[WSIS CS-Plenary] FW: Communiqué de Presse de la Société Civile
gurstein at ADM.NJIT.EDU
Tue Mar 8 14:47:13 GMT 2005
Simultaneous with the PrepCom in Geneva, I was attending a regional conference (that I was a contributing organizer to) of those active in Community ICTs in the Pacific Region of Canada with a number of other groups also participating. http://www.2005summit.ca/
There were in the end, some 500+ people attending, including perhaps 1/3rd who were Canadian First Nations (aboriginal) and thus representing Canada's most marginalized citizens.
The framing concepts of the discussions were two:
the real changes and extended opportunities that ICTs were bringing about in communities large and small and particularly rural and remote throughout the region and the profound sense of optimism concerning the empowerment towards community transformation which this was providing
the continuing process of reduction (towards elimination in one year) of Canadian Federal Government support for these initiatives and how to respond to this.
I organized a session on WSIS and particularly the possible intervention by Canadian CS in the WSIS process during the conference. The overwhelming reaction was negative both by those few attending who had had any involvement as well as the others who had little or no information on or involvement in the WSIS process.
Certainly there seemed to be no elements either of the official or of the CS activities around WSIS that were such as to stimulate or enable an engagement with the WSIS process by these community activists. It is quite telling that almost the only linkage between the attendees at the Vancouver conference and the WSIS I event was that several had been brought over by the Canadian Government to be displayed as "best practices" in the accompanying ICT4D trade show.
The possible connection between the elimination of financial support for these programs (which it should be noted will impact most directly on the most vulnerable in the society) and the global processes of WSIS in which the Canadian Government is a very active participant seems invisible to all.
(As an aside, it is now the case that the progress of e-Government within Canada is such that welfare applications in certain provinces can only be obtained by downloading forms from the Internet. The elimination of the funding for public access identified above will precisely impact most directly on those public access sites which are used by many to undertake these kinds of required activities. It should also be noted that quite parallel processes are at work in the US and Australia with the parallel elimination of public funding in support of broad community access.)
Okay, what's the point...
Well the point is that the issues of the Global Information Society are real, they impact the lives of those living in real communities in both the South and the North, those with whom CS should/could be engaging are not being engaged, the opportunities for achieving international solidarity (peer to peer connections) around issues of concern and interest to both the North and the South are not being realized, and one wonders whether the current CS efforts to engage as "stakeholders" in these processes will help to resolve or to exacerbate these issues in the absence of some effective linkage with, if not representation by those on the ground being immediately impacted by ICT developments.
From: plenary-admin at wsis-cs.org [mailto:plenary-admin at wsis-cs.oisrg] On Behalf Of Diego Fernandez
Sent: March 7, 2005 9:28 PM
To: plenary at wsis-cs.org
Subject: RE: [WSIS CS-Plenary] Re: [WSIS CS-Plenary] RE: [WSIS CS-Plenary] Communiqué de Presse de la Société Civile
As JFK said, "...Ask not what your country can do for you - Ask what you can
do for your country". Your points of view are deep and interesting. In
fact I share your point of view of must of your concerns. It's a fact that
we might not represent all the civil society from our country and even that
some of us might be judging a reality that is not ours. If so, we should
focus on the opportunities of being objective in our proposal instead of
crying for that lack of participation from our communities. I believe that
we shouldn't criticize the mistake from the PrepCom-2, but we should promote
alternatives for those areas of opportunities.
Since our return from Geneva, we where sharing some of your concerns as I
mention before, therefore that We took a roll which I invite all of you to
take as yours which is that, Those how have the change to be closer to the
WSIS and it's PreComs should become the speakers of there
homelands/communities and to do so, we first have to become the ears of our
people. We're actively working in our country sharing what we hear and saw
at PrepCom-2 but also asking to the people for there concerns in order to
speak for those that wont be present at PrepCom-3. Let's share with our
people at least some good-links and if you're one of those that doesn't have
time to do so, or if the people are approaching you inquiring about a field
that is not the one that we represent, at least let's give then the name of
the people that runs Caucuses that are related to them.
