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CPSR's Role at Dec 2003 WSIS in Geneva

Working Groups
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

CPSR WSIS 2003 Report

Overview of WSIS:
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a several year process encompassing involvement from government, industry, academia and civil society. The WSIS is organized in conjunction between the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations. Preparatory work began in 1998, with Prepcom events in Geneva throughout 2003. The first phase of the official summit events occurred in Geneva, December 10-12, 2003. The second phase will resume in Tunis, November 16-18, 2005.

The challenge of WSIS, as outlined by the ITU, is as follows:

The global information society is evolving at breakneck speed. The accelerating convergence between telecommunications, broadcasting multimedia and information and communication technologies (ICTs) is driving new products and services, as well as ways of conducting business and commerce. At the same time, commercial, social and professional opportunities are exploding as new markets open to competition and foreign investment and participation. The modern world is undergoing a fundamental transformation as the industrial society that marked the 20th century rapidly gives way to the information society of the 21st century. This dynamic process promises a fundamental change in all aspects of our lives, including knowledge dissemination, social interaction, economic and business practices, political engagement, media, education, health, leisure and entertainment. We are indeed in the midst of a revolution, perhaps the greatest that humanity has ever experienced. To benefit the world community, the successful and continued growth of this new dynamic requires global discussion.

The Role of CPSR:
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility is participating in the WSIS process through the Civil Society Bureau, caucuses, groups and a number of related online forums. CPSR member-delegates participate actively in these discussions and provide input in each area.

CPSR’s WSIS Membership/Participation:

  • Civil Society Plenary
  • Civil Society Content and Themes
  • Civil Society Bureau
  • African Regional Caucus
  • Latin American and Caribbean Regional Caucus
  • Asia Pacific Regional Caucus
  • North American, European Regional Caucuses
  • Human Rights Caucus
  • ICT Global Governance Caucus
  • Privacy and Security Working Group

CPSR Involvement in the Civil Society Declaration:
CPSR members were heavily involved in the writing, lobbying, and other administrative tasks involved in the production of Civil Society's declaration to WSIS.

The Civil Society Plenary decided at PrepCom 3 to produce its own declaration. It authorized the Content and Themes Group to manage this process. This decision was taken for two major reasons. One, members of Civil Society were unhappy with miminal amount of opportunites given them for input into the inter-governmental declaration and plan of action documents under the so-called multistakeholder process. This was the process mandated in the resolution the created the WSIS. Two, independent of the lack of modalities of input for Civil Society, many members felt that an independent declaration was need to fully express their perspectives on the wide array of issues that were being addressed in the first phase of WSIS.


  • The Civil Society Plenary adopted the declaration on December 8th (prior to the start of the Summit).
  • Editing and translation took place until the last minute on December 12th.
  • CS Content and Themes Group held a press conference on Thursday, Dec 11th to announce the declaration.
  • The CS Plenary held an event to "launch" its declaration later on Dec 11th.
  • CS presented the Declaration to the Inter-governmental Plenary after the official Declaration and Plan of Action documents were adopted by the governments. William McIver represented CS and handed the declaration to the President of the Summit.

CPSR Member Participation:

  • CPSR members were heavily involved in the production of the declaration. William Drake played a key role in the Civil Society Internet ICT Governance Caucus. He was heavily involved in drafting language from the caucus and was selected to speak on behalf of the caucus on these issues at WSIS.
  • Bill Drake's knowledge of inter-governmental processes, the history of these events, and contacts were invaluable in helping Civil Society to both strategize and make tactical decisions (e.g. about lobbying, the type of language to use, etc.).
  • Katitza Rodriguez and Sevgi Tarlan (also a delegate from the University at Albany) played critical roles in translating the declaration itself and the many communications and other documents that fed the drafting process for many months. Sevgi Tarlan played a crucial last-minute role in revising the French version of the declaration. Katitza's efforts helped facilitate communication between the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Caucus of the Civil Society around both the substance of the declaration and procedural matters.
  • Hans Klein started a major study of the impacts of civil society in UN Summits.
  • Robert Guerra engaged in various monitoring and lobbying efforts of the governments. These provided useful information to Civil Society. He also made substantive input through participation on the Civil Society Bureau.
  • Rufo Guerreschi and others members were involved in various ways with Civil Society.
  • William McIver was a co-coordinator of the Content and Themes group with Sally Burch, Executive Director of the organization Agencia Latinomericana de Informacion in Ecuador.
  • In total CPSR delegates to WSIS included: Current CPSR board members - Kwami Ahiabenu, William Drake, Robert Guerra, Hans Klein, Veni Markovski, Madanmohan Rao, and Katitza Rodriguez; a CPSR Project Director - Sarah Granger; CPSR members - Laird Brown, Katherine Maria Cieza Alvarado, Andrew Clement, Graham Freeman, Cesar Gayoso, Rufo Guerreschi, Benjamin Hill, Marc Holitscher, Art McGee, William McIver, Chuck Pletcher, Rasmus Tenbergen, Sevgi Tarlan, Sarah Tierney, and Emy Tseng; and CPSR Guests - Paul Boehm, Darius Cuplinskas, George Danezis, Ronald Deibert, Vera Franz, Stephanie Hankey, Thomas Krag, Sander Steven Lang, Don Maclean, Tattugal Mambetalieva, Sisule Musungu, Stephanie Perrin, Patrice Schneider, Zlata Shramko, Mark Surman, Elisabeth Tuerk, and Dmitri Vitaliev.

CPSR Workshop:
CPSR held a half-day workshop organized by board member, William Drake, entitled "Global Governance of ICT: Public Interest Considerations" on December 9, 2003, preceding the Geneva summit. In the first panel, "Selected Cases of ICT Global Governance," speakers covered a number of governance-related topics, policies and organizations including World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The second panel on "Horizongal Issues and Ways Forward," focused on participation, transparency and accountability. The event attracted over 100 attendees – more than most similar events during the course of the week. Responses from attendees were enthusiastic.

CPSR’s Future Involvement in WSIS:
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility will continue our participation in the WSIS process through phase II in Tunis late 2005. The preparatory and phase I activities produced exceptional results and there is much hope for a solid U.N. policy outcome in the future through the WSIS multi-taskholder process. CPSR’s role in as a Civil Society organization at WSIS will allow us to continue developing partnerships and projects throughout the world.

Additional Resources:

Official WSIS Site

"Declaration of Principles" and "Plan of Action" (available in six languages)

WSIS Background Materials

"Understanding WSIS: An Institutional Analysis of the UN World Summit on the Information Society," Research Report by Hans Klein, CPSR Board Chair

Compiled by Sarah Granger with help from William McIver, Jr.

Archived CPSR Information
Created before October 2004

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Andy Oram