geert lovink on Tue, 15 Jul 2003 06:38:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Plans for a World Forum on Communication Rights

(This could be of interest for nettimers. The Forum Organizing Group has not
yet done a lot so there's still a lot of room left to shape it. If you want
to join, please contact one of the organizers. /geert)

World Forum on Communication Rights

This introduces a proposal to hold a one-day World Forum on Communication
Rights alongside the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on
December 11 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland. The CRIS campaign (Communication
Rights in the Information Society: is launching the
initiative as a collaborative event, and is actively building a broader

1. The Rationale

The purpose of the Forum is specific. In the context of human rights in
general, it focuses on information and communication rights issues that
surround the emergence of an information society. These are not limited to
concerns regarding the 'digital divide' and access to ICTs; but draw on a
more profound understanding of the role of information and communication in
society and current dynamics and trends. They encompass areas such as the
public domain and intellectual property rights, the public sphere and media
and communication, and the commercialisation and closure of the Internet.

The WSIS itself is constrained in the manner and depth to which such issues
can be addressed. Some countries and corporate interests have already
demonstrated their determination to prevent certain matters from reaching
the agenda. And many issues are the domain of existing international
organisations and entities, and these are reluctant to cede territory to the
WSIS. Yet it is essential that communication rights in the information
society be considered as a coherent, and interrelated, set of concerns.
Indeed, in all likelihood it is the extent to which rights are implanted and
firmly fixed within the process of creating an information society that will
determine which kind of information society emerges, how the benefits will
be realised, and who will reap them.

The event comprises a forum to explore these and to do something about them.
It traces its lineage (as does the CRIS campaign itself) not through the
WSIS process per se, but in the mobilisation of civil society in recent
years around global human rights, communication and
development issues.

2. Goals

The outcomes of the Forum are expected to be threefold:

A. A Portrayal of Communication Rights Globally: To explore and define the
dimensions of information and communication rights that must underpin any
claim of an information society to enrich the lives of all people, by
portraying the denial of these rights in different contexts using concrete
examples and analyses, and demonstrating novel examples
of such rights being secured.

B. A 'Declaration on Communication Rights in the Information
Society': To formulate together and agree a succinct statement, in
comprehensible language, that:

Notes existing human rights relating to information and communication;  Sets
down the conditions and environment necessary for people to exercise
these, in practice;  Explores obstacles to achieving such an environment,
identifying priority areas for intervention.

C. A Set of Actions: To engage multi-partner participation in a set of
voluntary collaborative actions to implement such rights in a manner
meaningful to people in their everyday lives, and to define appropriate
follow-up. These will comprise targeted actions, each contributing to
communication rights in the context of the information society, and that in
practice are beyond the scope of the WSIS Summit. They might include for
instance alternatives to intellectual property rights, promotion of open
source software, innovation in governance and regulation, grass-roots
technologies, or new fund-raising mechanisms.

3. Modalities

The Forum is an open event. It welcomes those among civil society,
activists, NGOs, agencies, governments, intergovernmental organisations and
the private sector who accept the need to address communication rights in
the information society and who want to work together to achieve these
goals. It will have a duration of one day, and will take place alongside the
first WSIS Summit in December 2003 in Palexpo. The provisional date is
December the 11th, mid way through the three day Summit.

4. Link to Other Events

Links will be established with other events surrounding the WSIS, held
within Palexpo as well as externally bringing together grass-roots and
community activists and organisations. An important aspect of the Forum
will be to build bridges between these and others within the WSIS as a
whole seeking to cooperate on rights issues, and to bring forward
radical but realistic proposals for action.

CRIS will also work  with others to organise workshops, seminars or other
events around the WSIS Summit, aimed at feeding into the Forum,
and may establish live interactive links globally. Preparations for all
three objectives will be extensive and are underway.

A. The portrayal of the situation and needs of communication rights in
different regions will be primed through a series of national and regional
Workshops and other events. Using a common methodology, the aim is to
explore the realities for communities in different regions in terms of
rights or the absence of them, the impact on their capacity to engage
effectively with the information society, and innovative solutions from
communities and activists. Such workshops are currently being discussed with
partners, and others are being sought.

B. A first draft of the Declaration on Communication Rights will
be prepared by the Forum Organising Group by July 2003.  It will
then be open to a period of discussion and debate, electronically, at civil
society and other events and through targeted consultations. The final text
agreed for the Forum will thereafter seek ongoing endorsement from a wide
range of actors. This Declaration is not intended as a formal or legal
statement, but as a basic set of agreed principles that can form a platform
for organisation and mobilisation.

C.  The set of concrete actions initiated at the Forum need careful
and extensive preparation and coordination with others. A first step is to
identify potential projects, each to be organised as collaborations, going
beyond the current status quo in conventional information society thought,
that contribute to information and communication rights, and
yet are realistic in terms of resources and outcomes. We are convinced that
huge financial investment is not a prerequisite of progress, if the will is
there to innovate in regulation, governance and new funding mechanisms.
Donor agencies, government and indeed private sector are welcome in such

Preparations will be pursued alongside existing civil society events during
the year, WSIS PrepCom 3, and in dedicated meetings, encounters and
communications, thus grounding it within ongoing civil society processes and

CRIS is ready to play its part in organising the event, and is actively
seeking collaborators amongst NGOs and civil society, intergovernmental and
other agencies, governments and private sector. CRIS is approaching various
parties to form a Forum Organising Group.

 Should you wish to know more please contact:

Seán Ó Siochrú
Myriam Horngren:


A first meeting for planning the World Forum on Communication Rights (WFCR)
took place on 10 June in London. The attendees discussed a draft concept by
Sean O´Siochru from the CRIS campaign. Issues such as media concentration
and intellectual property rights are to be adressed, aiming to come to a
more comprehensive definition of the right to communicate. The objective is
thus to fill the vaccuum of issues which the governmental declarations of
the World Summit of Information Society leave out.

The first WFCR will be taking place on December 11th at Palexpo, Geneve,
half way through the World Summit on Information Society. It is supposed to
be a spectacle for press and civil society. But the WFCR will also go beyond
WSIS. It will monitor the further development of Communication rights on a
regular basis. Further ocasions for this could be WTO and WSF-Meetings in
2004 as well as the Tunis WSIS in 2005.

Yet the Programme is only starting to evolve. As a framework, three main
approaches have been discussed, looking at the present situation, the
principles, and the future tasks of communication rights. Working groups on
each thread will be formed during the next weeks as well as a "fog" (a
"forum organising group"), which hopefully - as opposed to its title - will
bring some light and transparency into the coordination process.

Sean's concept paper has already proposed a title for the first panel:
"Commuication rights, communication wrongs". A working group will be
collecting examples of good and malpractise of communication. A call for
inputs will be released soon.

Theoretical work will be presented on the second panel. A declaration on
Communication Rights will give a definition of a right to communicate in an
information society. Work on the text will start soon. The working group on
this is encouraged to merge the statements developed by various groups in
the preparation process of WSIS. Authors of these statements are invited to

The final panel will proceed to more practical agenda setting. The necessary
steps to improve communication rights will be dicussed here. This shall be
demonstrating the possibilities of an alternative approach towards the
information society taking into account communication rights.

Jan Schallaböck, London, 10 June 2003.

See also:

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