Mobilising African Civil Society around the importance of ICT policy for the development of the continent

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Statement of Civil Society in Response to the Draft Declaration of Principles

10/05/2003, CS-CT:

Presentation to Sub-Committee 2, September 22nd 2003

My name is Natasha Primo delegated by the civil society content and themes group.

We, representatives from civil society, express our grave concern in response to the Draft Declaration issued on 19th September 2003.

The information society described in the document is characterized by uniformity, technocracy and bargaining. It lacks any vision that is people and citizen centered: there is little or no mention of the poor, workers and marginalized groups including indigenous people, refugees, people with disabilities. The emphasis on diversity of peoples, cultures and ways of
living is still far from sufficient. Our contributions throughout this process of shaping a common vision of an inclusive, democratic and sustainable information society, have not been given serious consideration.

We have two overarching concerns:

* Although the principles of the UDHR and the Millenium Development Declaration are referred to prominently at the start of the Declaration, subsequent paragraphs do not demonstrate genuine commitment to upholding these principles in the realization of an Information Society. Existing rights, such as Article 19, should be quoted fully and affirmed rather than cut up in pieces according to individual country preferences.
* Some core concerns have been formulated in ways that fundamentally alter their meaning, whilst others raised by civil society over the past 18 months have been removed.


1. Community media as a concept is missing from the document. This indicates a complete disregard of the value of such alternative media in promoting public participation and strengthening cultural and linguistic diversity.
2. Literacy, education and research - fundamental components of the information and knowledge society cannot be confined to one section of capacity building. Universal education is a key principle for building a participative society.
3. Capacity Building must include not only skills to use ICT`s but also include skills for creating, innovating and enabling active citizenship. It should also recognize fundamental rights in the workplace and core labour standards for all who work in the Information Society.
4. The value and benefits of Free and Open Source Software are not adequately recognized nor promoted in this document, thus undermining their real potential. These extend far beyond the concept of affordability.
5. The section on Enabling Environment speaks of a regulatory and legislative environment that reinforces the advancement of a market-driven industry at the expense of the citizenry.
6. The reference to Intellectual Property Rights manipulates the notion of fair balance. It threatens innovation, the public domain, and citizens rights and promotes the further concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the resource rich. Legal environments and economic means should be setup for Public libraries, schools and universities in order to enrich the public domain and facilitate the free and open circulation of scientific publications.
7. The role of civil society in relation to Internet governance, is completely negated whilst increased powers of control are extended to governments and the private sector.
8. Discussions in relation to Building Confidence, Trust and Security have shifted to a highly politicized agenda, characterized by language referring to the integrity of the military field and the use of information resources for criminal and terrorist purposes. This is at the expense of citizen's rights including freedom of association, movement, expression, and privacy.
9. References to women still fail to recognize them as key actors in building an information society. The Declaration must avoid language that couches women as 'wards' and must focus on the importance of women as primary change agents.
10. In addition, references to the role of the Information Society in ensuring the furthering of commitments made in previous UN conferences are given little, if any, mention in this document.

The document as it currently stands reinforces the unequal balance of powers and of development between and within nations, rather than redressing it. We demand that governments maintain a strong human development focus and prevent the growing control of international governance processes by market-led forces.

This is not a document that Civil society can endorse and we question the degree of support that will emerge amongst all stakeholders.

As it stands, the current document will only succeed in reaching a consensus amongst the elite.

Prepared by the Civil Society Content and Themes group, mandated by the Civil Society Plenary on 22nd September.

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