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The forum: Is it really a good idea? (part 2)

Posted on November 13, 2005 at 7:49 pm by Ricciardi Sebastian

A few weeks ago, I wrote and article here, bringing to the table the potential perils of the latest WSIS possible outcome: The Forum.

Most of my comments were related to a new kind of organization, linked to the UN, without a clear agenda and no foreseeable mechanisms of participation. However, in the last days I’ve heard some interesting proposals about this Forum. Apparently, many people who are pushing for this forum – among them some members of the WGIG and the author of the Argentine proposal, Amb. Ileana Di Giovan – are not thinking in a new organization, but rather in a kind of Event. Something like a periodic (maybe yearly) meeting where all the stakeholders come together as peers, to discuss certain topics that need to be addressed and doesn’t find another place for discussion. So, here are my thoughts on these new ideas.

The biggest idea on this new proposition is to have all stakeholders working as peers. And this is really a new idea: UN environment traditionally recognize two kind of participants: The sovereign states, and the rest of the participants. Many of these non governmental participants are allowed to participate in the process as “observersâ€?. Let me clarify this point: to participate as observer means to be present during the debates, get to speak some fifteen minutes form time to time, and submit comments on what you’ve heard. This is what we experienced during prepcom3 at Geneva. Working “as peersâ€?, on the other hand, means to get involved in the drafting committees, engage in policy discussions, and get your opinion reflected in the final document. So, this would set a new age in UN processes.

The agenda of this forum is still an enigma, and I think that we can’t discuss the how’s without having a clear idea of what are we discussing. There are some ideas about discussing “important issues that are not being addressed elsewhereâ€?, but we should acknowledge that this is a broad description. To launch such a forum without a clear agenda will lead us to the beginning of this discussion, without real benefits to the interested stakeholders, the Internet users and the unconnected, among them.

Prepcom 3 redux – Communication rights in Tunisia

Posted on November 13, 2005 at 4:14 pm by McTim

Today we resume Prepcom3 for WSIS/SMSI. Arriving in Tunisia yesterday was illuminating in terms of privacy and communications rights for electronic comunications in Tunisia.

Landing in Tunis, one can easily buy a SIM card for a mobile phone. Unfortunately, it requires a tremendous amount of personal information in order to get a Tunisiana mobile account. At home, currently Uganda, I can buy as many SIM cards as I want, over the the counter, and without giving an iota of personal data. Why do they need my passport number, date of birth or home address?

The next step for a WSIS participants is even more worrying in terms of privacy. When one picks up one badge at the registration center, one automatically also picks up a nefarious invasion of privacy, the dreaded RFID chip in the WSIS ID badge. With this chip, the organisers of the event can track ones physical presence within a few meters during ones entire stay. Of course, this is done in the name of security. However, I dont recall signing a contract with WSIS regarding the use or handling of my personal data and photo. What will they do with this data after the summit?

I woke up early this morning, and war:walked the hotel grounds looking for WiFi access. I was told it was FORBIDDEN to access the Internet at such an early hour. I jokingly asked if this was a government policy, and was told that it was. I am hoping it is a language issue and not actually a law.

The above experiences, plus the fact that the head of the Reporters Without Borders has been told he is unwelcome in Tunisia, a report that Christophe Boltanski, who was enquiring about human rights in Tunisia, has been beaten and cut, is indicative of the state of freedom of speech and the right to communicate for Tunisians.

Meanwhile Prepcom3 has resumed their discussion on IG issues. No one seems to be moving off of their Geneva positions, and agreement on the most difficult issues seems unlikely.

Set ISOC destination in WSIS

Posted on October 10, 2005 at 6:11 am by

The Tunis Phase of WSIS is knocking at the door and ISOC is actively involved in the process, alongwith a diversified grioup from different geographic locations. Like the unresolved IG issues of Prepcom III, ISOC also yet to set the definite goal – what we want see from the summit and what will be ISOC’s role in the implementation phase. Hopefully the the agenda of pre summit meeting of ISOC WSIS Ambassadors meeting will focus on these issues.

WSIS Final Prepcom not really Final!

Posted on September 30, 2005 at 8:22 pm by McTim

Since we have no agreement on a number of contentious issues, the Prepcom finishes, but negotiations continue in what will probably be a much less multistakeholder process. Not that the Prepcom was truly multistakeholder, but the end-game negotiations will most likely be a government only affair.

This “multigovernmentalism” (phrase coined by Jeanette Hoffman) points the way to whatever final document they will produce. It will be a document produced by a group of governments, not a solution. Solutions to development issues must come from the bottom up, just like Internet Governance. Watching this process (largely fail) for the last 2 weeks, has only reinforced my opinion on this.

