3rd Prepcom for UN Summit on Information Society: Human rights concerns at the forefront

2003-09-18 00:00:00

ALAI, Geneva, September 17, 2003.

Stronger recognition and guarantees for Human Rights, and
particularly communication rights, are one of the central
concerns of civil society organizations at the 3rd Preparatory
Committee (Prepcom) for the World Summit on the Information
Society (WSIS), taking place in Geneva from September 15 to 26.

"We are asking states to clearly reaffirm their commitment to
building a society based on human rights and human dignity",
stated a civil society representative to the government delegates
who are discussing the Declaration and Action Plan to be adopted
at the first phase of the Summit, planned for December in Geneva.
They are asking governments to affirm in the very first paragraph
of the Declaration that they are determined to meet the challenge
"to harness the potential of the information and communication
society to ensure that human needs are met and that all human
rights are realized."

Other related proposals mention the respect for fundamental
freedoms and labor standards, as a guarantee for secure working
conditions in the information society. Moreover, deep concern is
being expressed that security interests in relation to
communication technologies-one of the most polemical issues being
dealt with at the Summit-are "overstated at the expense of the
rights of individuals who make use of communication networks".

Civil society has therefore formulated proposals to affirm that
"the right to privacy is a human right and is essential for self-
determined human development in regard to civic, political,
social, economic and cultural activities", which "must be
protected in public spaces, online, offline, at home and in the
workplace". Concern was expressed that the power of the private
sector and of governments over personal data increases the risk
of abuse, including monitoring, surveillance and discrimination,
and therefore "must be checked and regulated legally and
technologically. The collection, retention, use and disclosure
of personal data, no matter by whom, should remain under the
control of and be determined by the individual concerned".

A majority of the civil society organizations present at the
Prepcom have chosen to work collectively on the production of
content proposals. These include the preparation of joint
statements, combined with putting pressure on government
delegations to adopt a more people-centred approach to the
"information society", proposals which are being coordinated
through the civil society "Content and Themes Working Group". An
important step forward this week has been the acceptance that the
proposals presented and compiled by civil society will be
considered as formal input to the intergovernmental drafting
committee negotiations.

It also involves autonomous activities being organized and
planned by civil society, among which is the "World Forum on
Communication Rights", to be held in Geneva on December 11, on
the initiative of the CRIS Campaign (Campaign for Communication
Rights in the Information Society), together with other
organizations. The Forum proposes to "tackle issues that the
WSIS dare not", and will launch a Charter on Communication

* Sally Burch, as ALAI´s delegate, has been acting as co-
coordinator of the Civil Society Working Group on Content and
Themes during the WSIS preparatory process.

- http://www.worldsummit2003.org

- http://prepcom.net