Shaping information societies for human needs
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Shaping information societies for human needs

WSIS Civil Society Declaration
We, women and men from different continents, cultural backgrounds, perspectives, experience and expertise, acting as members of different constituencies of an emerging global civil society, considering civil society participation as fundamental to the first ever held UN Summit on Information and Communication issues, the World Summit on the Information Society, have been working for two years inside the process, devoting our efforts to shaping people-centred, inclusive and equitable concept of information and communication societies. Working together both on-line and off-line as civil society entities, practising an inclusive and participatory use of information and communication technologies, has allowed us to share views and shape common positions, and to collectively develop a vision of information and communication societies.

At this step of the process, the first phase of the Summit, Geneva, December 2003, our voices and the general interest we collectively expressed are not adequately reflected in the Summit documents. We propose this document as part of the official outcomes of the Summit.1 Convinced that this vision can become reality through the actions and lives of women and men, communities and people, we hereby present our own vision to all, as an invitation to participate in this ongoing dialogue and to join forces in shaping our common future.

Women in a computer and secretarial skills class in the Vocational Training Center in Gaza City, Gaza. The center is sponsored by the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches. DSPR is a member of the ACT Alliance. Photo: ACT/Paul Jeffrey.


1. A Visionary Society
At the heart of our vision of information and communications societies is the human being. The dignity and rights of all peoples and each person must be promoted, respected, protected and affirmed. Redressing the inexcusable gulf between levels of development and between opulence and extreme poverty must therefore be our prime concern.

We are committed to building information and communication societies2 that are people-centred, inclusive and equitable. Societies in which everyone can freely create, access, utilise, share and disseminate information and knowledge, so that individuals, communities and peoples are empowered to improve their quality of life and to achieve their full potential. Societies founded on the principles of social, political, and economic justice, and peoples’ full participation and empowerment, and thus societies that truly address the key development challenges facing the world today. Societies that pursue the objectives of sustainable development, democracy, and gender equality, for the attainment of a more peaceful, just, egalitarian and thus sustainable world, premised on the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We aspire to build information and communication societies where development is framed by fundamental human rights and oriented to achieving a more equitable distribution of resources, leading to the elimination of poverty in a way that is non-exploitative and environmentally sustainable. To this end we believe technologies can be engaged as fundamental means, rather than becoming ends in themselves, thus recognising that bridging the Digital Divide is only one step on the road to achieving development for all. We recognise the tremendous potential of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in overcoming the devastation of famine, natural catastrophes, new pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, as well as the proliferation of arms.

We reaffirm that communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and a foundation of all social organisation. Everyone, everywhere, at any time should have the opportunity to participate in communication processes and no one should be excluded from their benefits. This implies that every person must have access to the means of communication and must be able to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the right to hold opinions and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Similarly, the right to privacy, the right to access public information and the public domain of knowledge, and many other universal human rights of specific relevance to information and communication processes, must also be upheld. Together with access, all these communication rights and freedoms must be actively guaranteed for all in clearly written national laws and enforced with adequate technical requirements.

Building such societies implies involving individuals in their capacity as citizens, as well as their organisations and communities, as participants and decision-makers in shaping frameworks, policies and governing mechanisms. This means creating an enabling environment for the engagement and commitment of all generations, both women and men, and ensuring the involvement of diverse social and linguistic groups, cultures and peoples, rural and urban populations without exclusion. In addition, governments should maintain and promote public services where required by citizens and establish accountability to citizens as a pillar of public policy, in order to ensure that models of information and communication societies are open to continuing correction and improvement.

We recognise that no technology is neutral with respect to its social impacts and, therefore, the possibility of having so-called “technology-neutral” decision-making processes is a fallacy. It is critical to make careful social and technical choices concerning the introduction of new technologies from the inception of their design through to their deployment and operational phases. Negative social and technical impacts of information and communications systems that are discovered late in the design process are usually extremely difficult to correct and, therefore, can cause lasting harm. We envision an information and communication society in which technologies are designed in a participatory manner with and by their end-users so as to prevent or minimise their negative impacts.

We envision societies where human knowledge, creativity, cooperation and solidarity are considered core elements; where not only individual creativity, but also collective innovation, based on cooperative work are promoted. Societies where knowledge, information and communication resources are recognised and protected as the common heritage of humankind; societies that guarantee and foster cultural and linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue, in environments that are free from discrimination, violence and hatred.

We are conscious that information, knowledge and the means of communication are available on a magnitude that humankind has never dreamt of in the past; but we are also aware that exclusion from access to the means of communication, from information and from the skills that are needed to participate in the public sphere, is still a major constraint, especially in developing countries. At the same time information and knowledge are increasingly being transformed into private resources which can be controlled, sold and bought, as if they were simple commodities and not the founding elements of social organisation and development. Thus, as one of the main challenges of information and communication societies, we recognise the urgency of seeking solutions to these contradictions.

We are convinced that with the sufficient political will to mobilise this wealth of human knowledge and the appropriate resources, humanity could certainly achieve the goals of the Millennium Declaration, and even surpass them. As civil society organisations, we accept our part of responsibility in making this goal and our vision a reality.

2. Core Principles and Challenges
In accordance with this vision, it is essential that the development of information and communication societies be grounded in core principles that reflect a full awareness of the challenges to be met and the responsibility of different stakeholders. This includes the full recognition of the need to address gender concerns and to make a fundamental commitment to gender equality, non-discrimination and women’s empowerment, and recognise these as non-negotiable and essential prerequisites to an equitable and people-centred development within information and communication societies. Such a commitment means consciously redressing the effects of the intersection of unequal power relations in the social, economic and political spheres, which manifests in differential access, choice, opportunity, participation, status and control over resources between women and men as well as communities in terms of class, ethnicity, age, religion, race, geographical location and development status.

We have identified the following as key areas of concern. We recognise and uphold the following principles and we have identified certain priority areas for action by the international community.

2.1 Social Justice and People-Centred Sustainable Development
Within a social justice framework, human development implies cultural, social, economic, political and environmental living conditions that fulfil and empower individuals and communities. Despite the enormous advancements in knowledge and technology achieved by humanity, a majority of people continue to live in appalling conditions.

Social justice in the information and communication societies can only be pursued by taking into account geo-political and historical injustices along economic, social, political and cultural lines. Current global dynamics are characterised by tensions resulting from the inter-linkages of global economic liberalisation, cultural globalisation, increased militarism, rising fundamentalisms, racism and the suspension and violation of basic human rights.

The unequal distribution of ICTs and the lack of information access for a large majority of the world’s population, often referred to as the digital divide, is in fact a mapping of new asymmetries onto the existing grid of social divides. These include the divide between the North and South, rich and poor, men and women, urban and rural populations, those with access to information and those without. Such disparities are found not only between different cultures, but also within national borders. The international community must exercise its collective power to ensure action on the part of individual states in order to bridge domestic digital divides.

Redressing all forms of discrimination, exclusion and isolation that different marginalised and vulnerable groups and communities experience will require more than the deployment of technology alone. Their full participation in information and communication societies requires us to reject at a fundamental level, the solely profit-motivated and market-propelled promotion of ICTs for development. Conscious and purposeful actions need to be taken in order to ensure that new ICTs are not deployed to further perpetuate existing negative trends of economic globalisation and market monopolisation. Instead, ICT development and applications should be oriented to advance the social, economic and cultural progress of the world’s peoples and contribute to transforming the development paradigm.

Technological decisions should be taken with the goal of meeting the life-critical needs of people, not with goal of enriching companies or enabling undemocratic control by governments. Therefore, fundamental decisions concerning the design and use of technologies must be made in cooperation with Civil Society, including individual end-users, engineers, and scientists. In particular, where community-based technologies are concerned the study and practice of community informatics must be applied in order to respond adequately to the particular characteristics and needs of communities in design processes.

2.1.1 Poverty Eradication
Poverty Eradication must be a key priority on the WSIS agenda. Without challenging existing inequalities, no sustainable development embracing the new ICTs can be achieved. People living in extreme poverty must be enabled to contribute their experiences and knowledge in a dialogue involving all parties. Challenging poverty requires more than setting “development agendas”. It requires a fundamental commitment to examine the current frameworks, to improve local access to information that is of relevance for the specific context, to improve training in ICT-related skills, and to allocate significant financial and other resources. Also, because volunteers are working at the grassroots level, they play an important role in social inclusion.
Financial resources, linked with social and digital solidarity, need to be channelled through existing and new financial mechanisms that are managed transparently and inclusively by all sectors of society. Among the frameworks that need to be examined in terms of their potentially adverse effects on equitable development are the current arrangements for recognition and governance of monopolised knowledge and information, including the work of WIPO and the functioning of the TRIPS agreement.

2.1.2 Global Citizenship
Information and communication societies have the potential to catalyse and help release the enormous financial, technical, human and moral resources required for sustainable development. These resources will only be freed up as the peoples of the world develop a profound sense of responsibility for the fate of the planet and the well-being of the entire human family. In this regard, there is a need for the development in the individual and in communities, as well as governments, of a global consciousness, and a sense of world citizenship. Since the body of humankind is one and indivisible, each member of the human race is born into the world as a trust of the whole and is best served by ensuring the equal importance of each member through the proactive exercise and application of international human rights standards.

2.1.3 Gender Justice
Equitable, open and inclusive information and communication societies must be based on gender justice and be particularly guided by the interpretation of principles of gender equality, non- discrimination and women’s empowerment as contained in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Fourth World Conference on Women) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Actions must demonstrate not only a strong commitment but also a high level of consciousness to an intersectional approach to redressing discrimination resulting from unequal power relations at all levels of society. Proactive policies and programmes across all sectors must be developed for women as active and primary agents of change in owning, designing, using and adapting ICT. To empower girls and women throughout their life cycle, as shapers and leaders of society, gender responsive educational programs and appropriate learning environments need to be promoted. Gender analysis and the development of both quantitative and qualitative indicators in measuring gender equality through an extensive and integrated national system of monitoring and evaluation are “musts”.

2.1.4 Importance of Youth
We recognise also that young people are the future workforce and leading creators and earliest adopters of ICTs. They must therefore be empowered as learners, developers, contributors, entrepreneurs and decision-makers. We must focus especially on young people who have not yet been able to benefit fully from the opportunities provided by information and communication societies. In particular, we must seek to assist and empower youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially young people in developing countries. Equality of opportunity for girls and young women must be integral to our efforts, and we must create a greater awareness of their specific needs and potential in the field of ICT. Issues facing young workers in ICT industries, such as low pay, poor working conditions, and a lack of job stability and collective representation, must also be addressed. As main users of ICTs, young people are most affected and vulnerable to the health risks exposed by their use. Therefore, we commit to develop and use only those ICTs that ensure the well-being, protection, and harmonious development of all children.

Workers for KROS, a community organization in Jacmel, a town on Haiti’s southern coast that was ravaged by an earthquake, work outside on laptops developing a data base of quake survivors and their needs. Photo: ACT/Paul Jeffrey.


2.1.5 Access to Information and the Means of Communication
Access to information and the means of communication as a public and global commons should be participatory, universal, inclusive and democratic. Inequalities in access must be addressed in terms of the North/South divide as well as in terms of enduring inequalities within developed and less developed nations. Barriers that need to be overcome are of an economic, educational, technical, political, social, ethnic, and age nature, and inequitable gender relations are embedded into all of these and need to be specifically addressed.

