Why should you bother about WSIS+10 Overall Review?

For those who are not very familiar with Internet Governance issues, WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) is one of the most difficult processes to understand and follow up. With...

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Javier Serina/ @javseri

Public Policy Manager of Telefónica 

wsis_starTFor those who are not very familiar with Internet Governance issues, WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) is one of the most difficult processes to understand and follow up. With this post I will try to give you some basic information to help you understanding this important process and its influence in other instances of the global Internet Governance System.


What is WSIS?


WSIS developed into two phases: Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005).


The overall objective of WSIS is trying to cover “an urgent need to harness the potential of knowledge and technology for promoting the goals of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.”


The Geneva Phase was oriented towards development issues and ended with an Action Plan which developed into 11 Action Lines: 


C1.The role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
C2.Information and communication infrastructure: an essential foundation for the Information Society
C3.Access to information and knowledge
C4.Capacity building
C5.Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
C6.Enabling environment
C7.ICT applications: benefits in all aspects of life
C8.Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
C10.Ethical dimensions of the Information Society
C11.International and regional cooperation


The CSTD (Commission on Science and Technology for Development), a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN that provides the General Assembly and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues, makes an annual evaluation of the WSIS follow up and degree of accomplishment of the WSIS objectives. To do this, the CSTD gathers contributions from member states, enterprises and other entities.


The Tunis Phase was more oriented to Internet Governance issues and included, in the so-called Tunis Agenda, a definition of Internet Governance, the launching of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as well as the introduction of the Enhanced Cooperation concept, among other things.


2015: the year of the WSIS process revision


The Tunis Agenda establishes the revision of the whole WSIS process after 10 years of functioning, with the aim of determining how it should continue in the future.


In July 2014, the UN decided that its General Assembly should be responsible for such a revision during “a two-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly (in December), to be preceded by an intergovernmental preparatory process that also takes into account inputs from all relevant stakeholders of the World Summit on the Information Society”.


The whole process shall begin in June when the UN GA Chairman will nominate two governments as co-facilitators of the process.


This revision will be developed, as said, at the highest level and its results will influence the future of the Internet governance.


What aspects will be considered during the revision?


Internet Governance is such a wide issue that a great variety of fields could be affected: from cybersecurity to human rights, or from sustainable development to access.


Other important aspects will be considered, such as IGF continuity and how this will be discussed (more intergovernmental or more multistakeholder flavor).


How this revision will develop?


The aforementioned UN resolution 68/302, clearly specifies the calendar and modalities for the revision:

  • June – Appointment by UN GA Chairman of two co-facilitators;
  • June to December – Intergovernmental preparatory process where co-facilitators will “…lead, on the basis of, among other relevant inputs, submissions from Member and observer States and observers and the final report of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, an intergovernmental negotiation process, which will include preparatory meetings, resulting in an intergovernmentally agreed outcome document, for adoption at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly”;
  • December – WSIS High Level Event during the annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York


We assume that already in September a draft document will be ready for its consideration during the HL event in December.


The revision then will be intergovernmental, although it is expected that other interested parties will be consulted and could participate and intervene in the December event.


How the WSIS+10 revision interrelates with other processes, events and organizations?


Although everything that happens in the Internet Governance world is very much interconnected and the “butterfly effect” is here even more evident, perhaps what could be more noteworthy is the result of the IANA transition process which should be finished by the end of September.


This process runs in parallel with the revision of the ICANN internal supervision model, where all parties are involved.


If the community proposal for the transition of the IANA function is not considered adequate by the US NTIA (National Telecommunications & Information Administration), it could decide to extend the actual status quo (direct supervision of the IANA function by the US administration) until an acceptable proposal is presented. This possibility shouldn’t be discarded having in mind the political moment in the US and some reluctance to change something that has worked well so far.


Such an extension would be immediately presented by those governments in favour of a direct control of the Internet by a pure intergovernmental institution, as a clear failure of the multistakeholder governance model. In this case, most probably we will see in the HL event in December debates around whom and how the Internet is run.


What happens in September will also affect the next IGF edition (João Pessoa, 10-13 November), that will also be waiting for its mandate renewal and modalities in New York during the December HL event.


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