Making public document everyone already has is no great achievement. Good work at ITU is being discredited by politician’s tricks. It’s not “a landmark decision” to release publicly a document already effectively public. The draft proposals are at Jerry Brito’s invaluable site, WCITLeaks.org for everyone to see. 30 civil society organizations called for opening the discussion about the new Internet treaty. The U.S. government, the Internet Society, and media around the world including the conservative Wall Street Journal agreed.
Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré joined the call for publishing the documents but was overruled by the governments of the ITU Council. There are two likely reasons this failed. Most people believe that many governments have an agenda they want kept secret. In the U.S., cold war fears about Russia color this debate. It’s also possible that they want to restrict the official documents to those paying $30,000 or more to be sector members. The ITU is perpetually short of funds and scrambles to build membership dues. Even the executives at ITU hate a system that restricts information mostly to affluent corporations but their salaries are dependent on raising funds.
Rumors abound that several governments will make the documents public anyway. With 190 nations and over 700 corporate members freely sharing the documents inside their groups, probably 10,000 people have easy access, including all members of the U.S. ITAC. It’s impossible to keep this secret.
Meanwhile, everyone including reporters is thanking WCITLeaks.org.
Here’s the clause. It’s right to laugh out loud at the claim this is a “landmark.” It’s a small symbolic step in the right direction. Then I have the organization call and the ITU release.
A landmark decision to allow free public access to the main conference preparatory document for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12). The compilation, known as Temporary Document 64 (TD64), comprises over 450 contributions, and will be made freely available on the ITU WCIT website in the coming days. There was also a unanimous decision to set up a publicly accessible webpage on the WCIT-12 website, where all stakeholders will be able to voice their views on TD-64 contributions and other WCIT-12 issues.
Letter for Civil Society Involvement in WCIT
May 17, 2012
This page features a letter from academics and civil society groups from around the world to International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré regarding the lack of opportunity for civil society participation in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) process.
A PDF of the letter is available here. ONG Derechos Digitales has provided a Spanish translation of the letter. For more background on the WCIT, see our policy post, Civil Society Must Have Voice as ITU Debates the Internet, and our ITU resource page.
Civil society organizations and academics are invited to join this call to address deficiencies in the WCITprocess. For more information, contact email@example.com.
17 May 2012
To Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré, the Council Working Group to Prepare for the WCIT-12, and ITUMember States:
The undersigned human rights advocates, academics, freedom of expression groups, and civil society organizations write to express our desire to participate in the preparatory process undertaken for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). The current preparatory process lacks the transparency, openness of process, and inclusiveness of all relevant stakeholders that are imperative under commitments made at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). We ask that the Secretary-General, the Council Working Group, and Member States work to resolve these process deficiencies in several concrete ways.
The continued success of the information society depends on the full, equal, and meaningful participation of civil society stakeholders (along side the private sector, the academic and technical community, and governments) in the management of information and communications technology, including both technical and public policy issues. Indeed, WSIS outcome documents recognize the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in technical management and policy decision-making for ICTs. The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society urges international organizations “to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly from developing countries, have the opportunity to participate in policy decision-making … and to promote and facilitate such participation.” And such participation depends on transparency and openness of process at every stage of substantive and procedural dialogue.
Yet there has been scant participation by civil society in the Council Working Group’s preparatory process for the WCIT so far, even as media reports indicate that some Member States have proposed amending the International Telecommunication Regulations to address issues that could impact the exercise of human rights in the digital age, including freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy rights. Under the current process, civil society participation is severely limited by restrictions on sharing of preparatory documents, high barriers for ITU membership (including cost), and lack of mechanisms for remote participation in preparatory meetings.
As an important step towards fulfilling WSIS commitments for building a more inclusive information society, the undersigned request that the Secretary-General, the Council Working Group, and Member States:
- Remove restrictions on the sharing of WCIT documents and release all preparatory materials, including the Council Working Group’s final report, consolidated reports from all preparatory activity, and proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations;
- Open the preparatory process to meaningful participation by civil society in its own right and without cost at Council Working Group meetings and the WCIT itself, providing formal speaking opportunities and according civil society views an equal weight as those of other stakeholders. Facilitate remote participation to the extent possible; and
- For Member States, open public processes at the national level to solicit input on proposed amendments to the International Telecommunication Regulations from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, and release individual proposals for public debate.