Universal access to information that is essential for human development must be ensured. Infrastructure and the most appropriate forms of information and communication technologies must be accessible for all in their different social context, and the social appropriation of these technologies must be encouraged. This implies addressing diverse realities experienced by distinct social groups such as indigenous peoples, diasporas and migrants, and privileging local or targeted solutions. Traditional media and community-based information and communication initiatives have a vital role to play in these respects, and so does the effective use of the new ICTs. The regulatory and legal framework in all information and communication societies must be strengthened to support broad-based sharing of technologies, information, and knowledge, and to foster community control, respectful of human rights and freedoms.

Specific needs and requirements of all stakeholders, including those with disabilities, must be considered in ICT development. Accessibility and inclusiveness of ICTs is best done at an early stage of design, development and production, so that the information and communication society becomes the society for all, at minimum cost.
The need to access, send and receive information represents a particularly vital challenge to vulnerable people such as refugees, those displaced by war, and asylum seekers who often do not know their rights, which are frequently violated. Access to means of communication for these groups is necessary for the defence and promotion of their rights, in order to make legitimate claims in conformity with international law.

2.1.6 Access to Health Information
The delivery of life-critical mental and physical health information can be facilitated and improved through ICT-based solutions. Lack of access to information and communication has been identified as a critical factor in the public mental and physical health crises around the world. Experts have suggested that providing citizens of developing countries with community level points of access to mental and physical health information would be a critical starting point for addressing the mental and physical health care crises. However, such access points should support more than one-way flows of information (for example, from expert to community or patient). Communities must be allowed to participate in the selection and creation of communication flows that they find useful and necessary to address the prevention, treatment, and promotion of mental and physical health care for all people. Open access to medical information is absolutely essential so that all known data are available to medical doctors and practitioners.

2.1.7 Basic Literacy
Literacy and free universal access to education is a key principle. Knowledge societies require an informed and educated citizenry. Capacity-building needs to include skills to use ICTs, media and information literacy, and the skills needed for active citizenship including the ability to find, appraise, use and create information and technology. Approaches that are local, horizontal, gender- responsive and socially driven and mediated should be prioritised. A combination of traditional and new media as well as open access to knowledge and information should be encouraged. Libraries – both real and virtual – have an important role to play to ensure access to knowledge and information available to everyone. At the international and multilateral level, the public domain of knowledge and culture needs to be protected. People-centred information technologies can foster eradication of illnesses and epidemics, can help give everyone food, shelter, freedom and peace.
Literacy, education and research are fundamental components of information, communication and knowledge societies. Knowledge creation and acquisition should be nurtured as a participatory and collective process and not considered a one-way flow or confined to one section of capacity building. Education (formal, informal, and lifelong) builds democracy both by creating a literate citizenry and a skilled workforce. But only an informed and educated citizenry with access to the means and outputs of pluralistic research can fully participate in and effectively contribute to knowledge societies.

Urgent attention should be paid to the potential positive and negative impacts of ICTs on the issues of illiteracy in regional, national and international languages of the great majority of the world’s peoples. Literacy, education, and research efforts in the information and communication societies must include a focus on the needs of people who have physical impairments and all means of transcending those impairments (for example, voice recognition, e-learning, and open university training) must be promoted.

2.1.8 Development of Sustainable and Community-based ICT Solutions
In order that communities and individuals may fully enjoy the benefits of the information and communication society, ICTs must be designed and manufactured according to environmentally sustainable principles. Technological solutions must also be sustainable in the sense that communities are able to support their use and evolution.

Equipment recycling must meet environmental standards. The production of technologies must not consume an unsustainable amount of energy or natural resources.

It is essential to develop concrete proposals and policies to improve resource efficiency and develop renewable energy resources. This involves ‘dematerialising’ (for example, using less paper) and reducing ICT-related waste; increasing the useful life of hardware; improving recycling conditions; ensuring safe disposal of discarded ICT hardware and parts; and encouraging the development of alternatives to toxic ICT components. This also implies giving the highest priority to creating and using renewable energy resources to address the basic needs of populations living in developing countries. Renewable energy resources should be used for ICT-based dissemination of information and communications, including radio and television. Africa can particularly benefit from solar power due to its high level of exposure to direct solar radiation. By mobilising regional synergies, complemented by the necessary technical and financial cooperation, Africa could play a leading role in this strategic domain in the next decade.

Communities must have the ability to participate directly in the development and maintenance of ICT-based solutions to their own problems. In order that communities may create and sustain their own solutions using ICTs, they must be empowered to develop their own productive forces and control the means of production within information societies. This must include the right to participate fully in the development and sustenance of ICT-based projects through democratic processes, including decision making with respect to economic, cultural, environmental, and other issues. ICTs should be used as an instrument for the creation of genuine and sustainable sources of work, thus providing new labour opportunities.

In order that communities and individuals may create economically and technically sustainable solutions, they must have the right to use Free Software. This makes software more affordable, and allows people to participate in its development and maintenance.3 ICT-based innovation should adhere to the use of international technical standards for hardware, software, and processes, which are open, freely implementable, publicly documented, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven.

It is important to support community-based communications using both traditional and new media and communication technologies. There is a need for the development and nurturing of the discipline of community informatics, which focuses on the particular characteristics and needs of communities, in relation to design, development, deployment, and operation of ICTs, as well as local content production.

2.1.9 Conflict Situations
We recognise that the use of media can be both positive and negative in conflict situations, including post-conflict peace building. We therefore insist that the rights of journalists and of all people to gather and communicate information, using any media, be especially respected during conflicts. These rights should be inviolate at all times but are crucial during war, violent conflict, and non- violent protest.

We are particularly concerned about the deployment of “information warfare” technologies and techniques, including the purposeful jamming, blocking, or destruction of civilian communication systems during conflict situations; the use of ‘embedded’ journalists coupled with the targeting of non-embedded journalists; the use of media and communication systems to promote hatred and genocide; by military, police, or other security forces, be they governmental, privately owned, or non-state actors, during conflict situations both international and domestic.

