World Forum on Communication Rights

2003-05-06 00:00:00

This introduces a proposal to hold a one-day World Forum on
Communication Rights alongside the World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS) in December 2003. The CRIS campaign (Communication
in the Information Society: is launching the
initiative as a collaborative event, and is actively building a

1. The Rationale

The purpose of the Forum is specific. In the context of human rights
general, it focuses on information and communication rights issues
surround the emergence of an information society. These are not
to concerns regarding the 'digital divide' and access to ICTs; but
on a more profound understanding of the role of information and
communication in society and current dynamics and trends. They
areas such as the public domain and intellectual property rights, the
public sphere and media and communication, and the commercialisation
closure of the Internet.

The WSIS itself is constrained in the manner and depth to which such
issues can be addressed. Some countries and corporate interests have
already demonstrated their determination to prevent certain matters
reaching the agenda. And many issues are the domain of existing
international organisations and entities, and these are reluctant to
cede territory to the WSIS. Yet it is essential that communication
rights in the information society be considered as a coherent, and
interrelated, set of concerns. Indeed, in all likelihood it is the
extent to which rights are implanted and firmly fixed within the
of creating an information society that will determine which kind of
information society emerges, how the benefits will be realised, and
will reap them.

The event comprises a forum to explore these and to do something
them. It traces its lineage (as does the CRIS campaign itself) not
through the WSIS process per se, but in the mobilisation of civil
society in recent years around global human rights, communication and
development issues.

2. Goals

The outcomes of the Forum are expected to be threefold:

A. A Portrayal of Communication Rights Globally: To explore and
define the dimensions of information and communication rights that
underpin any claim of an information society to enrich the lives of
people, by portraying the denial of these rights in different
using concrete examples and analyses, and demonstrating novel
of such rights being secured.

B. A 'Declaration on Communication Rights in the Information
Society': To formulate together and agree a succinct statement, in
comprehensible language, that:

* Notes existing human rights relating to information and

* Sets down the conditions and environment necessary for
people to exercise these, in practice;

* Explores obstacles to achieving such an environment,
identifying priority areas for intervention.

A Set of Actions: To engage multi-partner participation in a
of voluntary collaborative actions to implement such rights in a
meaningful to people in their everyday lives, and to define
follow-up. These will comprise targeted actions, each contributing to
communication rights in the context of the information society, and
in practice are beyond the scope of the WSIS Summit. They might
for instance alternatives to intellectual property rights, promotion
open source software, innovation in governance and regulation,
grass-roots technologies, or new fund-raising mechanisms.

3. Modalities

The Forum is an open event. It welcomes those among civil society,
activists, NGOs, agencies, governments, intergovernmental
and the private sector who accept the need to address communication
rights in the information society and who want to work together to
achieve these goals. It will have a duration of one day, and will
place alongside the first WSIS Summit in December 2003 in Palexpo.
provisional date is December the 11th, mid way through the three day

Link to Other Events

Links will be established with other events surrounding the WSIS,
within Palexpo as well as externally bringing together grass-roots
community activists and organisations. An important aspect of the
will be to build bridges between these and others within the WSIS as
whole seeking to cooperate on rights issues, and to bring forward
radical but realistic proposals for action.

CRIS will also work with others to organise workshops, seminars or
other events around the WSIS Summit, aimed at feeding into the Forum,
and may establish live interactive links globally.

Preparatory Process

Preparations for all three objectives will be extensive and are

A The portrayal of the situation and needs of communication
in different regions will be primed through a series of national and
regional Workshops and other events. Using a common methodology, the
is to explore the realities for communities in different regions in
terms of rights or the absence of them, the impact on their capacity
engage effectively with the information society, and innovative
solutions from communities and activists. Such workshops are
being discussed with partners, and others are being sought.

B. A first draft of the Declaration on Communication Rights will
prepared by the Forum Organising Group (see below) by July 2002. It
will then be open to a period of discussion and debate,
at civil society and other events and through targeted consultations.
The final text agreed for the Forum will thereafter seek ongoing
endorsement from a wide range of actors. This Declaration is not
intended as a formal or legal statement, but as a basic set of agreed
principles that can form a platform for organisation and

C. The set of concrete actions initiated at the Forum need careful
and extensive preparation and coordination with others. A first step
to identify potential projects, each to be organised as
going beyond the current status quo in conventional information
thought, that contribute to information and communication rights, and
yet are realistic in terms of resources and outcomes. We are
that huge financial investment is not a prerequisite of progress, if
will is there to innovate in regulation, governance and new funding
mechanisms. Donor agencies, government and indeed private sector are
welcome in such actions.

Preparations will be pursued alongside existing civil society events
during the year, WSIS PrepCom 3, and in dedicated meetings,
and communications, thus grounding it within ongoing civil society
processes and discourse.

CRIS is ready to play its part in organising the event, and is
seeking collaborators amongst NGOs and civil society,
and other agencies, governments and private sector. CRIS is
various parties to form a Forum Organising Group.

Should you wish to know more:
Seán Ó Siochrú:
Myriam Horngren: