WSIS Tunis 2005 – Switzerland's commitment and evaluation

The second phase of the WSIS took place from 16-18 November 2005 in Tunis. Switzerland was committed to ensuring the long-term success and further development of the first phase. The president of the Confederation, Samuel Schmid, took part in the Summit opening ceremony. Federal councillor Moritz Leuenberger represented Switzerland in the substantive section and in the closing ceremony.

Switzerland had participated actively in the preparatory work for the second phase and had placed several people at the disposal of the ITU and the UNO to perform important functions. Forty-six heads of state or heads of government (VVIPs) and 197 ministers and deputy ministers took part in the Tunis 2005 WSIS. A total of 18,000 participants from 174 states were registered for the political part of the Summit. The "ICT4all" exhibition, the largest of some 200 parallel Summit Events, was visited by 80,000 people. These figures show that during the first phase and the preparations for the second phase it was possible to overcome scepticism or lack of interest in the WSIS process and to establish the WSIS as an important political event and as a platform for encounters and exchanges between governments, the private sector and civil society. The pioneering work performed in Geneva therefore bore long-term fruit.

In Tunis on 16 November, Swiss president Samuel Schmid delivered the opening speech on behalf of Switzerland, the host country for the first phase. On 17 November, Federal councillor Moritz Leuenberger presented the Swiss statement as part of the general debate and delivered a speech on behalf of Switzerland on the occasion of the closing ceremony on 18 November. Switzerland was officially represented at the Tunis WSIS by two pavilions. In addition to a Swiss national pavilion in the ICT4all exhibition, Switzerland, as the host country for the first phase, had an honorary pavilion in the central area of the Summit, at Tunisia's invitation. Although interest from the private sector in Switzerland regarding the WSIS process remained rather muted, the intense exchanges with the nation's civil society during the preparation and holding of the second phase of the WSIS proved to be of mutual benefit.

With regard to content, the Swiss delegation at the Tunis 2005 WSIS pursued the same main objective as it had during the first phase of the WSIS: the establishment of an information society which includes everyone, in particular the underprivileged, older people and people with disabilities as well as those who do not yet have access to information and communication technologies (ICT). In the process, these technologies must never be an aim in themselves; they can only be a tool. The Swiss delegation also emphasized the importance of information itself and the role of human rights, especially freedom of information and freedom of opinion, as well as the importance of independent, pluralistic and free media in a free society.

The substantive result with regard to expectations

The substantive result of the Tunis 2005 WSIS corresponds to Switzerland's expectations and may be described as positive. After prolonged tough negotiations, the result of the Geneva 2003 WSIS was able to be confirmed, and further developed and concretised with regard to the issues which were still outstanding.

With regards to the policy document (the "Tunis Commitment"), it proved possible to strengthen the Geneva Declaration of Principles and prevent any watering-down or even contradictions between the two policy documents.

Finance mechanisms for ICT for Development (ICT4D)

With regard to the implementation document ("Tunis Agenda for Implementation") the section on finance mechanisms for ICT for Development (ICT4D) focuses on better utilisation of existing mechanisms. In this context, a major role will be played by creating appropriate general conditions which promote investment from the private sector. However, additional effort from governments and the private sector is required in the poorest countries and in the marginal regions where market forces alone are not sufficient.

Internet governance

The text adopted on the subject of Internet Governance establishes a definition of internet governance, identifies the aspects of the internet which are of public interest ("public policy issues") and defines the roles of the different partners and stakeholders with regard to internet governance. The Geneva principles, according to which internet governance should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, were also strengthened, as was the demand for greater multilingual content on the internet. The private sector and civil society were cited as the driving force for the development of the internet. On the other hand, governments have a special role to play on public policy issues and the sovereignty of states over their country code top-level domain (e.g. ".ch") is recognised. Cooperation of the various international and intergovernmental organisations in all areas of the internet must be strengthened. In addition, states must actively cooperate to improve security and combat spam and cybercrime. Freedom of information and freedom of expression on the internet must continue to be guaranteed, even within the framework of combating terrorism on the internet. Moreover, solutions should be sought as to how the developing countries can obtain better access to the internet and how their interconnection costs can be reduced.

In order to improve the dialogue and involvement of all partners, an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) open to all interested parties should be set up, in which all aspects of internet governance should be discussed. This forum should build on the existing internet governance structures and will not possess any powers of control or supervision. In addition, the community of states has recognised that in the future increased cooperation of all stakeholders will be essential to develop the stability, security and continuity of the internet and that all states, not a single country, must contribute to this development in the same way. Involvement of the developing countries in the existing bodies must also be improved.

The Tunis 2005 WSIS represents a significant step towards securing the openness of the internet and the internationalisation of internet governance. The irrevocable anchoring of the issue of internet governance in the agenda of the international organisations was achieved. In order to achieve the goals which were defined in Geneva and Tunis, however, international pressure must be maintained. OFCOM, which represents Switzerland in the ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), will continue to work towards these goals.

Implementation of the results

A positive result, from the Swiss viewpoint, could also be achieved in Tunis with regard to the implementation of the results of Geneva and Tunis and of the Follow-up mechanism for the WSIS process.

The "Stocktaking" report, with the corresponding database, and the "WSIS Golden Book" were two further documents presented at the Summit which provide the various stakeholders with an opportunity to network and to indicate which projects and initiatives for implementing the WSIS results are under way, have already been concluded or are being planned. Switzerland provided substantial support for these two papers.

Evaluation of the human rights issue

During the WSIS, the host country clearly failed to give a signal in relation to improving human rights. In Tunis, numerous events by Tunisian and international human rights organisations were prevented. In addition, the speech by the president of the Confederation Samuel Schmid was censored on Tunisian television. With regard to this problem, the Swiss delegation intervened several times with the Tunisian authorities before, during and after the Summit. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify aspects of the event which are positive from the human rights viewpoint, as it gave the issue of human rights high international visibility.

Specialist staff
Last modification 13.06.2007

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