ITU: Greater transparency and participation needed in WCIT 2012
18 May 2012
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As the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) 2012 is going on in Geneva, Switzerland, under the auspices of the United Nations Educational Scientific an Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), ARTICLE 19, together with 30 other NGOs, has signed on to a letter asking for greater transparency and civil participation in the ITU.
The ITU is the UN specialised agency advising on telecommunications policy. According to its own website, this encompasses the whole Information Communications Technology sector, from digital broadcasting to the Internet, and from mobile technologies to 3D TV.
The agency is based on public-private partnership, meaning that it is exclusively made up of states (193) and private sector entities (over 700) with no civil society participation. Indeed, both the ITU Constitution and ITU Convention in principle preclude such participation. Furthermore, membership fees are so high that NGOs would be highly unlikely to be able to afford them.
However, with the upcoming review of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT 2012) to be held from 3-14 December 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, we believe that civil society input is vital. The ITRs were adopted in 1988 in Melbourne, Australia, i.e. in the pre-digital age. The review is meant to enable ITU members to meet the challenges of the new ICT environment. It is clear, therefore, that the issues that will be discussed at the WCIT 2012 can potentially have an impact on the open Internet, freedom of expression, and access to information.
ICT policy has long followed a multi-stakeholder approach. That was the promise of the Tunis Agenda 2005 and one of its great achievements. In light of the potential impact of the ITRs review on ICTs and human rights more generally, we call on the ITU to open up its processes to ensure meaningful civil society participation in the discussions that will be taking place at the WCIT 2012.