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  3. <head>
  4. <title>FSF Europe - WSIS - Debriefing Geneva Phase / Part I, December 10-12, 2003</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body>
  7. <h2>Debriefing on</h2>
  8. <div align="right">
  9. <h1>
  10. World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)<br />
  11. Geneva Phase / Part I, Geneva, December 10-12
  12. </h1>
  13. </div>
  14. <p>
  15. <b>by <a href="/about/greve/">Georg C. F. Greve</a> &lt;greve@fsfe.org&gt;</b><br />
  16. <ul>
  17. European Caucus of Civil Society@WSIS, Chair<br />
  18. Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks (PCT) working group of Civil Society@WSIS, co-coordinator<br />
  19. Delegate of German Civil Society@WSIS coordination circle in German governmental delegation<br/>
  20. FSF Europe, president
  21. </ul>
  22. </p>
  23. <h3>Introduction</h3>
  24. <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/">United Nations</a> (UN) <a
  25. href="http://www.wsis.org">World Summit on the Information Society</a>
  26. (WSIS) is the first such a global summit held in two parts. The first
  27. part was held in Geneva, Switzerland from <b>December 10th-12th
  28. 2003</b> and adopted two documents, the <b>Declaration of
  29. Principles</b> and the <b>Plan of Action</b>. The second phase will
  30. take place in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, from <b>16th
  31. to 18th November 2005</b>. So after the first phase has finished its
  32. work, an assessment of experiences and in particular the adopted
  33. documents seems warranted.</p>
  34. <h3>Procedural Overview</h3>
  35. <p>The structures of global governance are in a process of
  36. transformation. Governance, originally the function of governments
  37. alone, is increasingly taking place in a network in which governments
  38. are one party. The other two stakeholders usually identified in this
  39. regard are Civil Society and economy.</p>
  40. <p>How and in which form that network will take shape is not clear
  41. today. Ideas range from an equal participation of all sides
  42. ("tripartite") over other forms of networking with different levels of
  43. influence ("multi-stakeholder") to a pure governmental network.</p>
  44. <p>Among the novelties that the WSIS claims for itself is a uniquely
  45. inclusive multi-stakeholder, even tripartite approach. After Geneva,
  46. we have to concede that positive steps have been taken in this
  47. direction, but the current situation does not warrant the label of
  48. "tripartism."</p>
  49. <p>As described in more detail in other places, Civil Society was in-
  50. or excluded from working groups on a seemingly random basis throughout
  51. the whole preparatory process. But the summit itself in Geneva
  52. climaxed in a way that will make it easy for Tunisia to shine as a
  53. symbol of Civil Society involvement and freedom of speech.</p>
  54. <p>While logistics provided during the preparatory process were
  55. adequate, even good, this was not true for the summit itself. Some
  56. little shacks had been assembled as temporary housing for Civil
  57. Society within the exhibition, but no rooms were reserved for civil
  58. society use, most notably the civil society plenary assembly. Lack of
  59. logistics also included printers, photocopiers and -- not without
  60. irony given the topic of the summit -- adequate network access.</p>
  61. <p>This however qualified as uniquely favorable treatment in
  62. comparison with those Civil Society participants who were trying to
  63. organise alternative events outside the Palexo premises and were
  64. removed by Geneva riot police from the rooms they had rented under
  65. adaptable legal excuses. A peaceful public protest on the last day was
  66. also stopped by the police before it began.</p>
  67. <p>Unnoticed by most governments remained the fact that Civil Society
  68. was not even entitled to determine who would speak in its stead at the
  69. summit ceremonies.</p>
  70. <p>Although the self-organising mechanisms of Civil Society provided a
  71. list of speakers that was balanced in terms of questions such as
  72. geography, gender, topic and prior involvement, that list was largely
  73. ignored by the WSIS secretariat.</p>
  74. <p>So when Civil Society was informed Dec 1st, 2003 by the secretariat
  75. who was to speak in its name during the summit, it had to realise that
  76. most of the names on that list were unbeknownst to them and even
  77. included one mayor of a city, who was apparently to speak in the name
  78. of Civil Society.</p>
  79. <p>Only for questions of timing and for not wanting to undermine the
  80. message of Civil Society while playing into the hands of such
  81. divisionary tactics, did Civil Society not react to this
  82. officially. It is unlikely Civil Society would remain silent about
  83. repetition of such a demonstration of disrespect for its active
  84. members and self-organised structures.</p>
  85. <p>So the way towards Tunisia and the summit in Tunis will show
