Civil society goes its own way in Info Society summit

Preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society still look to be in some disarray, with the Civil Society lobby at the conference drafting its own 'vision document".

Preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society still look to be in some disarray, with the Civil Society lobby at the conference drafting its own "vision document”.

This, it says in a statement, is “the result of a two-year, bottom-up, transparent and inclusive online and offline discussion process among civil society groups from all over the world.” New Zealand’s own civil society lobby has been participating in that process since early this year.

The international lobby plans to present that vision at the summit in Geneva in December 2003, in the face of what it sees as an inability of government representatives to agree even on basic questions.

“If the governments want to agree, they can agree in five minutes. We now have the feeling that there is no political will to agree on a common vision.

“Not even the basis of human life in dignity and equality, the [United Nations] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, finds support as the basis for the Information Society,” the civil society movement says. That declaration is still not included fully in the Declaration of Principles for the conference.

“Governments are not able to agree on a comitment to basic human right standards as the basis for the Information Society, most prominent in this case being the freedom of expression.

“There is also [an] ongoing fight over issues such as media, internet governance, limited intellectual monopolies such as copyright, free software, security and so on. This underlines our assessment that there is a lack of a common vision.

“Therefore we will now stop giving input to the intergovernmental documents. Our position is that we do not want to endorse documents that represent the lowest common denominator among governments – if there will be anything like that."

The New Zealand government’s official representative at the conference’s preparatory meetings, the National Library’s Winston Roberts, declined to comment on WSIS progress or likely government reaction last week. He indicated a statement might be forthcoming in the second half of this week [ie week commencing December 1].

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