WSIS: The Civil Society Declaration is a major outcome

2003-12-11 00:00:00

In some respects civil society has been the main
beneficiary of this event.

It is the first time that civil society has come together
in such diversity and is such numbers from all over, to
work together on information and communication issues.
We have learned enormously from each other, and from our
interactions with others, and have built what we believe
to be enduring links and bridges between us.

Most significantly, we managed to construct and negotiate
a process that resulted in broad consensus on a coherent,
comprehensive and convincing Civil Society Declaration on
our vision of the information society just launched.

The CRIS Campaign has worked hard over the last two years
on this Summit, but we believe our efforts have been well
rewarded. The Civil Society Declaration is a major
outcome of this Summit. The CRIS Campaign
enthusiastically endorses it and is only too aware of the
sweat and tears, and compromise, that went into ensuring
that a single strong voice would emerge from the bulk of
civil society.

Interestingly, the Intergovernmental Declaration and the
Civil Society Declaration share one crucial sentence:
"Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic
human need and the foundation of all social
organisation." The Civil Society Declaration, however,
goes further in proposing how we can build an information
and communication society that has people at the centre.
It confronts key dangers such as excessive copyright
protection and monopolies on intellectual products,
concentration of media ownership, censorship and the
limitations of a purely market driven approach. It
affirms for instance the vital role of community media,
of the public domain and of the global commons. We
present concrete examples of these at our World Forum on
Communication Rights here on December 11th.

The role of ICTs in this process of civil society
networking, especially between physical meetings, was
significant - indeed it would have been impossible to
achieve what we did without them. But the huge
imbalances in ICTs globally were also reflected in our
organising processes and we regret that so many in civil
society, especially from the poorer communities, were
excluded from the process; and that the resources were
unavailable to engage in more direct interaction. During
the preparations for this phase of the Summit, some
governments worked closely with civil society in drafting
their national positions. The next two years offer an
opportunity for all governments to extend this and to
involve civil society as equal partners in their national
processes and in the implementation of national action

In the coming two years, CRIS as part of civil society
must rise to the challenges outlined in our Declaration.
We believe that civil society must build on the process
that was begun here, at all levels. Furthermore, we
invite governments, intergovernmental organisations and
all others to join with us in creating an information and
communication society for all.

* Seán Ó Siochrú. CRIS Campaign. (Communication Rights in
the Information Society)

Speech for Intergovernmental Plenary. WSIS