
Task: This group will refine and improve civil society ideas and demands for the plan of action. The work will begin on the action plan on Wednesday. It will be based on the Civil Society action plan statement from PrepCom3.
Contact: Jane Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org
- Civil Society Bureau
Task: The Civil Society Bureau will meet on Wednesday and will discuss the Summit participation modalities. The number of entrance passes that are available at the summit is limited to 600 for civil society. The bureau will try to find a solution for this, like sharing passes and so on. Another issue will be the modalities and procedures for the second phase of the summit.
Contact: Renata Bloem email@example.com
Strategic discussions gain importance
Among civil society activists on location in Geneva and on line from other parts of the world, a discussion has finally started on the general strategy and the possibilities and means of using civil society power in the time between now and the summit. Arne Hintz has recently posted an analysis on this website of the growing centrality of the multistakeholder approach for the success of the summit. Civil society groups already at PrepCom3 have made clear that they would not give the "multistakeholder approved" label to the summit declaration if it stays in the current shape. As this will foreseeably not be the case, but the summit organizers at the same time are very keen on selling the event as a new and inclusive approach, civil society suddenly has some power. A discussion on the multistakeholder approach has also started among NGO groups in the context of civil society nominations for speaking slots at the summit.
The general question of civil society strategy is far broader than day-to-day lobbying and assigning speakers to plenary interventions. It is about how the whole summit will be perceived by the world media and public in December. Will it be seen as an inclusive multi-stakeholder process? Will civil society critique of the summit outcomes and process be audible? Will civil society show that it has a much more progressive and far-thinking vision than the governments? The discussion of these questions will be held in the civil society plenary in Geneva this week and online until the summit.