23 September 2005 – Last Day at Geneva, End of Week 1
(concept of time no longer exists)

course! Just when I start to get the hang of things and feel like I am finally
getting a vague idea of what is going on, it’s time to go. Brenda Zulu who
arrived late last night will be taking over blogging for the next week while I
go home to the land of good food at reasonable prices (yipee!). It should be
exciting. A real test of the promise of participatory, multi-stakeholder,
transparent processes that WSIS is distinguished for as a global event. Even
I’m starting to chant them like a catchphrase, and it’s only been five days…=/ 

this morning’s Sub-committee A session turned up with the Chair producing yet
another document
WSIS-II/PC-3/DT/10-E). This time an official one,
with slashes, commas, dotted ‘i’s and everything. This is to ‘guide’ the
drafting process, and it was more or less agreed yesterday that smaller
clusters should be created for different parts of this document, which is to
make up Chapter 3 (i.e. the chapter that talks about internet governance). As
usual, responses were sought from the plenary on their initial response, and
most of the delegates feel like the document was a good starting point to begin
‘fine-tuning’ Chapter 3. In the main, they were just impatient to start
negotiations since half of PrepCom-3 is gone.

US, UK (representing EU) and Canada delegates were especially cautious
if the document was ‘moving towards conclusions’, which of course, have not
been negotiated yet. The Chair was quite vehement that this was not the case
(hmm…) and that the language and substantive parts of the document were up for
deliberation. When he said that the document was meant to be an “outline
without any bias”, I really had to choke on a barely suppressed guffaw.

sorry, but the age of blind faith towards impartial objectivity is over. Now belief
is healthily placed on critical scepticism and acceptance of accountability for
subjective positions and investments. Seriously, a case in point would
paragraph 43(c) of Part 2 that talks about stakeholders and civil society’s
contribution to the internet. It states:

We reaffirm that the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy
issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations. In this respect it
is recognized that
: […]

Civil society has
also played an important role on Internet    
          matters, especially at
community level,
and should continue to          
play such a role;”

I mean, surely he has not forgotten all the F/OSS geek/ettes who gave up social
(and sometimes family) life to do funky stuff with ICTs that fantasy writers of
the 90’s only dreamed about, or independent/subversive/alternative media
networks and organisations like indymedia, f-word or fito magazine that have populated the
internet with content that is actually worth bookmarking. How about capacity
building workshops, convergences, software camps that colours ICTs with a
political edge? He can’t imagine civil society to only be grassroots community
workers at the margins of civil life? Okay, I might be pushing it a bit too
far, but that wording (since we are at a UN event, it’s all about Language) is
really, rather limiting.

about paragraph 43… the new document seem to have forgotten about what’s in the
same paragraph in the WGIG report, which is about the only bit in internet governance
that mentions gender expressly. In
his new document, there is no mention of gender or any other
marginalised/excluded/vulnerable groups. Although it explicitly affirms the
Geneva Principles (which does mention gender et al), it would have been meaningful
to surface its dimensions clearly in internet governance issues. At minimal, it
would have been good manners. After all, the WGIG only spent about seven months
labouring over research, discussions and meetings to highlight priority issues.

the government of
Indonesia continues to champion the
issue of pornography, and this time, with full and overt support from the
delegate of
Tanzania and Malaysia (*gleep*!). I really started
to hyper-ventillate with anxiety at that point. I mean, the entire WSIS
PrepCom-3 process can sometimes be very distancing. Bunch of government
delegates from all over the world saying things that I cannot relate to, but
Malaysia! Gah! The only space for
freedom of expression left in my country that’s not under the iron grip of a
host of media
printing, publication and broadcasting legislations
is the internet. I
really wanted to stand up and shout, “Oh no you don’t! Not in my name do you dare to further restrict spaces for the
creation and exchange of knowledge”.

unambiguous and clear positive statements on gender, I can almost see the
patriarchal protectionist discourse kick into action: “we have to make sure
these women are not harmed, we need to protect them by filtering and regulating
the (mis)use of the internet for ‘negative purposes’”.  Aiyo.. no no no! We need more spaces to bring
up our concerns and priorities thank you very much, not less under one pretext
or another that mobilises violence against women like a useful mantra.

there still remains the issue of non-government stakeholders’ role in the
process. At this rate, it feels more urgent than ever than civil society (and
okay… the private sector i.e. business entities) need to get our foot in the
door and be part of the negotiations. Halfway through civil
society’s intervention
by Adam Peak of GLOCOM, the Chair started knocking
on his little hammer thing to announce that there was a discussion to be held
on this very issue (he had to wait till the end because Adam was adamant to get
his say without interruption =)). From the meeting, no consensus could be
reached, although it seemed that it was veering towards civil society getting
their say for 5-minutes then leaving the room. Oh no! Time warp option! We’ll have
to sit on the edges of our seats and wait, while running around like crazy to lobby
government delegations that are more willing to live commitments to
multi-stakeholder/transparent/etc rather than just spout them (it's contagious I tell you).

the Chair only produced English versions of the propose
d document, so there were
audible protests from some government delegates who went, “Hey, if we can’t
fully understand the document, how do you expect us to come up with a response
on this? Especially since we’ve already heard some comments on substantive parts
of it?” I guess even inclusivity is restricted for ‘official representative’ =/

the end of the session, translations were promised by
6:00pm, and the Chair proposed for three
drafting groups to be formed:

Drafting Group I

1 - Introduction

2 - Stakeholders

3(b) - Public policy issues relevant to Internet Governance - Public policy
issues related to the use of the Internet

Drafting Group II

4 - Measures to promote development

Drafting Group III

3(a) - Public policy issues relevant to Internet Governance - Infrastructure
and m
anagement of critical Internet

5 - Follow-up and Possible Future Arrangements

claimed that Drafting Group III would be the most sensitive and contentious, so
proposed that he would be part of that one. Anyway, delegates have the weekend
to mull over this proposed method of work, as well as the document (those who
are waiting for versions in languages that they are more comfortable in
especially!), while I will be leaving… on a jet plane… Monday looks to be
interesting. Start of negotiations, drafting, decisions. Watch this space as
Brenda brings you more news and events! Hope you found the postings engaging, or at the very least, amusing =D

jac smk

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