24 October 2005. A coalition of civil society organizations today has announced they will hold a major alternative event when the WSIS summit meets in Tunis less than four weeks from now. This decision was triggered by two developments: The first is a lack of meaningful civil society inclusion in the preparatory process, as again was stated publicly during the last meeting of the PrepCom in September. The second reason is the growing suppression of independent voices in the summit host country Tunisia. The "Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS)" is therefore organized together with independent Tunisian civil society groups.
The event will start on 16 November at 16:00 and will end in the morning of 18 November. Location details are being confirmed at the moment and will be announced in time. Due to security reasons, the logistics details are not public yet. Tunisian authorities are known for their tactic of cancelling uncomfortable meetings shortly before they are about to start, cancelling room bookings and even blocking roads to the events. The organizers are all accredited to the official summit and therefore enjoy some kind of immunity. But as the Citizens' Summit will take place outside of the summit premises and the host country agreement is still not published, there is of course a real danger of the event being stopped by Tunisian police and secret service.
According to the announcement, the CSIS objectives are twofold:
"To send a strong message of support and solidarity from international civil society to the local civil society and citizens;
To address the main issues being debated at the WSIS, from the perspective of citizen groups and the public."
The organizing committee includes many individuals that have been key actors in the WSIS process in the last four years, among them members of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the WSIS Swiss Civil Society Coalition Comunica-ch, the CRIS Campaign (Communication Rights in the Information Society), the Human Rights Caucus, the Third World Institute (IteM) or the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). They now call "Citizen groups, Civil society organizations, National, Regional and International Institutions, Government Delegations, and all other interested parties and individuals" to participate in the Citizen's Summit. They are encouraged to express their support by signing on as a supporter, offering a donation, contributing to the CSIS program, supporting the CSIS in a WSIS parallel event, and of course by spreading the word.
Announcement of the Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) (rtf)
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www.citizens-summit.org (will be online soon)