Civil Society Essential Benchmarks for WSIS

2003-11-17 00:00:00

The essential benchmarks listed in this document reflect work
in progress by the civil society content and themes group of
the WSIS process. While there is consensus on the priorities
stated here this document does not represent absolute
consensus, nor does the order of the essential benchmarks
constitute a strict ranking in order of importance. For more
information on the WSIS CS CT group, contact: Sally Burch,

1. Introduction

The approach to the "Information Society" on which the WSIS
has been based reflects, to a large extent, a narrow
understanding in which ICTs means telecommunications and the
Internet. This approach has marginalised key issues relating
to the development potential inherent in the combination of
knowledge and technology and thus conflicts with the broader
development mandate given in UNGA Resolution 56/183.

Civil society is committed to a people-centred, inclusive
approach based on respect for human rights principles and
development priorities. We believe these principles and
priorities should be embedded throughout the WSIS Declaration
of Principles and Action Plan. This paper sets out the
benchmarks against which civil society will assess the
outcomes of the WSIS process and the commitment of all
stakeholders to achieving its mandate.

2. Human rights

The WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action, should
take as their foundations the international human rights
framework. This implies the full integration, concrete
application and enforcement of civil, political, economic,
social and cultural rights, including labour rights, the right
to development, as well as the principle of non-
discrimination. The universality, indivisibility,
interrelatedness and interdependence of all human rights
should be clearly recognized, together with their centrality
to democracy and the rule of law.

All Principles of the Declaration and all activities in the
Action Plan, should be in full compliance with international
human rights standards, which should prevail over national
legislative frameworks. The "information society" must not
result in any discrimination or deprivation of human rights
resulting from the acts or omissions of governments or of non-
state actors under their jurisdictions. Any restriction on the
use of ICTs must pursue a legitimate aim under international
law, be prescribed by law, be strictly proportionate to such
an aim, and be necessary in a democratic society.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of
fundamental and specific importance to the information
society, requiring that everyone has the right to freedom of
opinion and expression and the right to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any media and regardless
of frontiers.

3. Poverty reduction and the Right to Development

Given the unequal distribution of wealth among and within
nations, the struggle against poverty should be the top
priority on the agenda of the World Summit on the Information
Society. It is not possible to achieve sustainable
development by embracing new communication technologies
without challenging existing inequalities.

Civil society organisations from different parts of the world
unite in their call to governments to take this matter very
seriously. We want to emphasise that challenging poverty
requires more than setting of 'development agendas'. It
requires the commitment of significant financial and other
resources, linked with social and digital solidarity,
channeled through existing and new financing mechanisms that
are managed transparently and inclusively of all sectors of

4. Sustainable development

An equitable Information Society must be shaped by the needs
of people and communities and based on sustainable economic,
social development and democratic principles, including the
Millennium Development Goals.

Only development that embraces the principles of social
justice and gender equality can be said to centrally address
fundamental social, cultural and economic divides. Market-
based development solutions often fail to address more deep-
rooted and persistent inequalities in and between countries of
the North and South.

Democratic and sustainable development of in the information
society can therefore not be left solely to market forces and
the propagation of technology. In order to balance commercial
objectives with legitimate social interests, recognition
should be given to the need for responsibility of the public
sector, appropriate regulation and development of public
services, and the principle of equitable and affordable access
to services.

People and communities must be empowered to develop their own
solutions within the information society, in particular to
fight poverty and to participate in development through fully
democratic processes that allow community access to and
participation in decision-making.

5. Social Justice

5.1 Gender Equality

An equitable and inclusive Information Society must be based
on gender justice and be particularly guided by the
interpretation of principles of gender equality, non-
discrimination and women's empowerment as contained in the
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the CEDAW
Convention. The Action Plan must demonstrate a strong
commitment to an intersectional approach to redressing
discrimination resulting from unequal power relations at all
levels of society. To empower girls and women throughout their
life cycle, as shapers and leaders of society, gender
responsive educational programs and appropriate learning
environments need to be promoted. Gender analysis and the
development of both quantitative and qualitative indicators in
measuring gender equality through an extensive and integrated
national system of monitoring and evaluation are "musts".

5.2 Disability

Specific needs and requirements of all stakeholders, including
those with disabilities, must be considered in ICT
development. Accessibility and inclusiveness of ICTs is best
done at an early stage of design, development and production,
so that the Information Society is to become the society for
all, at minimum cost.

5.3 Labour rights

Essential human rights, such as privacy, freedom of
expression, and the right of trade unions to communicate with
employees, should be respected in the workplace. ICTs are
progressively changing our way of working and the creation of
a secure, safe and healthy working environment , appropriate
to the utilisation of ICTs, respecting core labour standards,
is fundamental. ICTs should be used to promote awareness of,
respect for and enforcement of universal human rights
standards and core labor standards.

5.4 Indigenous Peoples

The evolution of the Information Society must be founded on
the respect and promotion of the recognition of the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples and their distinctiveness as outlined in
the ILO Convention 169 and the UN Draft Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They have fundamental rights to
protect, preserve and strengthen their own identity and
cultural diversity. ICT's should be used to support and
promote the rights and means of Indigenous Peoples to benefit
fully and with priority from their cultural, intellectual and
so-called natural resources.

