Report: PrepCom II of the World Summit on the Information Society (Phase I)

Volunteer Reporters
28 February 2003

Civil Society Plenary

Time: 18 February 2003, 8:00-9:30 Location: International Labour Orgnization (ILO) Chairs: Ms. Renate Bloem, President Conference of NGOs (CONGO)Mr. Alain Clerc, Head of the Civil Society Executive Secretariat of WSIS Reporter: Mr. Simon Hetherington, ICVolunteers Languages: English, French, Spanish Key words: PrepCom-2, WSIS, Information Society, telecommunications, Civil Society Bureau.

The first Civil Society plenary meeting of PrepCom 2 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was opened with a briefly outline of the Civil Society (CS) Bureau. The opening was followed by a brief introduction those how had participated in two informal meetings regarding this Bureau. The session ended with a discussion and questions from the floor, asking for clarification of some points related to the CS Bureau.

Chair, Ms. Renate Bloem of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with the UN (CONGO) briefly presented herself and her organisation. She then asked who of those present had attended PrepCom-1 or any of the regional WSIS Conferences. Many hands indicated that this was the case. Ms. Bloem then outlined the agenda of session and touched briefly upon the idea of a Civil Society Bureau.

The floor then passed to Mr. Alain Clerc of the WSIS CS Executive Secretariat who introduced the Bureau concept in more depth. He stated that Civil Society had been deeply dissatisfied with the decision-making procedure formulated for PrepCom-1. In order to build a more inclusive process and give Civil Society a facilitating structure, the Executive Secretariat had suggested to create a Civil Society Bureau. Likewise for the Governmental Bureau, the functions of the CS Bureau would be to channel and facilitate CS participation in the WSIS. It thus would deal with procedures, rather than content, which would be addressed by caucuses and working groups. Mr. Clerc went on to say that the Bureau was vital for the inclusiveness of the decision making process. He stated: "It is vital that each and every family has an opportunity for their voice to be heard."

Ms. Renate Bloem allowed some time to each of the family groups listed to be part of the Bureau to explain their thoughts on participation. The speakers were as follows:

Ms. Eva Egron-Polack, International Association of Universities, representing the family of Academia and Education, stated that she thought that the consultation process had allowed the input from all groups involved. With their comments, they had been able to somewhat improve the initial draft document for the CS Bureau. She was, however, still unsure about how the process can work, due to the large numbers involved within the Bureau.

Mr. Carthage Smith of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and representing the "Science and Technology Family" began by saying that the Bureau project was a good beginning. He went on to say that it is important not just to represent self-interest, but rather the interests of the group as a whole. 

Mr. Guillaume Chenevière of the International Radio-TV Council and representing the "Media Family", stated that a major historic declaration has been agreed upon, incorporating a common text for the Summit by the whole Media Family and this is a great step forward.

Ms. Viola Krebs of International Conference Volunteers (ICV) and representing the "Volunteer Family", pointed out that volunteers play a vital role within the civil society. She noted that the Volunteer Family had been forgotten in the latest version of the Bureau text and asked to have it added.

Ms. Gillian Marcelle of the Women Caucus and representing the "Women & Gender Family", began by warmly greeting the concept of a Bureau. According to her, the CS Bureau would allow for a two-way accountability and provides an effective channel to provide input, which is very important in the process of WSIS.
The end of the plenary was used for any questions and matters requiring clarification.

Questions
Q: Can Bureau Members take any decisions regaring content?
A: No. The Bureau would only be a facilitating body, dealing with procedural matters. It would not take any content-related decisions.
Q. Where to obtain information about the CS Bureau Project?
A. The WSIS CS web site is being updated. For more information, see www.geneva2003.org
Q. Is it possible to belong to more than one family?
A. It is not only possible, but also desirable.

Conclusions
It was concluded that the Bureau was a useful tool to actively incorporate the many different voices of Civil Society, which wish to be involved in the WSIS. 

Nevertheless, there was still confusion among many delegates present as to the system of classification and points of contact. It was pointed out by the Chair that there would be opportunities throughout PrepCom-2 to clarify these points.

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