  86. whether we come closer to tripartism by allowing Civil Society to
  87. choose who is speaking in its name or -- alternatively -- whether
  88. Civil Society will get to decide upon two thirds of the governmental
  89. speakers.</p>
  90. <h3>European perspectives</h3>
  91. <p>Even though the European Union and its member states share some
  92. positions of Civil Society more than others, positions are different
  93. on some critical issues. Still, they were always among the first to
  94. protest against exclusion of Civil Society in the working groups and
  95. asking for more participation and involvement.</p>
  96. <p>During the PrepComs III and IIIa, coordination meetings between the
  97. European Caucus of Civil Society and the European Union took place,
  98. exploring ways of implementing active participation of Civil Society
  99. not only in theory, but in reality.</p>
  100. <p>By means of strengthening this process of building and exporing
  101. cooperation and participation, the European Union and its member
  102. states are about to cover new ground in the multi-stakeholder
  103. approach, building up experience that may also help on a larger level
  104. or within other processes.</p>
  105. <p>Also, some countries -- for instance Germany and Switzerland --
  106. have taken initiative on an individual level by including Civil
  107. Society representatives in their governmental delegations to the
  108. preparatory process and the summit itself.</p>
  109. <p>Civil Society will certainly seek to build upon these positive
  110. experiences in the future, a message also personally delivered to the
  111. Irish delegation to the summit in Geneva, since Ireland will take over
  112. EU presidency in January 2004.</p>
  113. <h3>PCT perspectives</h3>
  114. <p>The multitude of interesting Civil Society side events was another
  115. positive part of the summit. Personally, I enjoyed very much the
  116. opportunity to <a
  117. href="http://gnuhh.org/work/presentations/WSIS-APC/">speak at the APC
  118. event</a> on Free Software for women in Africa. Just afterwards, also
  119. on wednesday, Dec 10th, the Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks (PCT)
  120. working group of Civil Society held its <a
  121. href="/campaigns/wsis/event-03-12-10.html">"Free Software, Free
  122. Society" event</a>.</p>
  123. <p>After Prof. Lawrence Lessig, who shared his visions for a Free
  124. Society, the speakers shed light on their experience on building Free
  125. Societies with the help of Free Software in South America and
  126. Africa. This experience was complimented by the experience of the
  127. Swiss NGO Ynternet.org.</p>
  128. <p>Surprising special guests were Sergio Amadeu Da Silveira and
  129. Rogerio Santanna of the Brazilian government, who told the audience
  130. about their experience building the Free Software policy for
  131. Brazil. And as the final speaker, just after his appearence at the
  132. governmental high-level round table, Richard Stallman, founding father
  133. of the GNU Project, vividly expressed the freedoms of Free
  134. Software.</p>
  135. <h3>Assessment of the documents</h3>
  136. <p>Leaving aside all problems, frustrations and obstacles that Civil
  137. Society faced, some positive influence on the governmental documents
  138. <em>Declaration of Principles</em> and <em>Plan of Action</em> adopted
  139. during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) seems
  140. evident. This is my first personal assessment for the areas that I
  141. have been following most closely.</p>
  142. <p><b>Access to public domain of global knowledge</b><br /></p>
  143. <p>It is self-awareness, the possibility to reflect and our ability to
  144. develop and communicate abstract concepts that make humankind
  145. different from any other species on our planet. As a result of that
  146. process, including concepts, thoughts and experiences from all people
  147. alive and dead, we create the public domain of global knowledge. From
  148. this reservoir we learn, improve ourselves and build new
  149. knowledge.</p>
  150. <p>This makes the question of access to the reservoir that is the
  151. public domain of global knowledge central to humankind in general, but
  152. information societies in particular.</p>
  153. <p>Central paragraphs dealing with access to the public domain of
  154. global knowledge adopted on Dec 12th, 2003 are <ul> <b>Declaration of
  155. Principles</b> 24: <em>"The ability for all to access and contribute
  156. information, ideas and knowledge is essential in an inclusive
  157. Information Society."</em> </ul> <ul> <b>Declaration of Principles</b>
  158. 25: <em>"The sharing and strengthening of global knowledge for
  159. development can be enhanced by removing barriers to equitable access
  160. to information for economic, social, political, health, cultural,
  161. educational, and scientific activities and by facilitating access to
  162. public domain information, including by universal design and the use
