Finance / Final Negotiations Ended With Consensus
  Digital Solidarity Fund Reviewed Until 2005
  Geneva, 9 December 2003. After a final round of negotiations this morning, the extended PrepCom3 of the world summit on the information society came to an agreement. After the other issues had been solved on Saturday, the remaining open conflict had been on finance and the "Digital Solidarity Fund". The EU had for long blocked every reference the fund at all. After the long negotiations on Friday and Saturday, the finally had agreed on at least mentioning the fund, which already was called "voluntary". The African Group, afraid of being pulled over the table, insisted on also agreeing on specific mechanisms in the action plan for setting up the fund. They were fighting fiercely against the European Union and begging for understanding. "We had hoped to join the family of the information rich", as a delegate from Rwanda put it in the discussions.

On Saturday, the EU proposal had already been to delete parts of the paragraph in the action plan that refers to the "digital solidarity fund". This would have implied a decision between accepting action by some countries in setting up a fund on the one hand, or delaying it by means of a review, because they had to wait for the outcomes, on the other. Even if there was final agreement on mentioning the "Digital Solidarity Fund" in the declaration, the formulation in the action plan the EU was insisting on would have delayed it until 2005. This could as well have been the kiss of death to the whole project, as the second meeting of the summit with new decisions and discussions will be pretty close by then.

Final Agreement on Last Day before Summit

The Swiss facilitator Marc Furrer became more and more frustrated. After he was threatening to close the meeting without a consensus, the delegates took a break for a final last round of informal talks. The African Group finally gave in, with minor changes on the schedule for the study. Now the study is to be conducted by a task force under the auspices of the UN secretary general, to be finished by the end of 2004. The offer the EU had made in return was to raise the importance of this by changing the language from "We take note of the willingness" to "we recognize the will". Though this might not be noticed at all by anybody who reads the document afterwards, it helped a lot in making the African Group agree to the "study first, then maybe a new fund" approach.

The really important move, though, was done somewhere else. The German government on Saturday evening accepted to agree on mentioning the fund in the first place. From what could be heard from insiders, this was essential, because otherwise the common EU position here would have been broken into pieces. Germany must have been under considerable pressure from the other EU governments, who did not want to risk a complete failure of the summit.

The draft declaration of principles now reads like this:

"We recognize the will expressed on the one hand by some to create an international voluntary 'Digital Solidarity Fund', and by others to undertake studies concerning existing mechanisms and the efficiency and feasibility of such a Fund."

The respective part of the action plan has the following wording:

"While all existing financial mechanisms should be fully exploited, a thorough review of their adequacy in meeting the challenges of ICT for development should be  completed by the end of December 2004. This review shall be conducted by a Task Force under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General and submitted for consideration to the second phase of this summit. Based on the conclusion of the review, improvements and innovations of financing mechanisms will be considered including the effectiveness, the feasibility and the creation of a voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund, as mentioned in the Declaration of Principles."



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