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On December 16, after an intense round of negotiations among United Nations (UN) member states, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the final outcome document on the ten-year review of the implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10). Public Knowledge welcomes this outcome document as a positive step towards achieving an inclusive knowledge society and promoting a free and open Internet.
Over the last six months, we have provided our input to the intergovernmental preparatory process on an individual basis and in coalition with our partners. Overall, we are very pleased with the outcome document, which embraces a strong commitment to human rights and the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, making it a big win for digital rights groups. Here are some noteworthy accomplishments of the document:
To begin, the document asserts that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online. The text also specifically calls on countries to respect a wide range of human rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to privacy. It reaffirms that building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) should be consistent with human rights and further recognizes the important roles and contributions of all stakeholders in cybersecurity matters.
There is a strong acknowledgement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) throughout the text. The preamble reaffirms the UN resolution for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and calls for the close alignment between the WSIS process and the SDGs. This acknowledgement was a core point that we advocated for in our interventions during the consultation period. We are especially encouraged by the statement regarding the potential of ICTs to enable and accelerate progress across all 17 SDGs. This is particularly notable because there is now an international recognition that ICTs are core enablers of sustainability and economic growth.
ICT for Development
The document makes strides towards reducing the digital divide and creating an enabling environment for ICT for development. For instance, it encourages stakeholders to ensure the full participation of women and youth in the knowledge society and increase their access to new technologies. Member states agreed that ways to achieve this include the development of local content and services in different languages and to reduce the price of ICTs and broadband access. Finally, the document recognizes that open access to data, competition, multistakeholder cooperation, national and regional broadband strategies, and efficient allocation of spectrum have all facilitated significant gains in connectivity and sustainable development.
Next Steps and Future Outlook
We recommend that the UN and its member states set measurable goals on the progress of the WSIS+10 implementation between now and the next WSIS meeting in 2025. This should include member states synchronizing their narratives and commitments and ensuring consistency of issues across various foras. Cybersecurity is one example of an issue that requires synchronicity across stakeholders, especially as it will continue to grow in relevance in the coming years. One way to address this is for governments to make greater efforts to create opportunities for civil society to provide their expert input in cybersecurity dialogues with policymakers.
Additionally, the UN should showcase successful government projects and policies that are in line with the commitments they made in this outcome document. This could also provide a helpful hub of knowledge with information about how funds of ICTs are being utilized to serve as an accountability mechanism and ensure transparency.
Public Knowledge looks forward to collaborating with UN agencies and member states in ensuring that the WSIS goals are achieved.
For a look back, check out our WSIS blog post series:
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Basil D Soufi