Information intervention in conflict situations should be bound by international law, and the WSIS should encourage work on a future convention against information warfare to address these concerns.

At the same time, the WSIS should not only limit information warfare and the control of media in conflict situations, but also actively promote media and communications for peace. To that end, we encourage governments to decrease public subsidy for military communications technology, and instead spend money directly on developing peaceful communications tools and applications.

2.2 Centrality of Human Rights
An information and communication society should be based on human rights and human dignity. With the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its foundation, it must embody the universality, indivisibility, interrelation and interdependence of all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – including the right to development and linguistic rights. This implies the full integration, concrete application and enforcement of all rights and the recognition of their centrality to democracy and sustainable development. Information and communication societies must be inclusive, so that all people, without distinction of any kind, can achieve their full potential. The principles of non-discrimination and diversity must be mainstreamed in all ICT regulation, policies, and programmes.

2.2.1 Freedom of Expression
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is of fundamental and specific importance, since it forms an essential condition for human rights-based information and communication societies. Article 19 requires that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media and regardless of frontiers. This implies free circulation of ideas, pluralism of the sources of information and the media, press freedom, and availability of the tools to access information and share knowledge.

Freedom of expression on the Internet must be protected by the rule of law rather than through self- regulation and codes of conduct. There must be no prior censorship, arbitrary control of, or constraints on, participants in the communication process or on the content, transmission and dissemination of information. Pluralism of the sources of information and the media must be safeguarded and promoted.

2.2.2 Right to Privacy
The right to privacy, enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is essential for self-determined human development in regard to civic, political, social, economic and cultural activities. The right to privacy faces new challenges in information and communication societies, and must be protected in public spaces, online, offline, at home and in the workplace.

Every person must have the right to decide freely whether and in what manner he or she wants to receive information and communicate with others. The possibility of communicating anonymously must be ensured for everyone. The power of the private sector and of governments over personal data increases the risk of abuse, including monitoring and surveillance. Such activities must be kept to a legally legitimised minimum in a democratic society and must remain accountable. The collection, retention, processing, use and disclosure of personal data, no matter by whom, should remain under the control of and determined by the individual concerned.

2.2.3 Right to Participate in Public Affairs
Good government administration and justice in a democratic society implies openness, transparency, accountability, participation and compliance with the rule of law. Respect for these principles is needed to enforce the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs. Public access to information produced or maintained by governments should be enforced, ensuring that the information is timely, complete and accessible in a format and language the public can understand. This further applies to access to documents of corporations relating to their activities affecting the public interest, especially in situations where the government has not made such information public.

2.2.4 Workers’ Rights
ICTs are progressively changing our way of working. The creation of fair, secure, safe and healthy working conditions, in the manufacture of equipment and software, and in the utilisation of ICTs in the workplace in general, which respect international labour standards, for instance through tripartite social dialogue, is fundamental. ICTs should be used to promote awareness of, respect for and enforcement of human rights standards and international labour standards. Human rights, such as privacy, freedom of expression, linguistic rights, the right for on-line workers to form and join trade unions and the right of trade unions to function freely, including communicating with employees, must be respected in the workplace.

2.2.5 Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The evolution of information and communication societies must be founded on the respect and promotion of the recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and their distinctiveness as outlined in international conventions. Indigenous Peoples have fundamental rights to protect, preserve and strengthen their own language, culture and identity. ICTs should be used to support and promote diversity and the rights and means of Indigenous Peoples to benefit fully and with priority from their cultural, intellectual and so-called natural resources.

2.2.6 Women’s Rights
In order to realise women’s rights in the information and communication societies, as spelled out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Fifth World Conference on Women), it is crucial to acknowledge and address the differences, disparities and disadvantages that women experience. This means taking into account the ways in which women are different from men, and how these differences translate into differential levels of access, opportunity, participation and use of ICTs. It must be ensured that policy or legal interventions and programmes consciously address these differences. To ensure effective equality of women, and thereby enabling women’s full ability to claim and exercise their human rights, it is necessary to adopt a substantive equality approach in the analysis, which informs the content of ICT policy and programmes. This approach implies that actions to promote women’s rights must transform the unequal power relation between women and men. Women need not only equality of opportunity, but also equality of access to opportunities and the ability to fully participate in availing such opportunities.

2.2.7 Rights of the Child
Information and communication societies must respect and promote the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every child is entitled to a happy childhood and to enjoy the rights and freedoms available to all persons under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All persons, civil society, private sector and governments should commit to uphold the Rights of the Child in information and communication societies.

2.2.8 Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In inclusive information and communication societies, the rights of persons with disabilities to have full and equal access to information and communications including ICTs, regardless of types and degree of disabilities, must be ensured by public policies, laws and regulations at all levels. In order to achieve this goal, a Universal Design principle and the use of assistive technologies must be seriously promoted and supported throughout the whole process of building and nurturing information and communication societies in which persons with disabilities and their organisations must be allowed to participate fully and on equal terms with non-disabled people.

2.2.9 Regulation and the Rule of Law
National regulation should be in full compliance with international human rights standards, adhering to the rule of law. Information and communication societies must not result in any discrimination or deprivation of human rights resulting from the acts or omission of governments or of non-state actors under their jurisdictions. Any restriction on the use of ICTs must pursue a legitimate aim under international law, be prescribed by law, be strictly proportionate to such an aim, and be necessary in a democratic society.

2.3 Culture, Knowledge and the Public
Information and communication societies are enriched by their diversity of cultures and languages, retained and passed on through oral tradition or recorded and transmitted through a variety of media, and together contributing to the sum of human knowledge. Human knowledge is the heritage of all humankind and the reservoir from which all new knowledge is created. The preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity, the freedom of the media and the defence and extension of the public domain of global knowledge are as essential, for information and communication societies, as the diversity of our natural environment.

2.3.1 Cultural and Linguistic Diversity
Cultural and linguistic diversity is an essential dimension of people-centred information and communication societies. Every culture has dignity and value that must be respected and preserved. Cultural and linguistic diversity is based, among other things, on the freedom of information and expression and the right of everyone to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, at local, national and international levels. This participation includes activities both as users and producers of cultural content. ICTs including traditional communications media have a particularly important role to play in sustaining and developing the world’s cultures and languages. Capacity Building and Education
Cultural and linguistic diversity should not only be preserved; it needs to be fostered. This implies capacity to express oneself, in one’s own language, at any time, by any means, including traditional media and new ICTs. In order to become a contributor and a creator in the information and communication societies, not only technical skills are needed, but critical and creative competence. Media education in the sense of the UNESCO Grunwald Declaration must be given specific attention in education and training programs. Cultural and linguistic diversity also implies equal access to the means of expression and of dissemination of cultural goods and services. Priority should be given to community-driven initiatives. Language
Plurality of languages is at the core of vibrant information and communication societies. ICTs can be applied to bridge cultural and linguistic divides, given the right priorities. In the past, ICT development has too often reinforced inequalities, such as dominance of roman letter based languages (especially English) and marginalization of local, regional and minority languages. Priority should be given in ICT research and development to overcoming barriers and addressing inequalities between languages and cultures. International Law and Regulation
International law and regulation should strengthen cultural, linguistic and media diversity, in accordance with existing international declarations and covenants, in particular Article 19 and Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Articles 19 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Articles 5 and 6 of the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity adopted by UNESCO in 2001. International trade agreements should treat culture, including audio-visual content and services, not simply as a commodity, but should take account of the need for cultural, linguistic and media diversity. The establishment of an International Convention on Cultural Diversity should be accelerated, with a view to achieving an effective and binding international agreement. Existing international copyright regulation instruments including TRIPS and WIPO should be reviewed to ensure that they promote cultural, linguistic and media diversity and contribute to the development of human knowledge.

2.3.2 Media The Role of the Media
Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media are central to any conception of information and communication societies. The media is an integral enabling mechanism for a global communications vision. Its role in producing, gathering and distributing diverse content in which all citizens are included and can actively participate, is vital. Especially for the developing countries, broadcast radio and television will continue to be the most effective ways to deliver high-quality information. All forms of media can make crucial contributions to social cohesion and development in the digital era.

Article 19 is the foundation for five regional declarations on media freedom and plurality that must continue to frame the role of the media in all its means of delivery. These texts4 have been unanimously endorsed by the member states of UNESCO.
Security and other considerations should not be allowed to compromise freedom of expression and media freedom. Media pluralism and diversity should be guaranteed through appropriate laws to avoid excessive media concentration.
Editorial independence of media professionals and creators must be protected and the formulation of professional and ethical standards in journalism and other media production must be the responsibility of media workers themselves. Online authors, journalists and editors should have the same contractual rights and social protections as other media workers.

Public service broadcasting has a specific and crucial role to play in ensuring the participation of all in the information and communication societies. State-controlled media should be transformed into editorially independent public service organisations. Community Media
Community media, that is media which are independent, community-driven and civil society-based, have a particular role to play in enabling access to and participation for all in information and communication societies, especially the poorest and most marginalized communities. Community media can be vital enablers of information, voice and capacities for dialogue. Legal and regulatory frameworks that protect and enhance community media are especially critical for ensuring vulnerable groups access to information and communication.

Governments should ensure that legal frameworks for community media are non-discriminatory and provide for equitable allocation of frequencies through transparent and accountable mechanisms.

Targets should be established for the opening up of broadcast licenses to allow for the operation of community broadcasting where this is not currently permitted. Spectrum planning and regulation should ensure sufficient spectrum and channel capacity, and appropriate technical standards, for community media to develop in both the analogue and the digital environment.

A Community Media Fund should be established through a donor civil society partnership to invest in and support community-driven media, information and communication initiatives using traditional media and new ICTs including projects that make provision for the poorest communities, for cultural and linguistic diversity and for the equal participation of women and girls. Community-based media and communication centres should be encouraged and assisted to combine traditional media technologies, including radio and television, with access to new ICTs.

2.3.3 The Public Domain of Global Knowledge
A rich public domain of knowledge available to all is essential to sustainable information societies, to bridge the digital divide and to provide the grounds for a positive development of intellectual creativity, technological innovation and effective use of that technology. In information societies, new digital forms of storing information mean that this can be copied and transmitted in innovative ways that challenge existing customs and laws. The increasing privatisation of knowledge production threatens to restrict the availability of research results. Attempts have been made to commercially exploit traditional indigenous knowledge without consulting the communities, who are the owners of that knowledge. Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge
Indigenous peoples are the guardians of their traditional knowledge and have the right to protect and control that knowledge. Existing intellectual property regimes are insufficient for the protection of indigenous people’s cultural and intellectual property rights.

Traditional knowledge should be protected from any attempt at patenting. Indigenous peoples should freely decide whether their heritage should become part of the public domain or not. They should decide whether or not it should be exploited commercially and in what way.

We should give particular attention to measures to maintain knowledge diversity and to protect the cultural, intellectual and so-called natural resources of indigenous peoples, especially botanical and agricultural knowledge, from commercial exploitation and appropriation.

We urge the United Nations to establish specific legal frameworks, in accordance with Article 26.4 of the Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit, to recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and ancestral territories, as a necessary prerequisite to ensure the protection, preservation and development of their traditional knowledge in information and communication societies. Copyright, Patents and Trademarks
Limited intellectual monopolies, also known as intellectual property rights, are granted only for the benefit of society, most notably to encourage creativity and innovation. The benchmark against which they must be reviewed and adjusted regularly is how well they fulfil this purpose. Today, the vast majority of humankind has no access to the public domain of global knowledge, a situation that is contributing to the growth of inequality and exploitation of the poorest peoples and communities. Yet instead of extending and strengthening the global domain, recent developments are restricting information more and more to private hands. Patents are being extended to software (and even to ideas), with the consequent effect of limiting innovation and reinforcing monopolies. Drugs that could save millions of lives are denied to disease sufferers because pharmaceutical companies that hold the patents resist making them available to those countries that cannot pay high prices.

Copyright periods have been extended again and again, making them practically indefinite and defeating their original purpose. Software
Software provides the medium and regulatory framework for digital information, and access to software determines who may participate. Equal access to software is fundamental for inclusive and empowering digital information and communication societies, and a diversity of platforms is essential to this.

We must recognise the political and regulatory impact of software on digital societies and build, through public policy and specific programs, awareness of the effects and benefits of different software models. In particular, Free Software, with its freedoms of use for any purpose, study, modification and redistribution should be promoted for its unique social, educational, scientific, political and economic benefits and opportunities. Its special advantages for developing countries, such as low cost, empowerment and the stimulation of sustainable local and regional economies, easier adaptation to local cultures and creation of local language versions, greater security, capacity building, etc, need to be recognised, publicised and taken advantage of. Governments should promote the use of Free Software in schools and higher education and in public administration.

The UN should carry out a fundamental review of the impact on poverty and human rights of current arrangements for recognition and governance of monopolised knowledge and information, including the work of WIPO and the functioning of the TRIPS agreement. Efforts should be made to ensure that limited intellectual monopolies stimulate innovation and reward initiative, rather than keeping knowledge in private hands until it is of little use to society. Research
Increasing private sector participation in scientific research is leading to patents and scientific knowledge being held in private hands instead of being available in the public domain, and increasing competition among scientists and scientific teams sometimes results in poor scientific practices, secrecy and the patenting of discoveries that would previously have been available to all. Research should continue to be based on cooperation, openness and transparency.

Public bodies such as libraries, scientific research centres, universities, should be able to contribute to enrich the common good of culture and knowledge, by putting into the public domain the results of their publicly funded activities. The public domain of global knowledge should be defended and extended through public policy, awareness-building and investments in programmes. These should ensure that any work funded by public or philanthropic bodies enters the public domain and should increase accessibility of information in online and offline media by means of Free Documentation, public libraries and other initiatives to disseminate information. All scientific data, such as genomes of living beings, should be freely accessible to all in Open Access databases.

2.4 Enabling Environment
2.4.1 Ethical Dimensions
Information and communication societies are about how our societies create, share and utilise the information, cultural production and knowledge, which in turn shape the evolution of those societies. The value-base of the information society must be founded on the principles contained in the ensemble of internationally agreed-upon conventions, declarations, and charters.

More specifically, equal, fair and open access to knowledge and information resources, – whatever the technical means used to store and transmit them – must be established as fundamental principles of such societies. Technological, financial and regulatory considerations must conform to these principles.

Transparent and accountable governance, ethical business and accounting practices in communications sector firms and ethical media practice are of particular relevance in this context. Codes of ethics and standards should be adopted in these cases and mechanisms should be established to monitor their application as well as appropriate sanctions for their violation.
Formulation of ethics and standards in journalism and other media production should be the responsibility of media workers themselves.

Respect for diversity must be a central criterion in establishing the principles and mechanisms for resolving conflicts that arise in information societies. Such societies, if they are built on values such as cooperation, equity, honesty, integrity, respect and solidarity, can have a significant impact on the quality of interaction between cultures and the promotion of meaningful dialogue among civilisations, and thus contribute to bringing about world peace.

2.4.2 Democratic and Accountable Governance
National and international regulations for information and communication societies should be in full compliance with international human rights standards. Openness, transparency, accountability and the rule of law should be the guiding principles for the democratic governance of societies at all levels, from the local to the national and international. Inclusive, participatory and peaceful information and communication societies rest on the responsiveness of governing bodies as well as on the commitment of all actors involved in governance, both of governmental and non-governmental nature, to progressively implement greater political, social and economic equity.

A democratic perspective on information and communication societies, in which information is crucial for citizens, is necessary in order to make choices grounded on the awareness of alternatives and opportunities. Information and communication are the foundation for transparency, debate and decision-making. They can contribute to a culture and a practice of cooperation, basis for a renewal of democracy. Information and communication technologies offer potential benefits to the world’s communities that will only be exploited if there is a political will to do so.

In this spirit, the aim of WSIS “to develop a common vision and understanding of the Information Society”, and the methods to achieve such a vision, requires shared communication values and mechanisms including the right to communicate, respect for freedom of opinion and expression in all of its dimensions, and a commitment to transparency, accountability, and democracy.

2.4.3 Infrastructure and Access
The dramatic lack of a reliable infrastructure is the main physical obstacle for ICT-based services to be offered to populations living in Africa. Here, the fragmented and incomplete structure and the unreliability of the existing infrastructure and access networks constitute the underlying structure of the so-called Digital Divide.

(Tele) communications infrastructure is essential for disseminating ICT-based services and is central in achieving the goal of universal, sustainable, ubiquitous and affordable access to and usage of these technologies and services by all. Furthermore, energy is a prerequisite for infrastructure and access.

Most voice, data and Internet traffic between African countries is currently routed outside of the continent because of the lack of an efficient African backbone network, increasing the cost of this traffic. Increased cost always limits access. Existing efforts to build an African network infrastructure must be supported and expanded (e.g. Internet exchange points).

The implementation and roll-out of (tele)communications infrastructure and access in DCs will require financial investments consistent with the huge needs in this area. In order to reduce the amount of financial resources needed, investments should be optimised by consolidating projects nationally or (sub) regionally, and by technological (re-) designing and updating. Furthermore, synergy between different sectors should be systematically exploited from the project phase, particular attention being paid to the energy and transport sectors that show very close links. Finally, the particularly strong synergy and technological similarity between ICT and Radio-TV networks should lead governments and planning authorities to deploy and use a common infrastructure for both their services to be transported and disseminated.

