26 September 2005. After intense discussions during the weekend Civil Society was anxiously awaiting the announcement of the PrepCom's decision on whether or not Civil Society groups will be locked out from drafting groups in the ongoing sessions of the Subcommittees finalizing the text of the Tunis summit declaration.
In case the CS representatives would only be allowed to speak in the first 15 minutes and have to leave afterwards (the "talk-and-walk" option), members of several caucuses had already prepared a rather explicit statement. However, chairman Masood Khan started Monday morning's work of subcommittee A without relating to that open question and the committee actually continued drafting of chapter 3 of the "Internet Governance" text in the open plenary. Questioned about this proceeding by the delegate from Nigeria, Khan pretended that due to the lack of translation resources drafting on Monday drafting would still be done in the plenary. According to Khan, this approach also seemed to be appropriate. He regards cluster 3 - which deals with the control over the core Internet resources - being of highest interest for future implementation aspects. These should not be worked on parallel to other clusters, Khan said.
This was obviously the most diplomatic way to delay the sensitive decision about civil society participation in drafting groups. Different governments are still trying to push the chair in one or the other way. Queried later this afternoon at the open consultations to which the EU had invited NGO participants, the EU presidency admitted that no decision - neither good nor bad in civil society's view - had been made up to now. The EU countries together with Canada and others continue to make their point that full civil society participation is vital for the drafting process.
Drafting Groups informally open and inclusive - more or less
Nevertheless, as several governments had spoken up regarding specific parts of his draft, Khan established several "drafting groups" with these countries to sort out the particular text. According to the Chair's words, these small-sized drafting gatherings were intended to be "fully open and inclusive". And indeed the first group, tasked with drafting language on the role of the different stakeholders, turned out to be quite open for civil society members. About ten non-governmental representatives were present and did not have to leave the room. Paul Wilson from APNIC even took the floor in the discussion. All the more, in a number of cases governmental representatives were suggesting to submit text to civil society representatives and then to wait for feedback before proceeding. In the second drafting group, which dealt with part 3a ("infrastructure and management of critical Internet resources"), there were again civil society members in the room. However the climate reportedly was much more formal. One could not be sure about what would happen if one of the non-government people asked for the floor. Or as an NGO member put it, it looked like the governments seemed to be more or less strict in NGO actors' participation depending on the nature of topics. And of the chair, one has to add, as the latter drafting group was chaired by Saudi-Arabia.
Now, as non-governmental people were accepted in today's ongoing drafting meetings, this does of course not eliminate the need to get formal acceptance and adequate speaking opportunities for civil society representatives, as Vittorio Bertola from ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee stressed later today. As a fourth option in addition to "full participation", "talk-and-walk" and "full exclusion" Ambassador Karklins reportedly is trying to propose that each observer organisation is asked to select "focal point" persons who would be allowed to stay in the room with the drafting group till the end. Whichever option will come into effect in the next days, civil society has to be prepared to make a clear statement on the necessity for all parties to ensure significant involvement of CS voices into the drafting process.
Another problem occurred this evening, when Subcommittee A on short notice continued its work on Internet Governance, though it had been announced throughout the day that there would be no evening session this Monday. The civil society speakers, coordinated through the Internet Governance Caucus, had prepared for having their interventions ready by tomorrow morning. They now had to improvise on the fly, and on top of that had less time than normally. Chairman Khan rushed through the parts on public policy and development aspects related to Internet Governance, and in the end, there were only ten minutes left for four civil society speakers, instead of the 15 minutes they normally have. The last speaker actually got cut off by Khan. Even worse was that the civil society statements mostly referred to part 3 (public policy), but the governments had already discussed part 4 (measures to promote development). It would of course have much more sense if they had been given a chance to speak when the issues were still open. Khan and his advisors admitted to us that this was unfortunate, but the fast pace of the process did not allow for more flexible approaches. These flexible approaches had in fact been in place during parts of the first phase of the summit, when for a short while the chair had agreed to a "stop motion" approach. Governments then would hold their negotiations for a moment whenever a thematic cluster was done, and would allow observers to speak right on the issues at hand.
Parallel and evening meetings stretch delegates' endurance
Tomorrow will be the first day of massive parallel meetings. In the morning, the newly formed drafting group on cybercrime, privacy, and consumer protection (paragraphs 52-55, chaired by Norway) will meet in the morning, while at the same time the plenary work of Subcommittees A and B will take place. In the lunch "break", the other new drafting group on paragraphs 49-51 (cybersecurity and spam, chaired by Canada) will meet, leaving the delegates only half an hour for lunch. The afternoon will see subcommittees A in parallel with the new drafting group on development aspects of Internet Governance (paragraphs 65-61, chaired by Senegal). In the evening, subcommittee B will be in the comfortable position to continue its work on the political chapeau and the follow-up mechanisms on its own.
By then, the chocolate bar vending machines in the UN Palace will almost be empty. The café and sandwich bar in the building closes at 17:00, and there is no place to eat anywhere nearby. The delegate from Honduras this evening already made everybody laugh, when chairman Khan had let him waiting for his intervention a bit too long and then remarked that "Honduras is getting angry". The reply was well understood by many delegates: "No, I am getting hungry!"