Friday, February 25, 2005

WSIS Prepcom2 Wrapup

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From worldsummit2005.org -- "PrepCom debate on Internet Governance":

Presentation of WGIG preliminary report - final report to be discussed at PrepCom3

24 February 2005. Today the focus of PrepCom debates moved from finance to internet governance. Markus Kummer presented the preliminary report of the Working Group on Internet Governance, and many government delegates took the opportunity to comment on the report, uncovering some of the deep lines of conflict from the first WSIS phase. The final report will be presented in mid-July and will be thoroughly discussed at PrepCom3 in September.

Most of the day was used for extensive comments by government delegations on the WGIG report and by their recommendations for its future work. Many of these comments reflected the deep controversies around who should control internet governance -- controversies which had dominated the debates on this issue in the first WSIS phase. Many governments, particularly from the Global South, felt that governments should have more say in the emerging system of internet governance. A lack of legitimacy of present governance structures was recognized and was assigned to a lack of participation by the international community -- with "international community" meaning "nation-states" or rather "national governments". Some countries referred to the internet as a global public good whose governance should involve all stakeholders but with a special role for governments.

Meanwhile Australia expressed the views of many government delegations from the EU and North America when it called for the reform of existing institutions rather than creating new insitutions -- which should be understood as a defense of ICANN and as scepticism towards inter-governmental mechanisms. The delegation urged everyone not to compromise on the dynamism which has characterized the internet so far, and in which the private sector has played an important role.

Bulgaria enriched the debate by pointing to its own national multi-stakeholder forum which has developed well-functioning national policy and which could serve as a model for a global multi-stakeholder governance system. Venezuela urged the WGIG to focus on mechanisms for affordable access, while Samoa suggested that internet governance should be linked to development objectives, and that the deep connections between internet governance and policies by international institutions, such as the WTO and WIPO, should be looked at. These interventions underlined the view mentioned by the South African delegation, namely that the supposedly "technical" issues of internet governance are in fact very political.

Civil society delegates from several caucuses, including the human rights caucus, the media caucus, the gender caucus, and the privacy&security caucus had collaborated on a statement which was coordinated by the internet governance caucus and which had been endorsed by the general civil society content and themes meeting on Wednesday evening. The statement focuses on the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration, suggesting WGIG as a working model. It also emphasizes the importance of the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, cultural and linguistic diversity, and an effective participation of all people from all regions of the world.

After several hours of discussion, President of Prepcom Karklins made a proposal for the further process:
-> 11 July: Presentation of the WGIG final report, follwed by a common discussion
-> submission of written contributions by all stakeholders until mid-August
-> compilation of contributions by the President
-> negotiations on the WGIG report and the contributions during PrepCom3

This proposal was largely adopted. The proposed compilation is to be an "information document", not an official draft of the respective chapter of the Tunis document. Due to time clashes with an ICANN meeting to take place around 11 July, it was proposed to move the WGIG report presentation to 19 July. However the time plan is not yet finalized.

This current plan means that there will not be an intersessional meeting and that there will not be a "Group of the Friends of the Chair" (GFC) to propose a summary of the WGIG findings for the Tunis document. The proposed procedure reflects the unwillingness of several governments to let another closed GFC group draft an important and deeply controversial section of the Tunis document. It also addresses the concerns of civil society representatives about a possible inter-governmental follow-up process which may exclude civil society. However it also means that a lot of work is waiting for delegates at PrepCom3 in September. They will have to speed up negotiations substantially to achieve an agreement in time for the Tunis summit.

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