Community telecentres (public access centres) have become spaces for the effective access and strategic use of information and communication technologies with emphasis on the democratisation of communications. Governments should guarantee policies for the development of telecentres, among others, to provide equitable and affordable access to infrastructure and ICTs; to encourage digital inclusion policies for the population, independently of gender, ethnic aspects, language, culture and geographical situation. This would promote the discussion and active participation of communities in public policy processes related to the implementation and role of telecentres for local development.

Orbital satellite paths should be recognised as a public resource and should be allocated to benefit the public interest through transparent and accountable frameworks. Moreover, spectrum planning and regulation should ensure equitable access among a plurality of media including sufficient satellite capacity reserved for community media. A fixed percentage of orbital resources, satellite capacity and radio frequency spectrum should be reserved for educational, humanitarian, community and other non-commercial use.

The expansion of the global information infrastructure should be based on principles of equality and partnership and guided by rules of fair competition and regulation at both national and international levels.

The integration of access, infrastructure and training of the citizenry and the generation of local content, in a framework of social networks and clear public or private policies, is a key basis for the development of egalitarian and inclusive information societies.

2.4.4 Financing and Infrastructure
Existing and new financing measures should be envisaged and appraised. The “Digital Solidarity Fund” has been proposed by Africa. Such a fund could be a real hope for African peoples if it clearly states its goals, is transparently managed, and aims to foster primarily public services, especially for populations living in underserved and isolated areas. In addition, we stress the significant role that diaspora populations from all the world’s regions can play in financing ICT programmes and projects.
In order to optimise scarce financial resources, appropriate cost-effective technological options should be used, while avoiding duplication of infrastructure. Additionally, synergies between different sectors and networks can be exploited to this end, with particular attention to the energy and transport sectors, given their close links with the telecommunications sector.
A Community Media Fund should be established through a donor civil society partnership to invest in and support community-driven and community-based media, and information and communication initiatives using both traditional media and new ITC’s. Effort should be made to eliminate the duplication of infrastructures and to consolidate projects in a national or regional frame to encourage investment funding. Where possible, ICT and radio/TV networks should use common infrastructure for dissemination.

2.4.5 Human Development — Education and Training
Literacy, education and research are fundamental and interrelated components of the information exchanges necessary to build knowledge societies. Knowledge creation and acquisition should be nurtured as a participatory and collective process; it should not be considered a one-way flow or confined to one section of capacity building. Education, in its different components – formal, informal, and lifelong – is fundamental to building democratic societies both by creating a literate citizenry and a skilled workforce.

To utilise the full potential of e-learning and long-distance education, they must be complemented by traditional educational resources and methods, in a local context of media pluralism and linguistic diversity.

Only informed and educated citizens with access to empowering education, a plurality of means of information, and the outputs of research efforts can fully participate in and effectively contribute to knowledge societies. Therefore, it is also essential to recognise the right to education as stated both in the Declaration on the Right to Development and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Capacity building initiatives designed to empower individuals and communities in the information society must include, in addition to basic literacy and ICT skills, media and information literacy, the ability to find, appraise, use and create information and technology. In particular, educators, students and researchers must be able to use and develop Free Software, which allows the unfettered ability to study, change, copy, distribute, and run software. Finally, capacity building initiatives should be designed to stimulate the desire for general learning and respond to specific as well as special needs: those of young and elderly people, of women, of people with impairments, of indigenous peoples, of migrant communities, of refugees and returnees in post-conflict situations, in a life-long perspective. Volunteers can help transmit knowledge and enhance capacity, in particular of marginalized groups not reached by government training institutions.
Capacity building in the information and communication societies requires people who are competent in teaching media and communication literacy. Therefore, training of trainers and training of educators in every level is equal important in order to reach out to people at the limits of the information society.

Libraries are an important tool to fight digital divide and to ensure continuous, out-of-market-ruled access to information, by freeing the results of research funded by public support, by sharing content and educational materials to promote literacy, build capacities and bring autonomy to learners of all kinds, worldwide. This also entails convincing content producers to be active participants in the open access paradigm of knowledge.

Global barriers to knowledge and education must be transparently evaluated by looking beyond technological obstacles at legal and institutional gridlocks (like Intellectual Property Laws and International standards) and promoting a new balance of intellectual properties as a common ground for creators to protect their works and for civil society to benefit from their contributions.

Civil society sees the need for alternative models for the production and exchange of knowledge and information. To secure and finance the global knowledge commons, civil society actors support new open and self-organised publishing models in science and software production and community-based communications, with in-built maintenance programs and upgrading capacities.

2.4.6 Information Generation and Knowledge Development
Research must be promoted in all fields related to the information and communication societies, and its development must be sensitive to the social uses of ICTs. In particular, research on community informatics must be supported.5 This would include the development of a research agenda among practitioners, scholars, and communities; the cataloguing of community informatics projects and identification of both factors for failure and success; and support for research projects and systems trials. Fundamental research should be strengthened by expanding open access to primary scientific data and publications. Public bodies such as libraries, scientific research centres, universities should foster independent investigation, build a pluralistic body of knowledge and promote the results of activities which have been funded by public money. This body of knowledge should be made available in all public spaces, or spaces with public access (community centres, universities, schools, museums, libraries, media centres, and other dedicated entities), through appropriate and plural modes of access, avoiding the risk of high dependency on digital technology alone.

2.4.7 Global Governance of ICT and
International “rules of the game” play an increasingly central role in the global information economy. In recent years, governments have liberalised traditional international regulatory regimes for telecommunications, radio frequency spectrum, and satellite services, and have created new multilateral arrangements for international trade in services, intellectual property, “information security,” and electronic commerce. At the same time, business groups have established a variety of “self-regulatory” arrangements concerning Internet identifiers (names and numbers), infrastructure, and content.
It is not acceptable for these and related global governance frameworks to be designed by and for small groups of powerful governments and companies and then exported to the world as faits accomplis. Instead, they must reflect the diverse views and interests of the international community as a whole. This overarching principle has two key dimensions.
Procedurally, decision-making processes must be based on such values as inclusive participation, transparency, and democratic accountability. In particular, institutional reforms are needed to facilitate the full and effective participation of marginalized stakeholders like developing and transitional countries, global civil society organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and individual users.