6. Literacy, Education and Research

Literacy and free universal access to education is a key
principle. All initiatives must embrace this principle and
respond to needs of all. Knowledge societies require an
informed and educated citizenry. Capacity building needs to
include skills to use ICTs, media and information literacy,
and the skills needed for active citizenship including the
ability to find, appraise, use and create information and
technology. Approaches that are local, horizontal, gender-
responsive and socially-driven and mediated should be
prioritised. A combination of traditional and new media as
well as open access to knowledge and information should be

7. Cultural and linguistic diversity

Communications media and information technologies have a
particularly important role to play in sustaining and
developing the world's cultures and languages. The
implementation of this principle requires support for a
plurality of means of information and communication and
respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, as outlined in
UNESCO's Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

8. Access and Infrastructure

Global universal access to communication and information
should be a target of the WSIS action plan and the expansion
of the global information infrastructure should be based on
principles of equality and partnership and guided by rules of
fair competition and regulation at both national and
international levels. The integration of access,
infrastructure and training of the citizenry and the
generation of local content, in a framework of social networks
and clear public or private policies, is a key basis for the
development of egalitarian and inclusive information
societies. The evolution of policy should be coordinated
internationally but enable a diversity of appropriate
solutions based on national and regional input and
international sharing of information and resources. This
should be people-centered and process-orientated, rather than
technologically determined and expert dominated.

9. Governance and enabling environment

9.1 Democratic governance

Good governance in a democratic society implies openness,
transparency, accountability, and compliance with the rule of
law. Respect for these principles is needed to enforce the
right to take part in the conduct of public affairs. Public
access to information produced or maintained by governments
should be enforced, ensuring that the information is timely,
complete and accessible in a format and language the public
can understand. This also applies to access to information
produced or maintained by corporations where this relates to
activities affecting the public interest.

9.2 Media

While allowing for government information services to
communicate their message, state-controlled media at the
national level should be transformed into editorially
independent public service media organisations. Efforts which encourage pluralism and diversity of
media ownership must be encouraged to avoid excessive media

9.3 Community media

Community media, that is media which are independent,
community-driven and civil-society based, have a specific and
crucial role to play in enabling access and participation for
all to the information society, especially the poorest and
most marginalised communities. Community media should be
supported and promoted. Governments should assure that legal
frameworks for community media are non-discriminatory and
provide for equitable allocation of frequencies through
transparent and accountable mechanisms.

9.4 Internet governance

The global governance of ICT must be based on the values of
open participation, inclusiveness, transparency, and
democratic accountability. It should establish and support
universal participation in addressing new international policy
and technical issues raised by the Internet and ICT. No
single body and no single stakeholder group is able to manage
all of the issues alone. Many stakeholders, cooperating in
strict accordance with widely supported rules and procedures,
must define the global agenda.

The non-government sector has played a historically critical
role in Internet Governance, and this must be recognized. The
strength of the Internet as an open non-Government platform
should be reinforced, with an explicit and stronger role for
Civil Society. The role of Governments should be no greater
than that of any other stakeholder group.

10 Public Domain of Global Knowledge

10.1 Limited intellectual monopolies

Human knowledge, including the knowledge of all peoples and
communities, also those who are remote and excluded, is the
heritage of all humankind and the reservoir from which new
knowledge is created. A rich public domain is essential to
inclusive information societies. Limited intellectual
monopolies, such as copyrights or patents, are granted only
for the benefit of society, most notably to encourage
creativity and innovation. The benchmark against which they
must be reviewed and adjusted regularly is how well they
fulfill their purpose.

10.2 Free Software

Software is the cultural technique of the digital age and
access to it determines who may participate in a digital
world. Free Software with its freedoms of use for any purpose,
studying, modification and redistribution is an essential
building block for an empowering, sustainable and inclusive
information society. No software model should be forbidden or
negatively regulated, but Free Software should be promoted for
its unique social, educational, scientific, political and
economic benefits and opportunities.

10.3 Access to information in the public domain

Today, more than 80% of mankind has no access to the reservoir
of human knowledge that is the public domain and from which
our new knowledge is created. Their intellectual power remains
uninitialized and consequently unused, lost to all humankind.
The reservoir of human knowledge must be made equally
available to all in online and offline media by means of Free
Documentation, public libraries and other initiatives to
disseminate information.

10.4 Open access to scientific information

Free scientific information is a requirement for sustainable
development. Science is the source of the technological
development that empowers the Information Society, including
the World Wide Web. In the best tradition of science,
scientific authors donate their work to humankind and
therefore, it must be equally available to all, on the Web, in
online Open Access journals and online Open Archives.

11. Security and privacy

11.1 Integrity and security

Definitions of criminal and terrorist purposes in existing and
emerging policies and legislation are ambiguous and prevent
the use of information resources for legitimate purposes. The
legitimate need for infrastructure integrity must avoid shift
to the 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.

11.2 Right to privacy

The right to privacy should be affirmed in the context of the
information society. It must be defended in public spaces,
online, offline, at home and in the workplace. Every person
must have the right to decide freely whether and in what
manner he or she wants to receive information and communicate
with others. The possibility of communicating anonymously must
be ensured for everyone. The collection, retention, use and
disclosure of personal data, no matter by whom, should remain
under the control of the individual concerned. The power of
the private sector and governments over personal data,
including monitoring and surveillance, increases the risk of
abuse, and must be kept to a minimum under clearly specified,
legal conditions.