Civil Society Tunis declaration

By EDRi · November 21, 2005

APC, the association for progressive communication, reports on the civil
society press conference on 18 November. Civil society representatives
from all continents lined up on a panel to deliver a stark closing
statement. The civil society statement was not finalised, but four points
are addressed: internet governance, human rights, financing and
development, and follow-up. The press conference essentially driven by
questions of the audience, revolved around issues of development through

Renate Bloem of the Civil Society Bureau kicked off the conference by
saluting some language used in the official Tunis Commitment such as
multistakeholderism. She held up that civil society has become a force to
be reckoned with. “We have moved to become a partner in negotiations,” she

Civil society welcomed the creation of the Internet Governance Forum
(IGF), and emphasised the key role it played in its creation. This is seen
as a positive development by these representatives because it is expected
to broaden participation in internet policy. The compromise on the ICANN
did not satisfy everybody, without any clear policy preventing the US from
retaining dominance.

In general though, there was not much optimism about the official outcomes
of the Summit. For example the crucial right to privacy has totally
disappeared from the Tunis Commitment. In stead, security needs are
extensively underlined. This was already partially the case in the Geneva
declaration, back in 2003, where privacy was mentioned only as part of “a
global culture of cyber-security”, but at least in 2003, civil society
succeeded in keeping human rights prominently on the discussion agenda.

According to the draft declaration “Paragraph 40 the Tunis Agenda gives
unrestricted authority to governments and law enforcements agencies. This
is a serious problem. Without bounding this license with calls for respect
for human rights, freedom of expression and privacy rights, the text
invites the sorts of abuse that are evident in many countries today, from
the imprisonment of journalists and activists, to the filtering of content
and the registration of bloggers.”

Civil society representatives on the panel voiced concern about human
rights such as the freedom of speech not being respected by many countries
in the world. Human rights monitoring was described as an essential means
to attain a more balanced development of the information society.
Compliance with universal human rights standards and the mainstreaming of
ICTs were stressed as building blocks for a respectful and just
implementation of WSIS outcomes.

The human rights issue was approached more specifically in the press
conference that followed. Steve Buckley of the Tunisia freedom of
expression monitoring group vowed “Never again!”. He argued that “the
United Nations should never again hold a world summit in a country that
does not respect its international human rights commitments.”

He linked the WSIS outcomes directly to the situation on the ground here
in Tunisia where many violations of basic human rights had been observed
on the eve and during WSIS. Thereby, this member of civil society (Steve
Buckley is president of AMARC) wanted to shed light on the central
importance of freedom of expression and human rights, “not only in
Tunisia, but in the entire world.”

Meryem Marzouki, from EDRI-member IRIS in France hammered the issue on the nail by saying that if the UN is to boast its role in aspects of internet
governance, it must start by monitoring its internal accreditation
processes. She suggested that an independent commission be set up to
monitor the accreditation of all stakeholders, including the GONGOs, the
Govermental non governmental organisations. Tunisian government
sympathisers masquerading –and accredited- as NGOs have disrupted multiple
civil society-organised events on and off site in Tunis and in the two
years run-up to the summit. Finally, on behalf of the human rights caucus,
she also asked ‘all the media, governments, civil society and, more
generally, all participants and observers to this Summit to keep a close
eye on the situation in Tunisia after the summit.”

The close of the WSIS: The civil society verdict (19.11.2005)

Civil Society Tunis Declaration (not ready yet!)

Speech Meryem Marzouki (in French)

Official WSIS outcomes
Tunis Agenda for the Information Society (18.11.2005)|0

Tunis Commitment (18.11.2005)|0