[governance] statement for ITU website

William Drake drake at hei.unige.ch
Mon Jan 30 04:35:04 EST 2006

Good morning,

Since there was no consensus on making a joint caucus or other CS statement on the website for the ITU's Wednesday reform meeting, I decided I might as well type up something short to submit on a personal basis.  If anyone would like to sign on you're more than welcome; either way, I will submit this by close of business today, Geneva time.  I don't know that we'd have time to do any text tweaking, but if that might make this more attractive to potential signatories, let's communicate.  I see that Parminder made a nice submission on the cost of ITU documentation and its nonconformity with the access to knowledge and information principle enunciated in the WSIS Plan of Action.  The below text is on a different point and is complementary.


The WSIS Principles state that Internet governance should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.  The ITU clearly does not meet the last criteria.  For the overwhelming majority of civil society organizations, the barriers to becoming a sector member or even an associate are simply too high.  In parallel, there are no options for participating on a more flexible, ad hoc basis in special workshops and seminars, or in the assemblies and conferences.  In consequence, and unlike other UN agencies, true NGOs (as opposed to hybrid business/user/technical organizations) are almost entirely absent and alienated from the ITU.   That this is not in the ITU’s own interest was amply demonstrated by the WSIS process, in which civil society strongly opposed the ITU playing an expanded, leading role in Internet governance.  


With WSIS follow-up and implementation efforts forthcoming, now would be a particularly appropriate time to make opening up to civil society a central element of ITU reform.  Doing so would not in any way disrupt the work of the Union, and the administrative cost would be negligible (we can print our own documents, etc).  The ITU would not face a stampede of hundreds of organizations seeking to participate in ongoing study group work on frequency propagation, signaling requirements and protocols, and other technical matters.  A much more likely scenario would be that a manageable number of NGOs would seek to participate in some of the above-mentioned workshops, seminars, assemblies and conferences.  Civil society experts contributed significantly to the success of the February 2004 ITU workshop on Internet governance, and there is every reason to believe that same constructive engagement would ensue in other forums.  Allowing civil society participation in events like the March 2006 meeting on NGN policies would be a good first step, and would not require changes to the Constitution and Convention.  WSIS and/or ECOSOC accreditation would seem sufficient for this purpose.


It is unfortunate that the ITU’s February 1 reform meeting is closed to civil society participation.  Our exclusion from this and similar events has been debated extensively on civil society Internet listservs in the course of the WSIS process and afterwards.  There was little enthusiasm for the website’s cheery invitation to “be part of it” by submitting statements in this “open forum” for a meeting from which we are barred.  If however the ITU were to initiate a genuine, open and inclusive dialogue on the matter, the response would be rather different.  




William J. Drake  drake at hei.unige.ch

Director, Project on the Information

  Revolution and Global Governance

  Graduate Institute for International Studies

  Geneva, Switzerland 
President, Computer Professionals for 
   Social Responsibility

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