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Monday, 10 December 2012 11:38

ITU accused of ignoring external inputs to WCIT


The ITU has been accused of ignoring input from non-government bodies to its World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), now underway in Dubai.

WCIT12 is a gathering of representatives of the ITU's 193 member governments being held to redraft the 25 year old International Telecommunications Regulations. Most of its sessions are being held behind closed doors.

In July, in what it said was a move to "enable multi-stakeholder consultation in the run up to WCIT," the ITU created a page on its web site  "where all stakeholders can express their opinions on the content of the latest version of TD64 [the main input document to WCIT-12], or any other matter related to WCIT."

The ITU said: "This open access for inputs was applauded by the [ITU] Council as an important way for the ITU membership to be able to note the various viewpoints that surround the conference."

In all 29 submissions were received: four in August, nine in October and 16 in November. However the ITU gave no assurance that those involved with WCIT and those representing the 193 member governments attending the conference would take any notice of these inputs, saying only that the chairman of the council had "encouraged all Member States to give due consideration to these inputs in their preparation for WCIT-12."

Now, some of the organisations responsible are less than happy with the end result. They claim that more should have been to present their view to WCIT delegates.

The US based Center for Democracy and Technology - a non-profit public policy organisation and Internet freedom organisation - has sent an open letter  to ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré and WCIT-12 chairman Mohamed Al-Ghanim complaining about "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 - co-signed by almost 20 other organisations - states: "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."

They ask Touré and Al-Ghanim to "work with us to find an effective manner to bring these public comments into the deliberations while they remain relevant, for example by including them as Information Documents (INF) in the document management system."

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