The first week of Prepcom III is over. Only five more days of official negotiation are left until the actual summit in Tunis. Lots of interesting events this week:
Here’s a recap of some of the week’s excitement:
- On human rights: There were a couple of events this week on freedom of expression and access to information as human rights issues, particularly pertaining to Tunisia and China. The week actually began with a debate among governments on the accreditation of the NGO Human Rights in China. Later during the week the Human Rights Caucus held an event that was packed to the gills with Tunisians and others, television cameras from Tunisian and Swiss TV, and a couple of nervous security guards. Then yesterday a statement on the situation of the NGO Human Rights in China created a procedural crisis within the Plenary session yesterday morning.
- We love you, now get out: As the governments move onto final decisions on the Tunis text pertaining to Internet Governance, they are increasingly nervous about having civil society and the private sector in the room, despite assurances that we are very important stakeholders. So there are efforts to move to closed drafting sub-groups on the different subject areas. Civil society groups are planning to protest this decision, noting that in Phase II of the WSIS we should not be going backward in practices that were established in Phase I.
- The “Kitchen Sink” Sub-Committee flies along: Meanwhile, the energetic South African delegate Lyndall Shope-Mafole has been given the unenviable task of heading Sub-Committee B, which is responsible for all other texts to go to Tunis that don’t involve internet governance. In substance, this means the important issues of WSIS follow-up, monitoring and implementation. Lyndall has really cracked the whip on delegations to react to all the proposed texts, including civil society contributions.
- Keeping up with the Follow-up: In order to stay abreast of the developments in Sub-committee B, Bertrand de la Chappelle has put into operation the CS Working Group on Follow-up and Implementation. He actually tried to do this in Prepcom II, but got little attention from other civil society folks at the time. This time around, people realize the importance of working in concert on these key issues. They intend to present a consolidated civil society text on the key paras for governments to consider early this coming week.
- The working methods aren’t working: Given the somewhat ad hoc and unwritten modes that civil society has been operating in the WSIS, including our plenary, bureau, content and themes and caucuses structures, every prepcom we face a difficult task in re-focusing and re-committing everyone to using the structures that exist to cooperate. This typically results in several procedural breakdowns during the first week, and this prepcom was no exception. The Working Methods Working Group, that I have been tasked with co-facilitating with Ramin Kaweh, has been trying to complete a draft “Plenary Charter” to be presented and approved by the plenary as soon as possible. Obviously not an easy task, but interesting work.
- Packing for Tunis: We have been collecting information on the status of preparations for the Summit and parallel events in Tunis in November. Lots of details remain unclear and worrying. We are hearing about hotels quickly filling up in Tunis, with some civil society folks saying that their reservations have been cancelled or moved to other hotels. Security checkpoints and traffic promise to increase commuting time from our hotels to the Kram convention center. On the other hand, most folks I talk to now are definitely planning on going.
We’ll see this week how and if these issues get resolved. I’ll try and get a little rest this weekend before going back to the madness.