Update on WSIS PrepCom-2

By EDRi · February 24, 2005

After two weeks of intense debate in Geneva tomorrow the second preparatory conference to the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) ends. The second and final World Summit will take place in Tunisia in November 2005.

The Human Rights caucus (a loose coalition of currently 59 human rights organisations) devoted its time in the first week to express concerns about the WSIS process and accreditation issues. They also organised a press conference and a panel debate. During the second week intensive discussions took place about the official documents (political chapeau and operational part, financing mechanisms report, internet governance report).

On 14 February all the civil society representatives were briefed by Congo, with the participation of Mr Geiger (Executive Director of WSIS and head of the executive secretariat) and Ambassador Karklins (President of the WSIS 2nd phase process). The HR caucus raised the sensitive issue of accreditation, both of member HRIC (see below) and of Tunisian independent civil society organisations that are not legally recognised. Both Mr Geiger and Mr Karklins seemed very supportive.

On 16 February the HR Caucus (represented by co-chair Rikke Frank Joergensen from EDRI-member Digital Rights Denmark) participated in a civil society press conference at the Palais des Nations. Joergensen argued that, while the HR caucus understands governance, financing and WSIS follow-up activities are indeed central issues in the second phase, human rights and social justice still are crucial and transverse concerns that should be raised, specially since civil society as a whole has strongly fought in order to have those included in the WSIS. The same day the caucus also participated in a press conference organised at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva. The conference was organised by caucus member Amnesty International (Swiss section) and by Communica-CH, the Swiss civil society co-ordinator. The title of the press conf was: “WSIS in Tunis: a Summit on information under repression?” It resulted in good press coverage.

On 17 February the HR caucus organised a successful 3 hours panel on ‘Information society and Human Rights’, with the participation of five members of the caucus (DIHR, IRIS, FIDH, HRIC, LTDH), plus an introduction from the Austrian ambassador (Walther Lichem) in his capacity of member of PDHRE (People’s Decade for Human Rights Education). The panel was very well attended (120 to 150 persons), with representatives from governments (Canada at the ambassador level and Denmark, Swiss, France, etc. as well as Osamu Shiraishi, representing the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

On 18 February caucus member Human Rights in China (HRIC) called for support after having once more been denied accreditation to WSIS, following China’s intervention. The HR Caucus decided to initiate a rapid petition calling for support. The petition currently has 30 signatures from a range of civil society organisations and will be send next week to Mr Geiger, to be added to HRIC accreditation file, as well as to Ambassador Karklins.

In general, members of the different human rights organisations engaged in fruitful networking with other caucuses to bridge the gap between the human rights agenda and more specific WSIS issues such as education, cultural diversity and privacy and security. The HR caucus has provided written contributions with comments about the political chapeau and about internet governance. PrepCom3 will be held in September 2005.

Website of the WSIS Human Rights Caucus (in English and French)

Petition about the accreditation of HRIC (in English and French)

(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, co-chair of the WSIS Human Rights Caucus and EDRI member IRIS)