[governance] Re: UN Secretary General's report on the SDG process

parminder parminder at itforchange.net
Wed Dec 10 08:07:56 EST 2014

On Wednesday 10 December 2014 06:30 PM, parminder wrote:
> The UN Secretary General has issued an important report on the SDGs 
> process titled "/The Road to Dignity for All: Ending Poverty, 
> Transforming 
> <http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5527SR_advance%20unedited_final.pdf>All 
> <http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5527SR_advance%20unedited_final.pdf>Lives 
> and Protecting the Planet 
> <http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5527SR_advance%20unedited_final.pdf>/" 
> . It is now open for responses 
> <http://ngosbeyond2014.org/articles/2014/12/6/call-for-civil-society-responses-to-the-un-secretary-general.html>. 
> /IT for Change submitted these comments 
> <http://www.itforchange.net/Response_to_the_synthesis_report_of_the_UN_Secretary-General_on_the_Post-2015_Development_Agenda#comments>/, 
> specifically on ICTs and data issues. Here, we highlight the need to 
> especially recognise ICTs as a general purpose technology which is 
> transforming our societies today and the need to ensure their 
> universal availability as well as an open and equitable technical 
> architecture of all ICTs, including the Internet. We also comment on 
> some of the initiatives proposed by the Secretary General on data for 
> sustainable development, and suggest some additional measures that 
> will turn the face of the digital revolution towards serving the 
> public good from the currently dominant trend of proprietisation of 
> public data resources and use of data for mass surveillance and social 
> control .
> In this context, please do read the very significant report of an SG's 
> advisory expert group on employing the data revolution for sustainable 
> development, "/A World that Counts: Mobilizing the Data Revolution for 
> Sustainable Development / 
> <http://www.undatarevolution.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/A-World-That-Counts.pdf>" 
> .
> I consider this report to be of outstanding significance. First time a 
> global report deals with big data as a public resource, an issue 
> entirely missed in the IG related civil society discussions and 
> reports on data issues. All these discussions and reports have just 
> seen big data from a privacy angle. However, the role of data as a 
> resource, and its (mostly, mis-) appropriations as a private resource 
> while the basic nature of much of it could actually be determined as 
> 'public', is as important an issue. This report for the first time, at 
> least at this level, frames the issue of big data as a public 
> resource. It also calls for "building of a global consensus, 
> applicable principles and standards for data".


The above puts into focus how global IG discussions and formulations 
have mostly taken place from a civil and political rights  - also called 
negative rights - stand point, and not from the perspective of equally 
important economic, social and cultural rights. The reason for this is 
simple - almost all active global forums on IG are funded and supported 
by the North, and it is within this geopolitical constraints that IG 
discussions and norms development takes place. If there were a UN based 
space for these articulations, things would begun to take a different 
turn, more of an equity and social justice kind of considerations as 
well. But as we know, any progress on developing UN based venues for 
such normative activity are actively blocked, basically out of 
geopolitical and geoeconomic considerations. Why civil society joins in 
these blockades however is not clear.

So, to give a clear instance for better illustration, while the OECD's 
Internet related body ( CCICP ) discusses economics of private and big 
data, in an inter-governmental way, with consultations and inputs from 
other stakeholder, proposals for such discussions at the UN level in 
exactly the same format is described as an attempt to takeover the Internet.

Economics of big data is one of the biggest geo-economic issues of 
current times, as intellectual property was (and continues to be) of the 
last few decades. (Sadly, this issue  has not been understood in its 
importance by the developing countries.) The reason for keeping 
developing countries away from the processes of formulation of initial 
norms, principles and policies of this all important issue are obvious, 
as far as the interests of developed country governments go. But why 
civil society? That always remains the question.


> parminder

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