Substantively, global governance frameworks must promote a more equitable distribution of benefits across nations and social groups. To do so, they must strike a better balance between commercial considerations and other legitimate social objectives. For example, existing international arrangements should be reformed to promote: efficient management of network interconnections and traffic revenue distribution, subject to the mutual agreement of corresponding operators; equitable allocations of radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbital slots that fully support developmental and non-commercial applications; fair trade in electronic goods and services, taking into account the developing countries’ need for special and differential treatment; an open public domain of information resources and ideas; and the protection of human rights, consumer safety, and personal privacy. In parallel, new diverse international arrangements are needed to promote financial support for sustainable e-development, especially but not only in less affluent nations; linguistic, cultural, and informational diversity; and the curtailment of concentrated market power in ICT and mass media industries.

In light of the relevant controversies in the WSIS process, special attention must be given to improving the global coordination of the Internet’s underlying resources. It must be remembered that the Internet is not a singular communications “platform” akin to a public telephone network; it is instead a highly distributed set of protocols, processes, and voluntarily self-associating networks.

Accordingly, the Internet cannot be governed effectively by any one organisation or set of interests. An exclusionary intergovernmental model would be especially ill suited to its unique characteristics; only a truly open, multistakeholder, and flexible approach can ensure the Internet’s continued growth and transition into a multilingual medium. In parallel, when the conditions for system stability and sound management can be guaranteed, authority over inherently global resources like the root servers should be transferred to a global, multistakeholder entity.

The international community must have full and easy access to knowledge and information about ICT global governance decision making. This is a baseline prerequisite for implementation of the principles mentioned above, and indeed for the success of the WSIS process itself. We need public- interest oriented monitoring and analysis of the relevant activities of both intergovernmental and “self-governance” bodies including, inter alia, the International Telecommunication Union, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Conference on International Trade Law, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Hague Conference on International Private Law, the of Europe, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and Wassenaar Arrangement.

As a viable first step in this direction, we recommend the establishment of an independent and truly multistakeholder observatory committee to: (1) map and track the most pressing current developments in ICT global governance decision-making; (2) assess and solicit stakeholder input on the conformity of such decision-making with the stated objectives of the WSIS agenda; and (3) report to all stakeholders in the WSIS process on a periodic basis until 2005, at which time a decision could be made on whether to continue or terminate the activity.

3. Conclusion
It is people who primarily form and shape societies, and information and communication societies are no exception. Civil society actors have been key innovators and shapers of the technology, culture and content of information and communication societies, and will continue to be in the future.

Human rights stand at the centre of our vision of the information and communication society.6 From this standpoint, action plans, implementation, financing mechanisms and governance must all be shaped by and evaluated on the basis of their ability to meet life-critical human needs.

Host countries and institutions contributing to and participating in the post-Geneva WSIS process should fully respect the principles enunciated in the Declaration adopted at the Geneva Summit, including those relating to human rights that are fundamental to the information and communications society. These include, but are not limited to the freedoms of expression, association and information.

Toward this end, and in preparation for the second phase of WSIS, an independent commission should be established to review national and international ICT regulations and practices and their compliance with international human rights standards. This commission should also address the potential applications of ICTs to the realization of human rights, such as the right to development, the right to education and the right to a standard of living adequate for the mental and physical health and well-being of the individual and his or her family, including food, housing and medical care.

The full realisation of a just information society requires the full participation of civil society in its conception, implementation, and operation. To this end, we call on all governments involved in the preparatory processes of WSIS to work in good faith with non-governmental and civil society organisations and fully honour the recommendations of Resolution 56/183 of the United Nations General Assembly. In particular, participating governments must honour civil society’s right to participate fully in the remaining intergovernmental preparatory processes leading to the second phase of WSIS.

We commit ourselves – independent of the modalities of participation granted to us by governments – to pursuing by all just and honourable means necessary the realization of the vision of the information society presented herein. To this end, civil society organisations will continue to cooperate with one another to develop a Plan of Action for the second phase of WSIS. We call upon the world’s leaders to urgently assume the heavy responsibilities they face, in partnership with civil society, to make this vision a reality.


1. WSIS Civil Society Plenary Geneva, 8 December 2003.
2. There is no single information, communication or knowledge society: there are, at the local, national and global levels, possible future societies; moreover, considering communication is a critical aspect of any information society, we use in this document the phrase “information and communication societies.” For consistency with previous WSIS language, we retain the use of the phrase “Information Society” when directly referencing WSIS.
3. In this document, we use the term “Free Software” to refer to the specific concept defined by the Free Software Foundation. Free Software is software that is licensed in such a way that people have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve it. Free Software implies access to source code as does “open source software”; however, open source software as the term is popularly used is not necessarily Free Software in our definition. Some organisations release open source software without permitting all of these actions.
4. The Windhoek Declaration on the Promotion of Free and Pluralistic African Press, 1991; the Declaration of Alma Ata on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Asian Media, 1992; the Declaration of Sana’a on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media, 1994; the Sofia Declaration on Promoting European Pluralistic and Independent Media, 1997 (adopted in 95 and 97).
5. Community informatics refers here to the interdisciplinary study and practice of the design, implementation, and management of information and communication technologies developed by communities to solve their own problems. This field takes into account social science research about the social impacts of ICTs – also known as social informatics – as well as information and communication systems analysis and design techniques.
6. Nothing in this declaration may be interpreted as implying that civil society wishes to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth in the International Bill of Rights and other human rights treaties.


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