WSIS Forum – Geneva, 14 -18 May 2012 by Tijani Benjemaa, member of CIC

The Forum of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) has been organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Education, Sciences and Culture Organization (UNESCO) and United Nation Development Program (UNDP) in Geneva from 14 to 18 May 2012.

For memory, the WSIS was help in 2 phases: Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. Since then, a yearly forum used to be organized to follow-up on the implementation of the summit recommendations, especially the 11 action lines listed in the WSIS plan of action and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that was formed after a very hot and very long discussion about how the governance of Internet should be.

I was invited to participate in this forum as one of the civil society activists who had actively participated in the whole process of the WSIS. Here is my report.

The most important issues raised in the 2012 WSIS Forum were:

• ICT for sustainable development
• WSIS + 10
• WSIS beyond 2015
• Stocktaking
• Action lines facilitation
• Measuring ICT for Development
• Enhancing Public – Private cooperation
• ICT innovation in emerging economies
• Reaching the 3rd billion of Internet users
• Affordable broadband to stimulate emerging markets transformation
• Child online protection
• Smart Cities
• Internet Governance Forum
• ICT role in poverty eradication
• Illicit use of ICTs
• Data privacy on a global level
• World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD)
• Climate change monitoring
• Digital literacy and disability barriers
• Women and Girls in ICTs
• ICTs for post conflict reconstruction
• Global Internet Governance for Development
• Freedom of Expression
• Protection of Pedagogical content online
• Enhanced Cooperation on Public Policy Issues Pertaining to the Internet

The 2012 WSIS Forum was organized in a parallel session format, which means that nobody could attend all sessions. I had a particular interest in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and followed all the daily sessions related to this issue.

The Internet Governance Forum was created per a WSIS (second phase) resolution to be a yearly open Forum to discuss the Internet public policy issues, gathering governments, private sector, civil society and international organizations. The WSIS recommendation stated that the IGF will be organized over 5 years after which a new UN decision will be made either to continue or to stop the Forum.
From 2006 to 2010, the IGF was held respectively in Athens (Greece), Rio (Brazil), Haydar Abad (India), Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) and Vilnus (Lithuania). In 2011, the decision was to continue the IGF over a new 5 years, and to constitute a Working Group on IGF improvement. The first IGF of this new series was organized in Nairobi (Kenya). This year, it will be held in Baku (Azerbaijan) from 6 to 9 November 2012.

The IGF meetings are made of Opening and closing ceremonies and main sessions. Parallel workshops are organized by the multiple stakeholders. It is led by the UN under-secretary General for ICTs with the help of a secretariat (light structure) and making use of the advices of the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG).

During the 10 sessions about IGF held during the 2012 WSIS Forum, We discussed the modalities of the Baku (Azerbaijan) IGF organization in presence of the Azeri officials, the IGF Secretary and the MAG members:

• Venue and logistical arrangements
• Main sessions
• Workshops and other parallel events
• Remote participation
• Capacity Building

We also discussed the possible improvement of the IGF after a presentation of the improvement working group report. One of the most important enhancements identified was the IGF outputs that are to be well formulated and well documented.

Besides the Internet Governance Forum sessions, I also participated in several sessions such as:

• Opening ceremony during which prizes were distributed to the best implemented projects contributing to building the Information Society as defined by the WSIS.
• ICTs for sustainable development that addressed the development aspect seen as one of the main objectives of the WSIS recommendations.
• Briefing on projects related to Action Line C2 about Broadcasting, spectrum and Broadband. The project that generated the most important debate was the cross borders frequency assignment.
• Measuring ICT for Development: measuring e-waste.
• WSIS + 10
• WSIS Action Lines Facilitation meeting: the AL facilitators gave their reports about the achievements and the barriers encountered in the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines.
• Enhanced Cooperation on Public Policy Issues Pertaining to the Internet

Next year, in February 2013, UNESCO will organize in Paris a forum about the evaluation of the implementation of the Action Lines for which UNESCO is the facilitator which are:

• C3 Access to information and knowledge
• C7 e-learning and e-science
• C8 Identity, Cultural and linguistic diversity, and local content
• C9 Media
• C10 Ethical dimension of the Information Society

The UNESCO Forum will be organized under the label “towards the Knowledge Society”

The regular WSIS forum will also take place in Geneva in May 2013

A long and controversial discussion is now taking place about whether a WSIS + 10 summit should be organized in 2015 or not.

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