We welcome Secretary-General Touré’s commitment to creating a more inclusive information society and ensuring equitable access to ICT around the world. Collectively and individually, the undersigned human rights advocates, academics, freedom of expression groups, and civil society organizations work to fulfill this vision through a range of national and global institutions and we call for the same opportunity to engage at the WCIT, consistent with WSIS commitments. We urge you to ensure the outcomes of the WCIT and its preparatory process truly represent the common interests of all who have a stake in the future of our information society.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Eduardo Bertoni, Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la
Información (CELE), Universidad de Palermo, Argentina
Bytes for All, Pakistan
Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Technology and Society (CTS/FGV), Brazil
Centre for Internet & Society (CIS), India
Digitale Gesellschaft e.V.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Electronic Frontier Foundation
European Digital Rights
Global Partners & Associates
Global Voices Advocacy
Human Rights in China
Human Rights Watch
Internet Democracy Project, India
Internet Governance Project (IGP)
New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute
ONG Derechos Digitales, Chile
Open Rights Group
Panoptykon Foundation, Poland
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
World Press Freedom Committee
ITU Council concludes with consensus on new strategies to address evolving needs of membership
Focus on key issues and challenges reshaping the ICT sector
Geneva, 13 July 2012 – ITU’s governing body, ITU Council, concluded its annual session in Geneva yesterday with agreement on ambitious operational plans for each of the three ITU Sectors (Radiocommunication, Telecommunication Standardization and Development), and endorsement of ITU’s vital convening role in major upcoming milestones for the information and communication (ICT) sector, including the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) and the formal review process for the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10 Overall Review).
The 2012 session of Council was attended by 341 participants – including ICT Ministers from Costa Rica, Ghana and the Russian Federation – representing the 48 Council Member States, 33 Member State Observers, and seven Sector Member Observers. It was chaired by Dr Ahmet Çavuşoğlu, Head of the Department for International Affairs, Information and Communications Technologies Authority of Turkey.
ITU Council tracks implementation and adherence to the Strategic Plan and Budget of the Union, reviews ongoing work to meet the objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society, and agrees the theme of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, which marks the establishment of ITU on 17 May 1865. The theme for 2013 will be ‘ICTs and Improving Road Safety’.
Highlights and achievements of this year’s session included:
- Confirmation of the venue, dates and agenda of the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15), which will be held in Geneva on 2-27 November, 2015.
- Confirmation of the dates of the 5th World Telecommunication / Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum in 2013, which will take place in Geneva on 13-14 May, 2013 and which will focus on Internet Public Policy issues.
- A landmark decision to allow free public access to the main conference preparatory document for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12). The compilation, known as Temporary Document 64 (TD64), comprises over 450 contributions, and will be made freely available on the ITU WCIT website in the coming days. There was also a unanimous decision to set up a publicly accessible webpage on the WCIT-12 website, where all stakeholders will be able to voice their views on TD-64 contributions and other WCIT-12 issues.
- Consensus on the modalities of the Open Consultation for the Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues (CWG-Internet). Council agreed to online consultations open to all stakeholders, with inputs to be fed into ongoing CWG-Internet discussions.
- A formal Resolution confirming ITU’s leadership role in the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10 Overall Review) as well as preparations towards WSIS+10 High Level Event to be held back to back with the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014
- The signing of Host Country Agreements with the United Arab Emirates for upcoming events including ITU Telecom World 2012, the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) and WCIT-12, all of which will take place in Dubai later this year.
- The approval of a resolution to initiate a process to mainstream the results of the Rio+20 conference outcomes into ITU’s activities.
- Endorsement of an ambitious action plan for technical conformance and interoperability testing and certification, led by ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.
- A decision to authorize the Secretary-General to continue to express interest in ITU becoming the supervisory authority of the future international registration system for space assets under the Space Protocol, and to authorize the Secretary-General or his representative to participate as an observer in the work of the Preparatory Commission for the establishment of the international registry.
- Agreement on the attendance of the six regional telecommunication organizations as Observers at Council (the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity; the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations; the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission; the African Telecommunications Union; the Council of Arab Ministers of Telecommunication and Information; and the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications).
- Endorsement on ITU’s activities in the area of promoting accessibility to ICTs for persons living with disabilities. This included a reminder to all ITU Membership to contribute to the new ITU Accessibility Fund.
- A decision to trial free online access to the ITU Administrative Regulations, with the aim of facilitating their availability to interested parties everywhere, and particularly in the developing world.
- The holding of a very successful ‘World Café’ session on ‘Engendering Change’. The first event of its kind to be held in conjunction with an ITU Council session, this innovative approach to collaborative conversation on gender equality and mainstreaming in ITU.
- A series of information sessions on topics including WSIS, WCIT-12, remote participation and accessibility to ICTs for persons living with disabilities.
This year’s Council also observed a minute of silence to mark the passing away of former ITU Secretary-General Richard Butler (Australia) on 23 June at the age of 86. Mr Butler served as ITU Deputy Secretary-General from 1968 to 1982, and Secretary-General from 1983 to 1989.
Speaking at the final Council session, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré praised his organization’s long-standing tradition of consensus building and collaboration. “This Council was an excellent demonstration of how we continue to build on our long and honourable history of working together, to facilitate technical and technological progress, with trust and faith in one another,” he said.
The full text of the Secretary-General’s State of the Union address, delivered at the opening session of Council on Monday 4 July and summarizing ITU’s 2011/2012 achievements, can be found at www.itu.int/en/osg/speeches/Pages/2012-07-04.aspx.
Dr Touré’s closing address can be found at www.itu.int/en/osg/speeches/Pages/2012-07-13.aspx.