21 May 2005. A conference "between the summits" organized UNESCO in St. Petersburg, Russia, last weekend, had a lively discussion on the role of content on the Internet. Another heated topic were multi-stakeholder partnerships. A comprehensive report can be found on Rik Panganiban's blog. Participants of the roundtable on the Role of NGOs in the Information society issued a recommentation on the role of UNESCO in the WSIS follow-up. We document it below.
RECOMMENDATIONS: NGO Roundtable Session
19 May 2005
The participants in the Roundtable on NGO Role in the Information Society,
Express deep concern about emerging societal threats such as privatization of public goods (i.e education and research), new forms of surveillance, modification of private information, socially-impacting "spam," and government efforts to threaten NGO independence through legislation and controlled representation.
Reaffirm the need to balance commercial intellectual property rights with rights to access information and the public domain, particularly public information, education and archival material.
Note that civil society and especially NGOs play an important role in balancing the interest of government and the private sector, humanizing the Information Society, serving several functions from watchdog to protester, advocate, policy expert and implementer.
Civil society considers that UNESCO is an enabler and integrator of co-structures between governments and non-government parties. In order for civil society to fully support UNESCO, the organization should:
1. model effective ICT partnerships with civil society and the private sector for other institutions, by demonstrating clear rules of conduct, transparency, human social capital, balanced representation, equal participation, and focused workplans and evaluations.
2. encourage other stakeholders to engage with civil society by initiating partnerships, facilitating support and funding for civil society partication, capacity-building, reaching beyond traditional UNESCO and UN NGO communities.
3. Promote the idea that ICT content issues that matter, including freedom of expression and of the media (online and offline), cultural diversity, capacity-building, and universal access to information, emphasizing the principle of openness, including open source, open standards and open content.
4. Facilitate the sharing of information, analysis and best-practices among civil society networks at the local, regional and national levels.
5. Support a post-WSIS evaluation process through an international independent body to monitor policy development and fund people-centered research. This body would provide an evaluation mechanism that corresponds to criteria established by civil society, particularly the research community, so that civil society is brought into ICT policy from the design phase to implementation.