WSIS+10 Review Process – The Non-Paper and why Civil Society matter in the discussions

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Last week, the African Internet Governance Forum was concluded in Ethiopian Capital, Adis-ababa. The meeting that brought together representatives from Civil Society organizations, Private sector, Technical Communities and Government converged at the African Union Headquarters in Adis Abababa discussing a wide range of issues including IANA Stewardship transition, Net Neutrality and implications, multi-stakeholder approach to Internet Governance to sustainable development and internet economy among others. The Forum devised a number of recommendations moving forward in the Internet Governance discussions.

At the African Internet Governance Forum, the WSIS+10 Review Non-Paper was presented for discussions and input ahead of the UN General Assembly Meeting in December 2015. The Non-Paper was drafted following preparatory meetings of the Review Process of WSIS+10. At the Forum, participants were asked to group to discuss the Non-Paper structured under; Preamble and Review, Digital Divide, ICT for Developmen6t, Human Rights and Internet Governance.

From the discussions and especially from the group that discussed Preamble and follow-up review, the team that was headed by Mr. Moses Owiny of WOUGNET in their observation noted that there were deliberate attempts by Government not to mention the roles of Civil Society in this Non-Paper and yet Civil Society has played a significant role in the preparatory and also of the review of the Non-Paper. Below is one of the Statement and the input of the reviews

Statement 31: There will be continued focus on mobilizing domestic public and private resources to spur ICT access and content creation. We recognize the importance of public-private partnerships, universal access strategies and other approaches to this end. We also recognize the need to this end. We also recognize the need for increased focus on the contribution of ICTs to development by7 donors (public and private), international financial institutions and other development partners, especially through interventions that de-risk investment and catalyse new public and private finance. We express concern at the lack of progress on the Digital Solidarity Fund, welcomed in Tunis as an innovative financial mechanism of a voluntary, and we call for a review of options for its future.

Comments: The statement should make recognition of the roles of Civil Society. It should read….domestic and public resources including through the efforts of Civil Society to spur ICT access….

Many other comments were made to the documents from the Preamble and Follow Up review group but in particular, the team observed that; There is no mention of human rights in this statement (Statement 1 of the Preamble). Reference should be included on Human Rights as it was in the Geneva Convention.

Other concerns were that there were no mention of measurable targets that should be able to guide national governments. The team also noted that while the paper greatly emphasized the digital economy it was also imperative to recognize that the same digital economy is characterized by digital exclusion.

In conclusion, the role of Civil Society has greatly influenced the direction of internet governance in Africa and the globe generally. Its omission in certain statements by Government and UN Bodies is done in open denial of the important contribution Civil Society has played in shaping the internet governance discourse and debates all over the world.

Moses Owiny,

Kampala, Uganda