By Puneeth Nagaraj
The draft outcome document for the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) High Level Meeting in December has been released today (it can be accessed here). This draft is a revision of the Zero Draft based on discussions held in New York last month i.e., the 2nd Preparatory Meeting and the 2nd Informal Consultations. Our coverage of those two meetings can be found here. The Outcome Document will be the basis for informal multilateral discussions to be held from 19-20 and 24-25 November. As per our understanding at this point, these discussions will be closed door meetings between country representatives and will not be open to other stakeholders. Below is a summary of the major changes from the Zero Draft to the Outcome Document:
New Section on Human Rights
Easily the most contentious part of the Zero Draft which had subsumed Human Rights discussions under the heading of Internet Governance. This had attracted criticism from civil society groups and many Member countries. The Draft Outcome Document now contains a separate section on human rights. In terms of content, this new section on Human Rights is notable for the explicit recognition in Paragraph 38 of journalists, bloggers and civil society actors in supporting freedom of expression and plurality. This is a big and welcome change from the Zero draft which only cited the freedom of press in the limited context of journalists. Paragraph 38 is also important given the recent attacks against bloggers in many countries who have been targeted for expressing their views online.
Also notable is the explicit recognition of the Right to Development in Paragraph 40 and the reaffirmation of the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of all human rights. The latter is a concept enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and an integral component of International Human Rights Law. Its recognition in the Outcome Document is important as these concepts need to be reinforced in the Information Society. This is because many of the rights based discussions online are often connected to other issues such as development, access and security. These cannot be discussed in isolation. This idea has been discussed in some detail in CCG’s comment on the non-paper.
The emphasis placed on the right to privacy on the context of mass surveillance in Paragraph 42 is also a new addition. This expands on the earlier Paragraph 43 from the Zero Draft which merely encouraged stakeholders to respect privacy and the protection of personal information. The expanded Paragraph 42 in the outcome Document is a vast improvement, calling on countries to respect International Human Rights law as it relates to mass surveillance. Para 42 also explicitly cites General Assembly Resolution 69/166 which recognised the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age.
Though the improvements to the Human Rights paragraphs in the document are welcome, Human Rights is still listed as the 2nd section which is contrary to the calls made by civil society groups to list it as the first.
Linkages with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
A common concern across stakeholder groups in the October meetings was to link the WSIS process with the SDGs. While earlier drafts cited the SDGs, they failed to identify specific goals that could be linked with the WSIS process. Though the SDGs do not a have a separate goal that mentions ICTs or the internet, the understanding was that as a cross-cutting issue there are many potential linkages between the two processes.
The capacity of ICTs to facilitate the fulfillment of all SDGs has been mentioned in Paragraph 14. It also lists Goal 4b on Education and Scholarships, Goal 5b on Women’s Empowerment, Goal 9c on Infrastructure and Access and Goal 17.8 on Technology Bank and Capacity Building as specific goals where this linkages can be particularly useful. In Follow Up and Review, the document in Paragraph calls for the CSTD review to feed into the SDG process in Paragraph 58. Additionally, Paragraph 62 designates the High Level Meeting in 2025 as an input process into the 2030 Review of the SDGs.
ICT for Development
In this section, the Outcome document takes a more nuanced view of development issues and the Digital Divide, however a few key ideas are still missing.
Paragraph 19 on cultural expression and Paragraph 23 on Local Content in different languages highlight the need for greater diversity online. The discussion on the Digital divide has also improved from the Zero Draft with Paragraph 22 calling for the creation of knowledge societies and for UN bodies to analyse the nature of the digital divide. Paragraph 25 dedicated to the Gender divide is a much needed addition and it calls for immediate measures to address this divide. However, the discussion on the digital divide is lacking in that it fails to recognise that the digital divide is a manifestation of existing socio-economic inequalities. It also fails to reognise that access to the internet and ICTs should be rights based and equitable. While the role of ICTs in development is not disputed, having differential access to ICTs or the internet can actually serve to exacerbate the digital divide. Though this point has been made repeatedly, the draft outcome document does not acknowledge it.
Paragraph 36 is also notable as it calls for new mechanisms to fund ICT4D as opposed to the Zero Draft which called for the Digital Solidarity Fund to be reviewed. The position on the DSF has since changed as States and other stakeholders in October recognized that the DSF cannot be strengthened and a new mechanism is necessary.
New Section on Security
Much like human rights, many countries- especially the G77+China- called for a separate section on security issues. Thus, the outcome document has a new section 3 on Building Confidence and Security in the use of ICTs which was the erstwhile Section 2.3 in the Zero Draft.
Paragraph 45 is a change from the earlier Paragraph 46 in the Zero Draft. It notes the ‘leading role’ of governments in cybersecurity as opposed to the Zero Draft which called on them to play an enhanced role. The recognition of the need for security measures to be consistent with Human Rights is a much needed change.
Paragraph 46 of the Draft Outcome Document on cyber-ethics has been expanded to explicitly refer to the need to protect and empower children, women and girls.
Paragraphs 48 and 49 call for greater cooperation among States on cybersecurity matters. In a change from the Zero draft, these paragraphs have placed greater emphasis on cooperation and information sharing across stakeholders and between States. The call for an international cybercrimes convention in the Zero Draft has been changed to an acknowledgment of the call for such a convention.
The absence of the mention of multistakeholderism or multistakeholder approaches is conspicuous in this Section. In fact Paragraph 50 suggests that internet governance is a multilateral process with “the full involvement of all stakeholders”.
The mandate of the IGF should be extended by 10 years according to Paragraph 54. However, it calls on the IGF to incorporate the findings of the CSTD Working Group on Improvements to the IGF and that the IGF should show progress on these lines. On Enhanced Cooperation, Paragraph 56 calls on the Secretary General to provide a report to the next (71st) General Assembly on the implementation and means to improve Enhanced Cooperation.
Follow-Up and Review
The most notable addition is the call for a High Level Meeting in 2025 to Review the WSIS Outcomes in Paragraph 62. This suggests some sort of a compromise between States as there were multiple proposals on whether there should be a Summit or a High Level Meeting. The section is also notable for the explicit recognition of the ways in which the WSIS Process can be linked with the SDGs. Other than the linkages mentioned above, Paragraph 52 calls for the WSIS Action Lines to be closely linked to the SDG process.
The Outcome Document is a more complete Document than the Zero Draft in many ways. However, there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before the High Level Meeting. With the process closed for stakeholders from now on , most of these changes will largely come from States. Though the co-facilitators have called for comments to be sent on the Draft Outcome Document, it is not on the same scale as the public comment periods and it is not clear how much these suggestions will be taken into consideration by them. In the absence of another Informal Consultation, their interaction with stakeholders at the IGF may be the last opportunity to participate in this process before the High Level Meeting.
Puneeth Nagaraj is a Project Manager at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi