Putting people at the centre of the Information Society: Our comments on the WSIS+10 Draft Outcome Document

A report by
Rajat Rai Handa


Comments were invited on the recently released Draft Outcome Document for the WSIS+10 Review process from UN member states, observer states and all relevant stakeholders till the 17th of November 2015. The Internet Democracy Project submitted comments on all the sections of the document. We also contributed once again to a joint civil society submission that resulted from the Civil Society Strategy Meeting that we co-organised at IGF 2015.

The WSIS+10 Draft Outcome Document is based on the inputs provided by UN member-states and all relevant stakeholders throughout the review process. It is meant to inform the closed-door informals where textual negotiations will take place amongst the UN member-states on 19 – 20 and 24 – 25 November 2015. The co-facilitators already highlighted in their letter forwarding the draft outcome document on 4th November 2015, that several sections will need careful consideration, most notably those on enhanced cooperation, building confidence & security in the use of ICT’s, and follow-up & review. The Internet Democracy Project, though welcoming the general direction in which the draft outcome document has developed, still believe that improvements continue to be required on some important points throughout the document.

In general, we believe that the outcome document would benefit from a stronger recognition of the strongly dynamic nature of the Information Society and of the many changes that it has witnessed over the past ten years and will undoubtedly witness in the coming ten. As much as we have to look back to the WSIS Outcome Documents of 2003 and 2005 as part of the review, it is essential that we also look forward in ways that are both thorough and creative, so as to account for the changes of the past ten years as well as those that we will witness, and shape, in the future.

In addition, we provided detailed comments on a number of issues. We highlighted the crucial need to recognise that digital exclusion actually causes harm, as it leads to the worsening of inequalities. Thus, the task of bridging the digital divide acquires particular urgency in that context.

While we were pleased to note the strong recognition of the need to protect journalists, bloggers and civil society space in the document, we were disappointed to note that the significant role that anonymity and encryption can play as enablers of privacy protection and freedom of expression was once again not recognised. Moreover, we pointed out that the right to access information should be referenced explicitly, keeping in mind its important role in enabling development outcomes.

We pointed out that building confidence and security in the use of ICT’s requires an approach which is strongly rooted in the promotion and protection of human rights and which places people at the centre of efforts to create a safe and secure cyberspace i.e. a truly people-centred approach.

While we were happy with the recognition of the need to have greater participation of developing countries in Internet Governance, we fully supported the repeated calls from the Government of India to ensure that such inclusion is substantive, and not merely formal (see India’s previous submissions to the zero-draft and to the non-paper for examples) and welcomed the call for strengthened financing mechanisms as one measure to make this a reality.

Furthermore, we believe that the Internet governance section at the moment does not take into account sufficiently the important contributions that stakeholders other than governments have made to the Internet governance ecosystem over the past ten years, since the emphasis is too strong on the multilateral aspects rather than the multistakeholder ones in some paragraphs.

In our comments on enhanced cooperation, we strongly recommended that the proposal for an intergovernmental working group on enhanced cooperation be replaced by a proposal for a multistakeholder one in order to support the healthy evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

Finally on the follow-up and review section, we highlighted the great value in having regional review processes with the full participation of all stakeholders throughout the process, since that would help achieve the inclusion of developing countries in the WSIS+10 Review process as indicated previously also. We also supported suggestions to make the the review more analytic. It should not just report on achievements but also provide an analysis of trends, gaps and changes that should inform our work going forward. One of the most important things that we reiterated was the need for coming summits or high level meetings to be fully open to and inclusive of all stakeholders at all points of the process and in all its aspects and facets.

We also noted in our submission that part of the WSIS+10 review process has remained completely closed to non-government stakeholders, and this has been a cause of great concern for those stakeholder groups. The WSIS process should not repeat this mistake going forward.

Our comments to the draft outcome-document can be found in full here.

And the joint civil society inputs can be found here.