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Let us participate in WCIT preparations, say civil society groups

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 17 May 2012 - As the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) 2012 is going on in Geneva, Switzerland, under the auspices of the United Nations Educational Scientific an Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), ARTICLE 19, together with 30 other NGOs, has signed on to a letter asking for greater transparency and civil participation in the ITU.

17 May 2012

Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré
International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Place des Nations 1211-Geneva 20

Dr. Alexander Kushtuev
Chairman of the Council Working Group to Prepare for the WCIT-12
Rostelecom Representative in Switzerland
OJSC “Rostelecom” Russian Federation
Via: [email protected]

To Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré, the Council Working Group to Prepare for the WCIT-12, and ITU Member States:

The undersigned human rights advocates, academics, freedom of expression groups, and civil society organizations write to express our desire to participate in the preparatory process undertaken for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The current preparatory process lacks the transparency, openness of process, and inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders that are imperative under commitments made at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). We ask that the Secretary-General, the Council Working Group, and Member States work to resolve these process deficiencies in several concrete ways.

The continued success of the information society depends on the full, equal, and meaningful participation of civil society stakeholders (along side the private sector, the academic and technical community, and governments) in the management of information and communications technology, including both technical and public policy issues. Indeed, WSIS outcome documents recognize the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in technical management and policy decision-making for ICTs. See, for example, Paragraphs 58, 37, and 52 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society.

The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society urges international organizations “to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly from developing countries, have the opportunity to participate in policy decision-making . . . and to promote and facilitate such participation.” (Paragraph 52) And such participation depends on transparency and openness of process at every stage of substantive and procedural dialogue.

Yet there has been scant participation by civil society in the Council Working Group's preparatory process for the WCIT so far, even as media reports indicate that some Member States have proposed amending the International Telecommunication Regulations to address issues that could impact the exercise of human rights in the digital age, including freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy rights. Under the current process, civil society participation is severely limited by restrictions on sharing of preparatory documents, high barriers for ITU membership (including cost), and lack of mechanisms for remote participation in preparatory meetings.

As an important step towards fulfilling WSIS commitments for building a more inclusive information society, the undersigned request that the Secretary-General, the Council Working Group, and Member States:

  • Remove restrictions on the sharing of WCIT documents and release all preparatory materials, including the Council Working Group's final report, consolidated reports from all preparatory activity, and proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations;

  • Open the preparatory process to meaningful participation by civil society in its own right and without cost at Council Working Group meetings and the WCIT itself, providing formal speaking opportunities and according civil society views an equal weight as those of other stakeholders. Facilitate remote participation to the extent possible; and

  • For Member States, open public processes at the national level to solicit input on proposed amendments to the International Telecommunication Regulations from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, and release individual proposals for public debate.

We welcome Secretary-General Touré's commitment to creating a more inclusive information society and ensuring equitable access to ICT around the world. Collectively and individually, the undersigned human rights advocates, academics, freedom of expression groups, and civil society organizations work to fulfill this vision through a range of national and global institutions and we call for the same opportunity to engage at the WCIT, consistent with WSIS commitments. We urge you to ensure the outcomes of the WCIT and its preparatory process truly represent the common interests of all who have a stake in the future of our information society.


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