  163. of assistive technologies."</em> </ul> <ul> <b>Declaration of
  164. Principles</b> 26: <em>"A rich public domain is an essential element
  165. for the growth of the Information Society, creating multiple benefits
  166. such as an educated public, new jobs, innovation, business
  167. opportunities, and the advancement of sciences. Information in the
  168. public domain should be easily accessible to support the Information
  169. Society, and protected from misappropriation. Public institutions
  170. such as libraries and archives, museums, cultural collections and
  171. other community-based access points should be strengthened so as to
  172. promote the preservation of documentary records and free and equitable
  173. access to information."</em> </ul></p>
  174. <p>The weakness of these paragraphs is their emphasis on the economic
  175. and development related aspects, which somewhat neglect the social and
  176. political issues. Also they put most of their attention on the past,
  177. not the future extension of human knowledge. But despite these
  178. weaknesses, the thrust is good. Most particular, they come before the
  179. paragraph on Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks (PCTs) in the
  180. declaration, emphasising early on the significance of the public
  181. domain of global knowledge and of access to it.</p>
  182. <p><b>Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks (PCT)</b><br />
  183. <b>(a.k.a. Limited Intellectual Monopolies (LIM))</b><br /></p>
  184. <p>Patents, Copyright and Trademarks (PCTs) centrally regulate access
  185. to the public domain of global knowledge, the reservoir of all human
  186. knowledge, from which new knowledge is in turn created. As an effect
  187. of the current system, some Northern companies have become immensely
  188. rich while the vast majority of humankind is excluded from access to
  189. that knowledge.</p>
  190. <p>The lines of conflict in this area ran between the Southern and
  191. Northern countries, most particular United States, European Union and
  192. Japan. While Northern countries wish to see international treaties and
  193. organisations -- most notably the "World Intellectual Property
  194. Organization" (WIPO) -- accepted as they stand, Southern countries
  195. question the balance of the current system and wish to see the system
  196. reevaluated.</p>
  197. <p>The <a href="http://www.wsis-pct.org">PCT working group</a> of
  198. Civil Society, which is working on these issues, has been giving
  199. support to the Southern countries in this area and supported them
  200. through statements (in <a
  201. href="campaigns/wsis/ps-20030923.html">plenary</a> and beyond),
  202. personal discussions and drafts for compromise text.</p>
  203. <p>The paragraphs dealing with the issue as they have been adopted on
  204. December 12th are:
  205. <ul> <b>Declaration of Principles</b> 42: <em>"Intellectual Property
  206. protection is important to encourage innovation and creativity in the
  207. Information Society; similarly, the wide dissemination, diffusion, and
  208. sharing of knowledge is important to encourage innovation and
  209. creativity. Facilitating meaningful participation by all in
  210. intellectual property issues and knowledge sharing through full
  211. awareness and capacity building is a fundamental part of an inclusive
  212. Information Society."</em> </ul>
  213. <ul> <b>Plan of Action</b> C3, 10, d): <em>"Governments, and other
  214. stakeholders, should establish sustainable multi- purpose community
  215. public access points, providing affordable or free-of- charge access
  216. for their citizens to the various communication resources, notably the
  217. Internet. These access points should, to the extent possible, have
  218. sufficient capacity to provide assistance to users, in libraries,
  219. educational institutions, public administrations, post offices or
  220. other public places, with special emphasis on rural and underserved
  221. areas, while respecting intellectual property rights (IPRs) and
  222. encouraging the use of information and sharing of
  223. knowledge."</em></ul>
  224. </p>
  225. <p>While it can and should be criticised that the paragraphs are using
  226. the ideologically charged and misleading terminology of "intellectual
  227. property" and contain a good load of fuzzyness, it should be realised
  228. that they are a step forward, albeit a small one.</p>
  229. <p>As they stand, they still neglect that all monopolisation of
  230. knowledge draws its sole justification from increasing the
  231. dissemination, diffusion and sharing of knowledge, as adequately
  232. stated in Article 1 of the United States constitution: "<em>To promote
  233. the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times
  234. to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective
  235. writings and discoveries;</em>"</p>
  236. <p>But unlike other statements (and what the Northern countries were
  237. also trying to achieve in the scope of WSIS), it does not put forward
