By Puneeth Nagaraj
The 2nd Preparatory Meeting for the High Level Meeting of the WSIS+10 Review kicked off in New York today. A shortened first day in the morning session saw interventions from countries across the board. The statements on first day reflected the the starting positions of most governments on the Zero Draft with the afternoon session called off to facilitate conversations between countries on the outcome document. The meeting has already come under critical focus from civil society groups for not being participatory enough with meetings scheduled between 6-9 pm every evening behind closed doors for just country representatives.
Overall, there was broad support for linking the WSIS with the SDGs, and the role played by ICTs in bridging the digital divide. There was broad support for the IGF, with disagreements on the term and terms of the extension. The disagreements came on issues of human rights, security and the modalities for implementation and follow up.
Below is a summary of major interventions in the morning session.
European Union Position: The EU position supported by other countries such as the Netherlands, UK among others focused on the support for a multistakeholder approach to Internet Governance, focus on Human Rights and bridging the digital divide through capacity building. They also called for a stronger support for the IGF and a longer extension than 5 years in order to account for funding and planning. On a similar note, they asked for any Review of the WSIS to be put off till 2025 or be in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Review in 2030. They also called for a stronger focus on Human Rights with a separate section on human rights in the outcome document. The EU and supporting countries disagreed with the need for an international legal framework for internet governance, citing the progress made by existing mechanisms. Instead, they called for more open, transparent and accountable processes in such mechanisms.
G-77 plus China: This group was represented by the South African representative and supported during the session by representatives from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China and Egypt among others. They stressed the crucial role played by ICTs in furthering development goals and the need for greater security in this area to facilitate the fruition of these goals. They stressed the role of the government and the importance of sovereignty in the information society. While China pointed out that other human rights instruments deal with human rights issues and it is not necessary for the WSIS outcome document to do so, other G-77 members did not see the need for a separate section on human rights issues. They also called for an international legal framework on internet governance along with a legal instrument on cybercrime. Egypt also called for the development of indicators to assess the development goals outlined by WSIS.
United States of America: The United States called for the outcome document to refer to other documents in a holistic sense rather than cherry picking provisions, for better data to support its claims and to not make unsubstantiated assertions. The US also stated that the outcome document should illuminate different experiences of countries in similar situations as the experience with ICTs is not monolithic. The US also declared strong support for multistakeholderism and singled out the important role of non-governmental representatives in IG processes. The US also called for a stronger commitment to the IGF. Pointing out that the zero draft should be in line with the WSIS vision, the US stated that security issues should not be in Zero draft. They stated that ICTs are not the cause of Human Rights violations. The Us stressed the need for enhanced cooperation, recognising efforts of other international organizations and organizations outside the UN. Finally, the US called for an evidence based review process that should be useful and lean. The US also stated that the regular review conducted by the CSTD and ECOSOC are sufficient and did not support another overall Review or Summit.
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States: Ecuador spoke on behalf of CELAC and stressed the role of ICTs as drivers of economic growth and sustainable development. They called for the UN Committee on Information and Communications Technology to be part of the WSIS process. They also stated that enhanced cooperation and Implementation are distinct issues and should be treated as such. They also called for the Internet to be recognised as a global public good and the centrality of net neutrality as an idea that supports this notion. They also called for the full involvement of all stakeholders to support the equitable distribution of resources to support the SDG and such an approach should take into account multilingualism. They called for full compliance with International Law with respect to sovereignty, human rights and privacy. They also called for stronger measures to protect children on the internet.
India: An overview of the Indian statement today can be found in a separate blogpost here.
More updates from days 2 and 3 will follow during the week.
Puneeth Nagaraj is a Project Manager at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi