Human Rights Caucus Concerned About WSIS OutcomeCommunique of human rights caucus
Geneva, December 7, 2003
GENEVA, DECEMBER 7, 2003 -- The civil society Human Rights Caucus of the World Summit on the Information Society has many reasons to be concerned as thousands of delegates converge on Geneva for the World Summit. The Caucus, which includes more than 40 organisations, has been working since the first preparatory meetings 18 months ago to ensure that human rights are not left off the WSIS agenda.
Our first concern is about the lack of political will to address the effective implementation of human right standards and how ICTs can serve to enforce these. Rather than forward-looking strategies that address the new potential and challenges posed by ICTs for human rights, time and resources have been spent on defending principles that were agreed upon 55 years ago. Even banal references to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights have been debated and contested right up until the last hour. This opportunity to bring the human rights agenda forward has been squandered.
The caucus has been involved in WSIS precisely because it was an important opportunity to carry the human rights agenda forward. We aimed to actually translate human rights principles to the context of the information society. Unfortunately, our task has become defending the formal commitment to previously reached international consensus, that is, preventing complete backtracking on human rights.
(More information on the caucus's interventions throughout the process can be found at www.iris.sgdg.org/actions/smsi/hr-wsis)
The second concern of the Human Rights Caucus is the ongoing deplorable human rights situation in Tunisia, scheduled to host phase 2 of the Summit in 2005. The caucus joins many others in rejoicing that webmaster Zouhair Yahyaoui has been conditionally released and hopes that he and others imprisoned for exercising their human rights will be free from official harassment and intimidation. The caucus considers this first move on the part of the Tunisian government a step in the right direction. But this does not change the fact that there are very serious problems remaining to be solved in order for WSIS Phase Two to take place in Tunisia in acceptable conditions.
The most significant problems are the lack of freedom of speech and freedom of information, the tight controls on the use of the internet, the strict control over the media, and the constant intimidation and harassment of people who dare to criticize the regime, however mildly.
The human rights caucus will be active throughout the Summit this week in Geneva. Amongst other activities, the Caucus is a co-sponsor of the World Forum on Communication Rights in the Information Society, to take place on December 11 at Palexpo. With well-known human rights leaders from countries where the information society is tightly controlled (Souhayr Belhassen from OMCT and Sharon Hom from Human Rights in China) in addition to keynote Aminata Traoré, the session promises an excellent overview of some of the most contentious issues of the Summit. The programme can be found here: www.communicationrights. It takes place in Palexpo, Salle Mont-Blanc, starting from 9:30am.
For more information:
Diana Bronson: +41 (0) 79 296 4782 ou firstname.lastname@example.org
Documents and actions of the Human Rights Caucus:
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