Time running out for negotiations
  Major conflicts still unresolved - chair proposed to skip discussion on action plan
  Geneva, 12 November 2003. The time is constantly getting shorter for the preparations for the world summit. The conflicts still open are on finance, which will be discussed at length tomorrow morning in plenary, "intellectual property", security, media and internet governance.

Major conflicts unresolved so far

On finance, the only governments still fiercely resisting any mention of a "digital solidarity fund" - even if explicitly voluntarily - are Japan and the EU, which is driven here by Germany and the UK. This financing question is now perceived as the major conflict of the summit, and it is the one that clearly could lead to a failure of the whole effort.

The group on "intellectual property" is still in a deadlock between Brazil and the Western Group over the right wording for the balance between the rights of producers and users of intellectual works. The same conflict basically is there in the formulation on Free and proprietary software. There was a consensus proposal for this by Brazil this evening, but it was unclear if there really was an agreement on it yet.

In the security group, major progress was made as the reference to "military security" is out now. At the moment China is blocking the final agreement by insisting on constraining the "free flow of information" by "national legislation". The "media" group also made no progress, because the Chinese delegation insisted on taking the whole paragraph out. On Internet governance, there were indications earlier this week that governments could agree on just stating the need for further discussion in the declaration. But the theme has developed into another main conflict of the whole summit. China again is blocking progress here, because Taiwan is a member of the ICANN government advisory board.

So slowly it is becoming clear that there are two major conflict lines present on here. The first and more prominent is the North-South cleavage. It dominates the finance and "intellectual property" and to some extend the internet governance issues. The other one is the conflict between China and basically the rest of the world on human rights issues and the implicit Taiwan question. This conflict line has not become very prominent yet, but it is clearly blocking progress on a number of issues, and China has shown no movement whatsoever.

Discussion on Action Plan

Yesterday, it was announced that this week's negotiations are the last before the summit convenes in December. The option of having high-level negotiations on the last three days before the summit that had been suggested at the end of PrepCom3 September session will not be used. Today, it became clear that there are still major conflicts that have to be resolved on the draft summit declaration. So the time for discussion on the plan of action is getting shorter and shorter. This is especially omplicated, as a number of paragraphs have not yet been discussed in plenary even once.

The chair of subcommittee two on content, Ambassador Numinem from Finland, quite aware of the shortness on time, therefore made a far-reaching proposal for the further process this evening. He suggested to skip the discussion on most of the text of the current draft action plan and only focus on the text that is in brackets. In this case, as became immediately clear, a number of delegations had strong reservations because they wanted to give their input on the action plan as a whole. This also would mean that the observers would have no chance for further plenary interventions. The Egyptian delegation for example indicated that they would be ready for negotiations through the whole night. Others also stressed the need to discuss thoroughly an action plan that will apply to the next 20 years. On the other hand, fear is rising among the governments that the whole summit will fail to reach an agreement. Mongolia warned openly that in this case "it will be another Cancun".

As this was a very far-reaching proposal, the the conference took a break for consultations. It was reconvened later in the evening after discussions in the regional groups. Most of them were more or less supportive of the proposal. They mainly wanted to make sure that there were no contradictions between the declaration and the action plan, and that they would be able to at least give some more input and suggestions. Only the Western Group could not agree among themselves, while the Eastern European Group insisted on substantial dicussion. Therefore, the delegates here in Geneva will have to do more work in less and less time. The meetings for tomorrow and Friday are already planned until midnight.



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