Thanks for your time and If I was not polite enough, please excuse that
English is not my mother language and I was just trying to express how much
I identify my self with your words and that we should move from words to
Diego A. Fernandez
>From: Carlos Afonso <ca at rits.org.br>
>Reply-To: plenary at wsis-cs.org
>To: plenary at wsis-cs.org
>Subject: [WSIS CS-Plenary] Re: [WSIS CS-Plenary] RE: [WSIS CS-Plenary]
>Communiqué de Presse de la Société Civile
>Date: Mon, 07 Mar 2005 15:30:05 -0300
>I am going to be a bit provocative with this answer.
>I agree civil society presence is *very* small in relation to the
>numbers and broad diversity of civil society organizations worldwide. I do
>not agree it is self-selected. I do not agree it represents nothing and
>that it would be useless regarding the overall goals of a "better and more
>A scenario: drop all current civil society participants from the
>rooms and tables, let us see what happens. What alternatives would we have?
>Anyone who has tried to mobilize cohorts to get more involve know how
>difficult this is. There is no spontaneous generation of massive
>participation -- sparks are needed.
>I agree the representation is not perfect (which one would be?), that
>may have government and private companies disguised as NGOs and so on,
>along with dedicated and serious NGO cadres clearly connected to and
>working in consensus with their constituencies, that results are uneven and
>many times frustrating etc.
>I understand we use "civil society" and "private sector" just for the
>of summarizing arguments -- no need to elaborate on them, reproduce a whole
>Alan Wolfe book, every time we quote them -- but the terms are very
>I miss in this representation the academic sector. OK, one can argue
>whether it is part of civil society, but why don't the academics force
>the stakes to be far more present than they are? In the case of the
>e-Universities in the South (the "e-" here understood, in the very
>proper expression of Samassekou, as "elite"), the moves to be more
>present in these discussions, as has been since colonial times, are
>zero, nada. But they do sometimes excellent (for their own academic
>standards) post-mortem analyses...
>Sorry to say it, but academics frequently tend to criticize organized
>society without being really involved from the inside, which leads to
>unfortunate generalizations -- maybe because one cannot penetrate the
>research sample without risking to alter it?
>What about the "e-Universities" in the North (well-known exceptions
>Gurstein, Michael wrote:
>>Surely the real problem with all of this is the issue of who is Civil
>>Society and how on earth can a small self-selected group such as those
>>who have the time and resources to attend a two week conference in
>>Geneva "represent" Civil Society in any meaningful way? I'm not in
>>anyway disparaging the capability or commitment of those who did
>>attend but only to make the self-evident observation that Civil
>>Society (however it is defined or constituted) is rather broader and
>>more diverse than what is represented here and that the real issue
>>remains how to provide a meaningful and effective voice for this
>>"larger civil society" and some useful process of
>>legitimation/accountability for those who are able/willing to become
>>"representatives" for CS in forums such as the WSIS Prepcoms (and
>>beyond?)! It seems to me further, that there is a very real danger in
>>the drive towards a "Multistakeholder" follow-up to WSIS. It seems
>>likely on the basis of current practice, that this lack of
>>legitimation and representativeness will in fact be perpetuated in
>>this forum as well, with the result that the role of Governments as
>>the democratically constituted (and thus formally "accountable" at
>>least in theory) "representatives" of citizens are demoted to simply
>>another stakeholder group (although what their "stakes" might be apart
>>from representing their and their citizen's interests I'm rather
>>loathe to contemplate); the private sector is of course
>>"non-accountably" pursuing their interests; and these new CS
>>stakeholders again without any formal structure of accountability or
>>representativeness are meant to represent the interests of everyone
>>else. Hmmm... Quite honestly, I don't see this as any sort of advance,
>>in fact given now-fading memories of mid-century European history I
>>see significant dangers in this type of "multi-faceted" approach to
>>"governance" issues. Mike Gurstein
>> -----Original Message-----
>> *From:* plenary-admin at wsis-cs.org
>> [mailto:plenary-admin at wsis-cs.org] *On Behalf Of *Rik Panganiban
>> *Sent:* March 4, 2005 3:58 PM
>> *To:* plenary at wsis-cs.org
>> *Subject:* [WSIS CS-Plenary] Re: [WSIS CS-Plenary] Re: Communiqué
>> de Presse de la Société Civile
>> Ralf, et al,
>> I will take some responsibility for the Press Release as it was
>> drafted. Adina took on the difficult job of pulling together what
>> input she received verbally and via email on Thursday and Friday,
>> and worked hard to integrate it into a single, short press
>> statement over the weekend. I received an early draft of it and
>> should have alerted her to the problematic nature of drafting and
>> getting approval for a "civil society press release." Instead I
>> just word-smithed the draft and sent it back to her.
