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Opening the Door to Civil Society Participation in the ITU Informal consultation between ITU and civil society on the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

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Presentation on theme: "Opening the Door to Civil Society Participation in the ITU Informal consultation between ITU and civil society on the participation of all relevant stakeholders."— Presentation transcript:

1 Opening the Door to Civil Society Participation in the ITU Informal consultation between ITU and civil society on the participation of all relevant stakeholders International Telecommunication Union, Geneva, 18 May 2007 Dr. William Drake Director, Project on the Information Revolution and Global Governance Graduate Institute for International Studies Geneva, Switzerland

2 What do we mean by civil society? Two sources of confusion Historical usage in political theory & practice UN usage of NGO category Nevertheless, in recent decades, common usage clearly refers to the non-profit or third sector, comprising e.g. Advocacy organizations Service providers/operating entities, e.g. in development Professional associations Academic and research institutions Social movements and networks Individual citizens Last point bears emphasis in Internet age: civil society (CS) encompasses both civil society organizations (CSOs) and unaffiliated individual stakeholders, who typically participate in international collaborations at their own expense

3 CS and Global ICT Policy Historical disconnect relative to other global policy arenas Impact of the Internet on perceptions of interest, capabilities, mobilization WSIS and multistakeholderism: CS contributions to the process; impact on expectations and evaluations re: global ICT policymaking organizations For most of the hundreds of CS actors involved, first encounters with the ITU; impact on negotiation positions, especially re: Internet governance 2004 study of 140 CSOs, none had experience with or monitored ITU affairs, save the few involved in the unsuccessful 1999 dialogue with ITU-D

4 Illustrative Practices in Other Organizations In most nongovernmental Internet governance-related organizations, participation by both CSOs and individuals is allowed as matter of right, and is the norm In most relevant intergovernmental organizations, participation by accredited CSOs is allowed as matter of right ECOSOC has 2,870 accredited NGOs in consultative status ECOSOC Res. 1996/31: Consultative relationship between the United Nations and non-governmental organizations: Calling upon …specialized agencies of the United Nations system to examine the principles and practices relating to their consultations with non-governmental organizations and to take action, as appropriate, to promote coherence… Exceptions: tripartite structures with organized labor in ILO, OECD (progressive when created, but now too limiting)

5 ICANN At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) Operates in parallel with three other committees (including the GAC) Advises the Board of Directors and has liaisons to the Board, GNSO, etc. Can initiate discussion of topics Transitioning to a structure comprising ten people elected by five Regional At Large Organizations (each comprising multiple CSOs) and five appointed Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) Operates in parallel with five other constituencies within the GNSO, elects members to the GNSO Council 43 CSO members Transparency Most documents freely available (GAC & board notable exceptions) Archived listservs, recorded/transcribed teleconferences publicly accessible Public participation website Meeting webcasts, virtual participation Open RFCs, blog, etc. General Manager of Public Participation, current RFC on reform, etc Extensive CS participation (including on the Board of Directors) Similarly, the IETF: Open participation subject to conference fees (lack of regular budget support), working groups open to all, most work done on line, all documents freely available, open RFCs, etc.

6 UNESCO 332 accredited observers; business and CSOs mixed as NGOs; list is overwhelmingly CS CS can send observers and can make oral interventions and submit written statements, subject to limitations CS has contributed extensively to work operational programs and negotiations

7 WIPO 250 accredited observers, business and CSOs mixed as NGOs; many CSOs CSOs can apply for permanent observer status or for ad hoc observer status at particular meetings, can speak subject to limitations CS has actively contributed in recent years and has formed an effective coalition with developing countries to promote a broad Development Agenda and Access to Knowledge as a guiding organizational objective

8 UNCTAD 196 accredited observers; business and CSOs mixed as NGOs; many CSOs CS can send observers and can make oral interventions and submit written statements Trade and Development Board holds informal hearings with NGOs to solicit views Civil Society Outreach Unit: Helps facilitate CS participation in UNCTAD work and organizes hearings, consultations, briefings and meetings Provides CS with information and documentation Liaises with other UN system focal points for CS

9 How Does UNCTAD View CS Participation? From the website: The recent successive UNCTAD Conferences have called for further collaboration between UNCTAD and civil society. CSOs have played an important and constructive role in furthering the purpose and principles of UNCTAD and in contributing to the institutions work. They have been very active during UNCTADs quadrennial Conferences and, between sessions, and work closely with its intergovernmental organs and its secretariat. A range of modalities of cooperation with civil society entities is being implemented. UNCTAD has pursued a policy that allows cooperation with civil society actors by setting up formal and informal mechanisms for their participation in the activities of UNCTAD, including participation in conferences, workshops and seminars, producing co-publications, information-sharing and policy analysis through formal and informal exchange of ideas and implementation of technical cooperation programs. [emphasis added]

10 …even the World Trade Organization A harder case, as negotiating sessions deemed too sensitive, it is said that stakeholders would confound horse trading (potential negative impacts greater than for most ITU decisions) Nevertheless, the WTO has an active outreach program: CS participation allowed at Ministerial meetings CS often allowed to lurk in hallways outside negotiations to speak with delegates Extensive day to day informal consultations Regular briefings to be established Annual symposia for CS CS web portal with customized publications CS issue papers compiled and made available to members Negotiation documents derestricted

