The civil society advocates attending the WCIT 2012 in Dubai have jointly protested the lack of opportunity to effectively participate in the conference process. In a letter addressed to the ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré, they have identified three urgent matters:
- the lack of any official standing to the public comments solicited prior to WCIT at the ITU’s invitation;
- the lack of access to and transparency of working groups, particularly the working groups of Committee 5;
- and the absence of mechanisms to encourage independent civil society participation.
The letter, which is co-signed by nearly 20 other organizations, says:
Unfortunately, the ITU has provided no mechanism for inclusion of the public comments in the WCIT working papers. They are not made accessible through the document management system (TIES) in the same manner as proposals submitted by members, nor are any of the comments reflected in the numerous working drafts reviewed by WCIT delegates.
As a consequence, delegates appear entirely unaware of these comments, and the diligent work of civil society organisations that accepted the ITU’s invitation to participate through the public comment process is in danger of being lost. From a practical standpoint, the possible help these public comments could provide in resolving some of the contentious issues before the WCIT is wasted.
The ITU often responds to these critiques by noting that civil society groups can purchase membership in the ITU and attend independently. But the costs of ITU-membership coupled with the expensive living in Dubai challenge most of the civil society outfits in both developing and developed countries. And even those who manage funds to travel to Dubai with no affiliation are denied access to the key meetings of working groups at the WCIT 2012 conference.