>> In retrospect, the most transparent and inclusive way this could
>> have gone out was for it to either be simply a compilation of
>> quotes from various sources, i.e.
>> - According to Ralf Bendrath of Boell Foundation, "This Prepcom
>> was crap!."
>> - Anne-Marie on behalf of the Women's Caucus noted that "This was
>> a complete waste of time!"
>> - Rikke of the Human Rights Caucus expressed her disatisfaction
>> that "our views were ignored" etc.
>> And then have links to complete statements somewhere else on the
>> web. Other coalitions and networks that I have been involved with
>> have compiled press releases in this fashion. This neatly avoids
>> the need to summarize the "view of civil society," which is kind
>> of impossible.
>> Otherwise this should have gone out simply as a press release on
>> behalf of the CS "secretariat" of CONGO / ICV / NGLS -- full
>> My apologies for adding to any breakdown of our processes and
>> Rik Panganiban
>> On Mar 3, 2005, at 12:09 PM, Ralf Bendrath wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I am also not happy about the press release, neither on the
>> content nor on the procedural side.
>> Renata Bloem schrieb:
>> This was not a statement of CONGO.
>> But CONGO wrote it, refined it and sent it out, without any
>> consultation with the plenary or whomever. Right? Given the
>> fact that the final Content & Themes meeting where we
>> collected points for Adina to include was on Friday evening,
>> and the press release only was published on Wednesday, there
>> would have been enough time to send out a first draft for
>> further confirmation. That's how we did it before, like at
>> PrepCom3a when I wrote the final CS press statement.
>> > In fact we have not submitted a single sentence to it.
>> But who wrote it then? The press release does not at all
>> reflect the general discussion we had on the state of the
>> process etc.
>> "Despite some concerns about WSIS "losing its vision" and
>> "moving away
>> from the Geneva Declaration track", civil society entities were
>> generally satisfied with the response by governments to their
>> efforts in
>> making the peoples' voices heard in "bridging the digital
>> Here I fully agree with Jean-Louis: We (any especially the
>> folks who worked hard on financing issues at the Prepcom) are
>> certainly not "satisfied with the response by governments".
>> Quite the opposite.
>> Adina was asked to make an amalgam of the submissions she
>> had received. and in order to avoid any misunderstanding /
>> possible conflicts she decided not to refer to any
>> specific entity / group / caucus, but to use more a
>> general language
>> That is fine, as long as the submissions are still somewhere
>> BUT: I find no single sentence on Human Rights here, though
>> the Human Rights Caucus had sumbitted language. Nothing on the
>> lack of a Human Rights focus in the summit drafts, nothing on
>> Tunisia as the host country, nothing on accreditation problems
>> of NGOs like Human Rights in China. But then it mentions
>> accreditation problems in WIPO. Why?
>> And most of the press release is applauding the improvements
>> in the multi-stakeholder process. But were there really any?
>> We had our usual 15 minutes a day like we had two years ago.
>> On the last day we did not even get these. The improvement is
>> only on the substance side: They listen to us, because they
>> either have no clue and need our input, or they have learned
>> to take us serious. So, if we want to applaud anybody for the
>> bigger impact we might have had during this PrepCom, it should
>> be ourselves. BTW: Empirical research done on WSIS phase one
>> suggests that CS impact is bigger in the early stages and gets
>> smaller and smaller towards the end, when all that counts is
>> the government's agreement.
>> So, to me, this press release looks like somebody (if not
>> CONGO, then who else?) wants to play extremely nice and by
>> doing this is silencing all more outspoken and critical voices
>> in civil society. Fine with me if some groups want to do this,
>> but then they can't claim to speak for all civil society.
>> I totally agree with Renata: We are lacking a clear press
>> structure and really should work on it for PrepCom3.
>> But while we don't have an agreed structure, things like these
>> have to be done the most careful and inclusive way. And that
>> normally includes a feedback loop on the plenary list, even
>> more if there are a few days of time. Otherwise, we get a PR
>> disaster like this and enlarge the divides between different
>> groups of civil society in the WSIS.
>> RIK PANGANIBAN Communications Coordinator
>> Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United
>> Nations (CONGO)
>> web: http://www.ngocongo.org
>> email: rik.panganiban at ngocongo.org
>> mobile: (+1) 917-710-5524
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