A laboratory for new mechanisms...
Using both lessons learned and the overall concept of volunteerism as building blocks for multi-stakeholder approaches
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27 September 2005
What about the challenges the process faced, and things which could be improved in the future?
From my perspective, the multi-stakeholder approach was not applied as systematically as it could have been in the WSIS process. The Working Group on Financial Mechanisms, for example, left civil society and the private sector completely on the outside. The Working Group on Internet Governance, in contrast, has been built as a truly multi-stakeholder body.
Furthermore, in my experience, there is a great gap between Summit discussions and field realities. It seems that international talks actually have only triggered to a minor extent inclusive local-level discussions. The regional conference held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2005 provides a good example of this. As a regional WSIS conference, one might have expected it to be a multi-stakeholder event, involving national and regional constituencies. Additionally, considering the number of NGOs and open source projects in Brazil, one would anticipate substantial participation from various sectors. However, non-governmental participants were scarce, and more marginalized then in any other WSIS-related conference I have ever attended. The badges used to accredit participants were indicative of this approach: orange marked badges were given to "governments", who had access to all sessions, everybody else, including civil society and the private sector participants, had badges with the label "observer". The outcome documents were negotiated behind closed doors, with only government participation. On several occasions, I heard government officials talk on behalf of civil society. All of this seems a bit surprising in a multi-stakeholder environment. There was little or no evidence that local communities had embraced any of the WSIS principles and action lines.
African regional conferences were, in my experience, substantially more inclusive of civil society than their Latin American counterparts. In Accra, in February 2005, the presence of numerous private-sector stands indicated at least some degree of WSIS interest to this sector. In addition, African civil society has been leading development of new mechanisms to support its regional participation in the WSIS, with the creation of a coordinating body called ACSIS (African Civil Society for Information Society), including experts from various backgrounds, regions and gender.
Posted: 2006-11-06 Updated: 2008-11-11