11 The ITU The Club Model and Culture (exceptional, not generalizable) Restrictive conceptions of legitimate stakeholders Sector Member or Associate: financial & procedural hurdles Very restrictive treatment of Observers Very minimal CS participation historically or today No action on prior recommendations for change, e.g. 1998-9 ITU-D SG2 Focus Group and the ITU Task Force on Gender ITU web page lists as civil society members, inter alia: Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (government/industry) Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (government/industry) International Telecommunications Users Group (industry) Internet Society (industry/CS hybrid) Little attention the CS telecom needs & policy perspectives

12 Arguments Not Heard in Other Global ICT Organizations Participation is already open, there is no problem (so then, where are they?) Opening the door could unleash a flood Most of CS lacks the ability to pay or send representatives to relatively frequent and lengthy sector meetings in Geneva In the near-term, probably low demand for membership, very manageable demand for observer status at regular meetings CS might disrupt the work (has not happened elsewhere, and even less likely in ITU due to focus and nature of the process) What do they have to contribute? (potentially a lot, particularly as Internet-related work grows, but this is the wrong question) It would be too expensive (limited participation in most meetings & CS does not need hard copies of documents)

13 Unfortunate Consequences ITU does not capture a share of the energy, enthusiasm, & technical/policy expertise that thousands of CS actors world- wide now direct into other ICT institutions & collaborations In many cases, unfamiliarity with ITUs work & contributions Widespread perceptions of ITU as a closed shop comprising old guard interests that are not responsive to public interest considerations & individual users concerns This has been as demonstrated and consequential in the WSIS & Internet governance debates, and could be reaffirmed as ITU increases work on Internet-related issues (e.g. security, NGN) that could impact users & the global public interest Difficult for any CS actors to convince colleagues that ITU could be a real partner, even in areas in which it has significant expertise & has made important contributions

14 Recommendations: Guiding Principles Cultural & institutional change is imperative to strengthen ITUs role in the contemporary environment Time is of the essence, as conditions are evolving rapidly in global ICT technology & policy A pro-active, positive approach is needed to cultivate a CS clientele Variable geometry of participation options needed in light of CS diversity At a minimum, attain conformity with practices in other intergovernmental organizations At least consider the potential lessons of nongovernmental collaborations common in the Internet environment

15 Recommendations: Information Gathering and Analysis Mapping exercise: identify CS actors with current or potential interests in each area of ITUs work Survey instrument or RFC: solicit bottom-up expressions of interest in particular activities & forms of participation, as well as suggestions on institutional enhancements that would promote CS engagement Comparative analysis: Assess transparency & participation in other global ICT policy institutions to identify current & best practices, generalizable lessons learned (the IGF could be useful here)

16 Recommendations: Transparency De-restrict meeting documents & make them freely available via the Internet Make Secretariat reports and other documents available in PDF format either free or at discounted rates Webcast many more meetings Increase use of virtual collaboration methods common in Internet-related organizations (not only to promote transparency & participation, but also to increase organizational efficiency) Include CS in advisory groups like TSAG, RAG, & TDAG, or create a special advisory structure

17 Recommendations: Outreach Establish a CS liaison function/office (general or within each sector) to facilitate participation, promote two-way communication on substantive & procedural matters Hold regular open consultations on ITU work programs (either large or small group formats) Establish CS-oriented sections of the website & ITU News Establish an open door policy for scholars who wish to conduct research at the ITU (policy as well as technical) Explore options for joint research and operational initiatives to take advantage of expertise & build support Establish a rotating, non-remunerative ITU Chair award for academics working on ITU-related technical or policy matters, similar to the UNESCO Chairs

18 Recommendations: Access to Off-line Meetings Formalize an open door policy for workshops, seminars, WTPFs, etc. & allow virtual participation Revise restrictive rules on observers (as in the Constitution & Res. COM 5/3, Antalya 2006) to establish flexible system akin to other UN organizations; WIPO model is instructive: A la carte observers at particular meetings of interest Permanent observers subject to simple annual accreditation Simplify the procedures for memberships and for fee waivers for those organizations that might like to become Sector Members or Associates Support of a Member government should not be required in order to apply, per practice in other UN bodies

19 Recommendations: Open the Dialogue Invite observers to: Council Working Group on the World Summit on the Information Society (WG-WSIS) 13-14 June 2007 Council Working Group on the study of the participation of all relevant stakeholder in the activities of the Union related to WSIS (WG-Study) 15 June 2007 Other WSIS stakeholders are invited to make inputs by sending them via e-mail is not an effective invitation or way to get effective input

20 Conclusions Adapt to the distributed stage of the information revolution and the current range of stakeholders and activities on supply and demand sides of global communications markets Expand, diversify, and make more accessible the ITUs high-quality think thank functions Develop open forum functions to attract some of the energy and enthusiasm now being directed elsewhere Provide a range of options for participation in the ITUs regular work Near-term operational impact on the ITU would be limited and positive Small steps would yield large pay-offs in public perception

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