Copenhagen, 8th of July 2005
Dear Madame Reding,
We are writing in order to inform you, and your European colleagues, of the deep engagement of civil society in the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the current preparations leading up to the second Summit in Tunisia in November 2005.
We would like to underline the good interaction between European Union governments and civil society during phase I. As European Information Society and Media Commissioner we believe that you are in a position to advance dialogue between civil society and the EU both in the preparations leading up to the Summit in Tunisia, at the Summit itself, and beyond.
The WSIS process has been a summit process, promoting a multi-stakeholder approach throughout, not only granting civil society opportunities to express political views and recommendations, but also giving it a structural stake in the process. It is thus imperative that strong civil society participation is supported and maintained. Several European countries have taken a leading role in building productive relations with representatives from civil society. They have shown the way towards an exchange and cooperation between representatives of governments and civil society based on trust and mutual appreciation. Given our experiences in the WSIS process so far, we would like to express our interest and willingness to intensify civil society-EU cooperation, particularly with a view to establishing a strong and much needed regional network for the WSIS implementation and monitoring process.
This need for dialogue between civil society and the EU is underlined by the problems encountered by civil society in Tunis and by international civil society organizations when in Tunis. Serious threats are being directed at civil society organizations and freedom of expression in Tunisia, affecting all of civil society's participation in the Tunis Summit.
Human rights organizations have questioned the decision to hold this conference in Tunisia, a country that tolerates little criticism of the government and that blocks websites on the basis of their political content. It is the fear of many civil society organizations that the Tunis Summit will neither be representative nor allow for the involvement of civil society organizations, which are deeply involved elsewhere in the WSIS process. It is therefore urgent that international civil society is engaged in a constant and constructive dialogue with the EU, in order to discuss these issues and to ensure that the EU is fully informed of the positions and status of civil society in the WSIS process.
In addition, the status of civil society in the process and true inclusion of all stakeholders depend on allocating financial resources to secure participation for those NGO's, especially from developing countries, that are deeply involved in the process, but constrained in their participation by lack of funding for the high costs of travel and accommodation.
In our view, the European region is well suited to play an exemplary role by fully integrating civil society in the WSIS implementation and monitoring process, thus keeping alive the WSIS spirit and making the provisions of the WSIS Declaration and Action Plan a reality. Just as WSIS has promoted the multi-stakeholder approach and thereby broken new ground on the summit level, its implementation along these lines, supporting a strong follow-up process and securing the necessary stocktaking, can show the way towards prime objectives of the EU, most notably those concerning regional and social integration.
We therefore urge you to support dialogue and the increased involvement of civil society with the EU. We also suggest that a civil society liaison be appointed to ease interaction between the EU and European civil society both in the present process and beyond.
We thank you for your efforts so far and look forward to an open and constructive dialogue with you in the future.
On behalf of European civil society on WSIS
Jane Finnerup Johnsen
FN-forbundet/Danish UN Association
Midtermolen 3 st. th.
DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø
Tel. +45 35467381
Fax +45 35467350
e-mail - please respond to: <wsis-euc(at)fsfeurope.org>