In less than six months, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will vote on an outcome document that will set the course for the post-2015 implementation of the World Summit on Information Society’s (WSIS) goals. This negotiation has the potential to influence the role of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in international development for many years to come. The time leading up to the December 15 – 16, 2015 intergovernmental meeting is crucial because this is the time in which the WSIS ten-year review (WSIS+10) outcome document will be shaped. The two core upcoming dates for contributions are July 31st and October 15th.
The first preparatory meeting of the WSIS review took place on July 1, 2015 and was intended for intergovernmental stakeholders to discuss the overall process. It was followed by an informal, interactive stakeholder consultation meeting on July 2, 2015, which included members of civil society, the private sector, and permanent mission representatives to the UN. This meeting served as an opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the intergovernmental negotiations. The sessions ran without many disagreements, now that countries like India and China have come forward in support of multistakeholderism. Unfortunately, many countries, including the U.S., may not be trying to push for a WSIS process that fully addresses all of the issues that civil society groups believe need more attention.
While we are supportive of the WSIS agenda as it stands and we commend countries for all of the achievements obtained so far, specifically regarding digital inclusion through broadband and mobile networks, we are still concerned with the real commitment to certain issues such as minority rights online, including gender, race, religion, and LGBT issues. We are also concerned with the satisfaction of a series of human rights online, such as privacy and freedom of expression, and the track record of both the U.S. and other UN countries needs improvement. We also believe that issues that were brought up during the early July conversations, such as net neutrality and cybersecurity, are core issues that deserve focus moving forward. They represent core enablers to a connected and innovative society.
Finally, we commend the general support, including that of the United States, as expressed by Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, for the extension of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) mandate, coupled with a review of its goals. Forums like the IGF are crucial to measure the temperature of Internet regulation and to contribute to building the narrative and knowledge of the Internet governance field. Additionally, we commend the Ambassador’s statements on the importance of reinforcing the multistakeholder model of Internet governance and supporting efforts to utilize ICTs to enable the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To understand the road ahead and how to engage in the process, read on.
The WSIS+10 review process consists of several phases, which extend beyond the formal UN preparatory process. This includes multistakeholder discussions held at the national, regional, and global levels via the IGF, a venue that was established by the WSIS conference in 2005 to discuss Internet policies, standards, and norms. The IGF’s mandate is up for renewal at the end of this year and is one of the items currently up for discussion.
Click the image above for a document with more information, including the full timeline on page 6.
What is the role for civil society engagement?
Given the varying topics and complexities of the WSIS+10 review, it will be important to set priorities and identify challenges to the implementation of WSIS goals in order to focus the broader conversation. One opportunity to do this is to provide input to the UN General Assembly through written submissions, which will ultimately inform the final outcome document. The first such submission is an open call for comments to formulate a “non-paper,” which are due on July 31, 2015. Public Knowledge calls on all relevant stakeholders to take advantage of this opportunity and provide input into this process. All submissions will be made public after this date and a few of them can already be found here.
Once the non-paper has been drafted by late August, there will be additional opportunities to participate in the process and submit input, including on a subsequent “zero draft” paper, which will require comments by October 15, 2015. This will be followed by a second round of preparatory and stakeholder consultation meetings, which are scheduled for mid-October. It is vital that stakeholders become involved in the review process before this time, in order to influence the outcome document before it is solidified and negotiated in December
Public Knowledge’s Vice President of International Policy, Carolina Rossini, recently spoke about civil society engagement in the WSIS+10 review at the IGF-USA 2015. Check out the video to hear her remarks and learn more about the process. For additional background information, please see our post entitled, All Eyes on the Future: Looking Beyond WSIS +10.
 “Non-paper” is a term used by the United Nations to describe an informal discussion document.