Governments will continue to try to reach concensus on 5 main issues owhich remain contentious and unresolved, between now and the beginning of the Summit, Dec 10th. Read the opening plenary statement from Civil Society here.

Civil Society Statement at Eight Plenary of PrepCom III resumed session, 5th
December 2003

Thank you, Chair

Through our observation of the process, Civil Society has identified two main
problem areas that impede progress in the WSIS:

1. How to correct imbalances in riches, imbalances of rights, imbalances of
power, or imbalances of access. In particular, governments do not agree on
even the principle of a financial effort to overcome the so-called Digital
Divide; this is all the more difficult to accept given that the summit
process was started two years ago with precisely that objective.

2. The struggle over human rights. Not even the basis of human life in
dignity and equality, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights finds support
as the basis for the Information Society. Governments are not able to agree
on a commitment to basic human right standards as the basis for the
Information Society, most prominent in this case being the freedom of
expression.

These are the essential conflicts among governments, as we see them now.
There is also ongoing argument over issues such as media, internet
governance, limited intellectual monopolies such as copyright, Free Software,
security and so on. This underlines our assessment that there is a lack of a
common vision.

The underlying struggle we see here is the old world of governments and
traditional diplomacy confronting challenges and realities of the 21st
century.

We recognize the problems governments face in trying to address a range of
difficult, complex and politically divisive issues in the two summit
documents.

Governments are challenged by the power of new technologies and the way
people are using them to network, to create new forms of partnerships and
collaboration, to share experiences and knowledge locally and globally.

This, combined with the fear and security focus of the past two years,
compounds political uncertainty and is also played out in the WSIS process.

But: Do we want to base our vision of the information society on fear and
uncertainty or on curiosity, compassion and the spirit of looking forward?

The WSIS process has slowly but constantly been moving from information to society. It was started with a technocratic infrastracture-oriented perspective in the ITU. We are proud to say that we were crucial in bringing home the idea that in the end, the information society is about people, the communication society is about social processes, and the knowledge society is about society's values. In the end, it is not digital ­ it is dignity that ccounts.

The whole process has shown a lack of interest among some governments in
forming a common vision for the information society.

This is the first time that civil society has participated in such a way in a
summit preparation process. We have worked very hard to include issues that
some did not expect to be included. We have had some successes, while in a
number of areas we were not heard or even listened to.

Therefore, we will now stop giving detailed input to the intergovernmental
documents. Our position is that we do not want to endorse documents that
represent the lowest common denominator. We will however stay in the process.

We have produced essential benchmarks ­ our ethical framework ­ which we
pr provided at the end of PrepCom IIIa. Governments risk overlooking key issues
in the hair-splitting and compromise of negotiations.

The current stalemate deepens our belief in the need for the inclusion of all
stakeholders in decision-making processes. Where rulers cannot reach
consensus, the voices of civil society, communities and citizens can and
should provide guidance.

We have started to draft our own vision document as the result of a two-year,
bottom-up, transparent and inclusive online and offline discussion process
among civil society groups from all over the world.

We will present our vision at the Summit. We invite all interested parties,
from all sectors of society, to join us in open discussion and debate in a
true multi-stakeholder process.

New mechanisms and structures are possible and can resolve these impasses and
enable people to work together globally and inclusively.

Governments know they cannot address these issues alone. Any mechanism for
the period following Geneva that does not closely associate civil society and
other stakeholders is not only unacceptable in principle, it is also doomed
to fail.

Like many other actors, including some governments, we do not want the
opportunities offered by the unique gathering in Geneva to be wasted. We hope
to find substantial improvement for the phase leading us to the second phase
of the summit in 2005.

Irrespective of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society,
civil society will continue what we have been doing all along: Doing our
work, implementing and renewing our vision, working together in local and
global bottom-up processes - and thereby shaping a shared and inclusive
knowledge society.