  238. the notion that ultimate monopolisation of knowledge should be the
  239. goal of humankind. Instead, it gives monopolisation, dissemination,
  240. diffusion and sharing of knowledge equal weight.</p>
  241. <p>Also, it does not mention the international treaties in the area,
  242. therefore not reinforcing them. In particular, it does not mention
  243. WIPO, in essence leaving room for the interpretation that it is not
  244. the Information Society that should serve WIPO, but rather WIPO which
  245. should serve the Information Society.</p>
  246. <p>This is of critical importance. Earlier in 2003, WIPO cancelled a
  247. conference on knowledge sharing because of heavy opposition by the
  248. United States. When asked why the United States had opposed the WIPO
  249. meeting, Lois Boland, director of international relations for the
  250. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, told the Washington Post,
  251. "<em>Open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which
  252. is to promote intellectual property rights.</em>" She added: "<em>To
  253. hold a meeting, which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such
  254. rights, seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO.</em>"</p>
  255. <p>In short: WIPO has in the past years understood its mission as
  256. seeking ultimate monopolisation of knowledge. Every aspect of society
  257. had to serve that goal. Thanks to WSIS, there is now room to
  258. reevaluate the role of WIPO into one of readjustment instead of
  259. single-minded expansion.</p>
  260. <p>It is not enough to stop here, but a door has been opened that
  261. remained closed before.</p>
  262. <p><b>Free Software</b><br /></p>
  263. <p>Software shapes the digital age and access to it determines who may
  264. participate in a digital world. That is why <a
  265. href="/campaigns/wsis/fs.html">Free Software</a> with its freedoms of
  266. use for any purpose, studying, modification and redistribution is an
  267. essential building block for an empowering, sustainable and inclusive
  268. information society.</p>
  269. <p>The paragraphs adopted for this on December 12th were
  270. <ul> <b>Declaration of Principles</b> 27: <em>"Access to information
  271. and knowledge can be promoted by increasing awareness among all
  272. stakeholders of the possibilities offered by different software
  273. models, including proprietary, open-source and free software, in order
  274. to increase competition, access by users, diversity of choice, and to
  275. enable all users to develop solutions which best meet their
  276. requirements. Affordable access to software should be considered as
  277. an important component of a truly inclusive Information
  278. Society."</em></ul> <ul> <b>Plan of Action</b> C3, 10, e):
  279. <em>"Encourage research and promote awareness among all stakeholders
  280. of the possibilities offered by different software models, and the
  281. means of their creation, including proprietary, open-source and free
  282. software, in order to increase competition, freedom of choice and
  283. affordability, and to enable all stakeholders to evaluate which
  284. solution best meets their requirements."</em></ul></p>
  285. <p>One might have hoped that governments were already more advanced in
  286. their understanding of the digital society, but these paragraphs are
  287. going further than it may seem at first glance; especially given their
  288. development over time.</p>
  289. <p>During the work on the documents, especially the United States
  290. tried to declassify Free Software by means of referring to it as the
  291. "open source software development model," pretending it was a foremost
  292. technical issue, which could later disappear from the documents
  293. entirely, as there is no need to talk about all the technical models
  294. in a political document. This was stopped around the <a
  295. href="/campaigns/wsis/debriefing-paris.html">Intersessional Meeting in
  296. Paris</a>, when Civil Society managed to get Free Software into the
  297. official documents.</p>
  298. <p>Although the official documents pose the risk of further spreading
  299. the notion of "open source" as "any software with (partially) visible
  300. source code," they do avoid the most severe misunderstanding by not
  301. confusing proprietary (non-Free) and commercial software, as both Free
  302. and proprietary software can be both commercial or non-commercial.</p>
  303. <p>More importantly, instead of talking about software development
  304. models, the documents speak of "software models." For the first time,
  305. a formal United Nations level takes steps to acknowledge that the
  306. choice between proprietary and Free Software is not a mainly technical
  307. issue, but a political, economical and social choice of paradigm.</p>
  308. <p>One of the most fundamental tasks of the Free Software Foundation
  309. has always been to build awareness, because ubiquitous understanding
  310. of the different software paradigms and their effects is the most