One note of hope came from the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus, when they produced a very reasonable “status-quo minus” proposal. It allows for the continuation of ICANN, with some minor reforms. These reforms would have allowed ICANN to “hold the root” as a more internationalised, truly multistakeholder, transparent body. Sort of like the original vision many had for ICANN. Alas, in the polarised environment of the Palais, this was just another in the long line of proposals found unaceptable to the US Government.

Stay tuned…more to come in October and November (and beyond)!

Dernier jour de la PrepCom III

Posted on September 30, 2005 at 12:25 pm by Alex Corenthin

Ce vendredi est le dernier jour de la conférence préparatoire au somment de Tunis de Novembre.
Il apparaît qu’il n’existe pas encore de consensus fort dans les deux sous comités mis en place pour élaborer les textes sur la Gouvernance de l’Internet.

Pour le sous comité A (Gouvernance de l’Internet) les propositions du Groupe Africain semblent être partagés par d’autres gouvernements et l’on semble aller vers une proposition commune, consensuelle sur le chapitre 5, concernant les mécanismes de suivi.
Il reste que des divergences de point de vue demeurent sur ce point, et la presse s’est faite l’écho ce matin des positions contraires adoptées par les Etats-Unis et la Communauté Européenne sur le Gestion de l’Internet.

Notre sentiment est que le seul garant d’une communauté de vue semble être la Communauté de l’Internet, qui a pu garantir un fonctionnement et un mode de gestion participatifs auquel se référent de plus en plus souvent les parties prenantes.

Je n’ai pas particulièrement suivi les travaux du Sous-comité B, mais il semblerait que les mêmes divergences se font jour, et que l’obtention d’un consensus pour Tunis, semble encore à ce stade difficile à trouver.

Je reste malgré tout optimiste sur la capacité des politiques à trouver un commun dénominateur qui entraîne la participation de toutes les parties prenantes au futur d’Internet, en faisant une place particulière à la communauté d’Internet, représentée par ISOC au sein des organismes internationaux tels que l’IUT (mentionné par le Secrétaire Général lors de son allocution en plénière du groupe Africain hier matin).

RV ce soir et les jours suivants pour les résultats de cette PrepCom, dernière ligne droite avant Tunis.

Gobierno de Internet: simplemente, seguimos sin hablar de lo mismo

Posted on September 29, 2005 at 12:56 pm by Gabriela Barrios

“…y sin embargo, se mueve”

A dos dias de terminar la reunion preparatoria para la Cubre de Tunez, me siento con la calidad de afirmar el enorme valor de lo que ha estado ocurriendo en Ginebra, en las dos ultimas semanas, para el proceso en la evolucion del ser humano. Observar la interrelacion de personas con multiples realidades y diversidad cultural, aprendiendo y discutiendo sobre la sociedad de la informacion y el papel que juega el internet es invaluable -porque detras se encuentra el acceso a la informacion, el derecho a la comunicacion y otros temas que pertenencen a la reivindicacion de derechos fundamentales tan largamente esperados por muchos individuos del mundo-. Sin embargo, a tres dias de terminar la PrepCom3, el panorama en cuanto al mecanismo que resulte del proceso no se mira muy claro. Los representantes de los gobiernos que siguen pugnando por meter a Internet en un esquema de control jerarquico no se dan cuenta que estarian condenandolo a muerte.

Es precisamente porque Internet fue desarrollado con un protocolo abierto y no jerarquico que ha llegado a ser lo que es hoy en dia. Para quienes conforman la comunidad Internet es claro que la administracion del protocolo TCP/IP no puede medirse con los parametros de la politica y menos con los del protocolo diplomatico. Han sido horas, dias de discusion de delegados de gobiernos y sociedad civil, unos a favor o en contra de su control; otros a favor de un foro que se convierta en un espacio de dialogo entre las partes interesadas sin necesidad de crear un organismo burocratico; otros que las cosas se queden como estan. El punto comun es que la mayoria de estas personas no comprenden el funcionamiento de Internet e insisten en medirlo con sus propios parametros.

Que seria de la administracion de Internet si siguiera la suerte de la politica?

Ciertamente, los politicos de la Sociedad de la Informacion son -o debieran ser- representantes legitimos de los seres humanos del planeta, tienen el desafio de lograr legitimidad de sus gobiernos, el de lograr sistemas de administracion y procuracion de justicia eficaces; las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, enfocar sus causas, generar conciencia, ampliar sus redes humanas y buscar mayor eficacia. Internet es solo una herramienta de comunicacion y vinculacion para el logro de sus objetivos.

