Geneva, 18 November 2005 — The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society closed today after almost a week of intense negotiations, eight plenary sessions, 308 parallel events organized by 264 organizations and 33 press conferences attracting around 19’000 participants worldwide.
Hailed as a resounding success by national delegations from 174 States and participants from more than 800 entities including UN agencies, private sector companies and civil society organizations, the Summit was convened in Tunis to tackle the problem of the “digital divide” and harness the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to drive economic and social development.
The two Summit outcome documents — the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society — were endorsed by world leaders at the closing plenary of the Summit on Friday evening.
Global agreement on crucial issues
Three key issues dominated the preparatory process leading to the Tunis Summit: Internet governance, financing strategies, and implementation mechanisms for the Action Plan developed by the first phase of WSIS in 2003, in Geneva.
The breakthrough agreement on Internet governance brokered in Tunis acknowledges the need for enhanced cooperation to enable governments and is based around a number of newly agreed principles and future mechanisms:
- all governments should play an equal role and have equal responsibility for Internet governance while ensuring its continuing stability, security and continuity
- nations should not be involved in decisions regarding another nation’s country code top level domain (ccTLD)
- there is a need for strengthened co-operation among stakeholder for public policies for generic top level domain names (gTLDs).
This cooperation should include the development of globally applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical Internet resources. The process of moving towards such enhanced cooperation will be initiated by the end of Q1 2006.
Another important element of the Tunis output document is the creation of a new Internet Governance Forum (IGF), to be convened by the UN Secretary-General, to foster and enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy and development issues. This Forum will provide a platform for discussion of cross-cutting public policy issues not adequately addressed by current mechanisms. The new Forum is expected to be established in the first half of 2006, with an inaugural meeting to be hosted in Athens at the invitation of the Government of Greece.
The IGF will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and help find solutions to issues of concern to every day users arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of relevant decision-making bodies, and where appropriate, make recommendations. The forum will draw upon resources from all interested stakeholders, including the proven expertise of ITU.
The IGF will have no oversight function and will not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations. It will have no involvement in the day-to-day running and technical operation of the Internet.
The principles and elements agreed at Tunis mark the turning of a new page in the ongoing internationalization of Internet governance. In the coming years, the continued reinforcement of regional and national Internet resource management will guarantee the national interests and rights of countries in managing their own Internet resources, while at the same time maintaining global coordination.