  311. effective way of establishing Free Software; someone who has
  312. understood the full consequences of that choice will not freely choose
  313. proprietary software.</p>
  314. <p>So while encouraging research and promoting awareness may not seem
  315. like much, it is all that is needed for Free Software to be understood
  316. and prevail as the most favorable paradigm. </p>
  317. <p>In essence: on Dec 12th, 2003, all governments represented in the
  318. United Nations have committed to encourage research and promotion of
  319. awareness for the different paradigms of software and their effects,
  320. something we can support entirely, even if we hoped that the
  321. governments had understood these issues better already.</p>
  322. <p><b>Open Standards</b><br /></p>
  323. <p>Open standards are the equivalent of well documented and accessible
  324. languages in a digital world, allowing communication and
  325. cooperation.</p>
  326. <p>Unfortunately, the paragraphs adopted for standardisation adopted
  327. on Dec 12th were insufficient: <ul> <b>Declaration of Principles</b>
  328. 44: <em>"Standardization is one of the essential building blocks of
  329. the Information Society. There should be particular emphasis on the
  330. development and adoption of international standards. The development
  331. and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven
  332. standards that take into account needs of users and consumers is a
  333. basic element for the development and greater diffusion of ICTs and
  334. more affordable access to them, particularly in developing
  335. countries. International standards aim to create an environment where
  336. consumers can access services worldwide regardless of underlying
  337. technology."</em></ul> <ul> <b>Plan of Action</b> C6, 13,
  338. p):<em>"Governments, in cooperation with other stakeholders, should
  339. promote the development and use of open, interoperable,
  340. non-discriminatory and demand- driven standards."</em></ul></p>
  341. <p>While "open" and "interoperable" are important adjectives and
  342. "demand-driven" is uncritical, it is not enough to ensure open
  343. standards. Especially "non-discriminatory" has acquired sad notoriety
  344. in the standardisation discussions by at times being used in ways to
  345. make Free Software implementations impossible.</p>
  346. <p>As the PCT working group has repeatedly pointed out, no standard
  347. will ever qualify as a truly open standard unless it is <em>freely
  348. implementable</em> and <em>publicly documented</em>.</p>
  349. <p>In essence, the paragraphs fall short of what they seek to
  350. accomplish.</p>
  351. <p><b>Open Access</b><br /></p>
  352. <p>Science is the source of the technological development that
  353. empowers the Information Society, including the World Wide Web. In the
  354. best tradition of science, scientific authors donate their work to
  355. humankind and access to that information is crucial.</p>
  356. <p>The paragraphs mention this explicitly in<ul>
  357. <b>Declaration of Principles</b> 28: <em>"We strive to promote
  358. universal access with equal opportunities for all to scientific
  359. knowledge and the creation and dissemination of scientific and
  360. technical information, including open access initiatives for
  361. scientific publishing."</em></ul> <ul> <b>Plan of Action</b> C3, 10,
  362. i):<em>"Encourage initiatives to facilitate access, including free and
  363. affordable access to open access journals and books, and open archives
  364. for scientific information."</em></ul></p>
  365. <p>While "encourage initatives" is not very binding, these paragraphs
  366. do mention in particular the significance of Open Access to scientific
  367. information, a part that had disappeared for a while in all documents
  368. throughout the process.</p>
  369. <p>Since Francis Muguet, co-coordinator of the PCT working group and
  370. coordinator of Scientific Information (SI) working group, was most
  371. active in this part, I'm going to leave the full assessment of this up
  372. to him.</p>
  373. <h3>Summary</h3>
  374. <p>One can say that the governmental documents fall short of the <a
  375. href="/campaigns/wsis/cs-benchmarks.html">essential benchmarks</a> of
  376. Civil Society in all considered aspects. But one can also say that
  377. they have in most cases made progress and moved in the right
  378. direction.</p>
  379. <p>A fair evaluation of both the process and the adopted documents
  380. might be that they have moved into the right direction, but that we
  381. cannot be satisfied yet and will have to keep working on all
  382. aspects. Given that Civil Society has networked itself better than
  383. ever before throughout the summit, my personal outlook is
  384. positive.</p>
  385. <p>So my conclusion would be that we haven't arrived and will probably
  386. not do so in Tunis, but we've made progress and now are finding
  387. ourselves in a solid starting position for the years to come.</p>
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