La comunidad internet y su trabajo a lo largo de cuatro decadas ha logrado lo que es Internet hoy en dia. Comunidad que en su mayoria han sido cientificos, hombres y mujeres de buena fe que, basados en la confianza, construyeron un sistema de comunicacion a partir de un codigo abierto. Este paradigma debiera ser una leccion a aprender por quienes caminan, discuten y pretenden crear el nuevo modelo. La brecha digital tambien se da en las mentes de quienes no comprenden que la humanidad esta cambiando y que quieren seguir midiendo con el mismo instrumento dos cosas de naturaleza diferente.

Gabriela Barrios

The Forum : Is it really a good idea ?

Posted on September 29, 2005 at 7:37 am by Ricciardi Sebastian

So in all human affairs one notices, if one examines them closely, that it is impossible to remove one inconvenience without another emerging…. Hence in all discussions one should consider which alternative involves fewer inconveniences and should adopt this as the better course; for one never finds any issue that is clear cut and not open to question.

—Machiavelli, The Discourses

The WGIG Report contains a series of recommendations related to Internet governance mechanisms. Within those ideas, the report promotes the creation of a new space for dialogue for all stakeholders on an equal footing on all Internet governance-related issues, namely the Forum.

The idea of having a space for dialogue, in which all interested stakeholders can discuss a broad range of issues, usually exceeding the current structures’ scope, has its merits. There are a lot of matters that need to be addressed, and it would be very interesting having a place – or at least a mechanism – to do so.

However, there are some drawbacks in this approach, which need special consideration from all the interested stakeholders. Honestly, I think that this Forum would bring more problems and dilemmas than real solutions and the following are just a couple of thoughts that supports this point of view.

The Forum is supposed to be a very lightweight structure, but at the same time, it is expected to have the capabilities to “…Interface with intergovernmental bodies and other institutions on matters under their purview which are relevant to Internet governance, such as IPR, e-commerce, trade in services and Internet/telecommunications convergence…â€? and “…Address issues that are not being dealt with elsewhere and make proposals for action, as appropriate…â€?

These capabilities and many more needed for achieve the functions attributed in the report, are very unlikely to be found in such a lightweight structure. These functions imply not only a strong level of specific expertise in a wide variety of issues, but also funding, staff support, translations, etc.

Moreover, when you take a look at the comments received on the Chairs paper, and the challenging tasks assigned to the Forum by some of their biggest promoters, you start thinking at this as some romantic idea that still needs some work.

The WGIG also thought that this forum should preferably be linked to the United Nations, in a form to be defined, on the assumption that it would be better placed than the existing Internet institutions to engage developing countries in a policy dialogue.

The idea is clearly explained in the Background Report: “…Previous research on the participation of six developing countries in a wide range of international ICT fora and issues as well as in the ITU, WTO and ICANN has shown that factors such as lack of awareness of the relationship between ICTs and development, lack of technical, policy and financial capacity, and weaknesses in national and regional governance processes are serious obstacles to more effective participation by developing country stakeholders at the international level. â€?

The question that immediately comes to my mind is: Would the forum serve as an effective tool for the purpose of engaging development countries in policy dialogue?

Unfortunately, and having participated in the WSIS process these days, I am quite sure that it would not: This process has demonstrated so far to be very restrictive in terms of participation. Too many governments believe that the Internet has evolved from research and academic tools into a global facility available to the public and, being a central element of the infrastructure of the information society, it turns out in a kind of sovereign issue.

If the Forum is somehow linked to the UN, it is very likely to have a government driven agenda, and it is very unlikely to have a real “space for dialogue among all interested stakeholdersâ€?, unless of course you consider fifteen minute intervention once a day and poor presence in the real meetings a good starting point. After all, as one of my colleagues recently pointed out “a little bit is better than nadaâ€?.

ISOC’s comments on the Chair’s Internet Governance paper

Posted on September 27, 2005 at 10:45 am by Webmaster

ISOC has submitted comments on the Chair’s Internet Governance paper. WSIS has also published a compilation of all comments received between the publication of the paper on 23 September and 26 September. The complete text of all the individual contributions received is also available.

China makes political misstep in WSIS

Posted on September 26, 2005 at 9:02 pm by McTim

With the WSIS prepcom3 in full swing, the Chinese government has cracked down further on bloggers and other New Media outlets.

While hundreds of government delegates, business representatives, civil society folk and Internet community actors are all trying to reach some consensus agreements on how best to implement broader communication rights (amongst other things), the Chinese are going backwards on freedom of information sharing.

One can’t help but think that this will further polarise positions and not be helpful to the Chinese in getting what they want from this process. Strange, but true.

ISOC Statement to WSIS – Monday Sept 26

Posted on September 26, 2005 at 12:23 pm by Webmaster

ISOC’s comments made at this morning’s plenary session of WSIS PrepCom-3 Sub-committee A are available here in PDF, Doc and text formats.