Francis Muguet of the Reseau de Connaisance et Societe de l’Information (France) sends out to other WSIS folks detailed information on the arrangements for the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis this November. He notes that “150 heads of state” are slated to attend, including President Bush. In addition, he warns that all the hotels are full in Tunis and that the “Kram Conference Centre” seems too small to accommodate all the likely participants.
Here’s Francis’ message:
Following my visit in Tunisia last week, the context of the WSIS appears to the be the following : 150 heads of states are expected to attend the WSIS from 16-18 November 2005. President Bush is likely to attend the Summit. 18,000 participants are already registered. It seems it is going to be an event of a much greater magnitude that the WSIS in Geneva.
All the Hotels of Tunis from the **** Hotels to the ** Hotels are fully booked. The US has booked a complete Hotel in front of the US embassy. There is question to accomodate the extra participants in Hammamet and to bus them daily.
The WSIS is going to take place at the Kram Exhibition Park
Civil Society is invited to organize Parallel Events at the KRAM from 14 to 19 November. The deadline for proposal is now very near : * 30 April *.
We hope that the conference halls are given for free to the Civil Society like in Geneva, but this is not clear yet.
I visited the Exhibition Park at KRAM. see my pictures. It appears too small and the access roads too narrow to allow the fluid traffic of the motorcade of 150 head of states with their suites. Other participants are likely to have to get there by bus and spent a long time on tight security checks.
It is not going to be easy to organize the logistics of events there.
To help us all, it would be probably a good idea to organize an Umbrella event that would regroup all the events concerning the themes that are relevant to this group.
The “150 heads of state” figure seems inflated to me, perhaps wishful thinking on the part of the Tunisian hosts. All of the information I have gathered informally is that many governments are opting for sending large delegations to the General Assembly High Level Segment in New York in September rather than a large representation at the WSIS in November.
The “18,000” participants could just be people expressing an interest in attending. Getting to Tunis from other parts of the world will not be as easy as getting to Geneva, particularly from Latin America and Asia. Even within Africa it can be quite expensive. Many of the groups I have talked to who participated in the Geneva WSIS in December 2003 have not indicated any plans to go to Tunis this November.
Still, it might be a good idea to look into hotel options. I’d hate to be homeless during the Summit.