At the second part of the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, 2005), the Council of Europe initiated discussions with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) on public participation in internet governance. The three entities have held joint workshops around this theme at both the Rio de Janeiro (2007) and Hyderabad (2008) meetings of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF); in both cases drawing particular attention to the Aarhus Convention as a potential starting point for thinking about the principles and instruments that might apply. A “Best Practice Forum” on Public participation in Internet governance: emerging issues, good practices and proposed solutions, held during the Rio IGF, enabled participants to explore the possibility of a mechanism that would enable Internet governance institutions to “commit themselves in their activities to transparency, public participation and access to information.”
During the Rio IGF a number of speakers expressed their support for the objectives of the initiative and there was considerable informal interest in the relevance of the Aarhus Convention both within the Best Practice Forum and beyond. More recently, during the February 2008 IGF consultation meeting in Geneva, the desirability of further work on this theme was emphasised by, among others, UNDESA and the Government of Switzerland. The latter urged that “in every forum and organisation [in Internet governance], there should be structures that allow the people, the citizens, the users to make them[selves] heard,” recommended further consideration of the application of the WSIS principles, and explicitly welcomed the UNECE/CoE/APC initiative.
An open stakeholder workshop held in Geneva on 23 May 2008, on “Concept and Possible Scope of a Code of Good Practice on Participation, Access to Information and Transparency in Internet Governance”. A discussion paper commissioned by the Council of Europe was presented and discussed. At the third IGF in Hyderabad (3-6 December 2008), a workshop (No 26) was organised on this theme.
On 13 May 2009, at a discussion meeting held in the margins of the Open Consultations for the IGF 2009, the initiative presented a second paper, containing a mapping of existing information and participation arrangements of major internet governance entities. It is envisaged that at the 2009 IGF in November a draft Code of good practice on Participation-Access to Information and Transparency will be presented.
Council of Europe contribution to the UN Internet Governance Forum in Hyderabad, India, 3 - 6 December 2008:
· Statement by the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe (recorded) for the Opening of the UN Internet Governance Forum
· Discussion Paper for Workshop 26 : “Towards a code of good practice on public participation in Internet governance – Building on the principles of WSIS and the Aarhus Convention”
The first phase of the UN World Summit on the Information Society was held in Geneva in December 2003. The Integrated Project “Making democratic institutions work” (IP1) acted as coordinator for the different Council of Europe sectors who contributed to the Political Message from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to the World Summit on the Information Society (CM(2003)87final – see below). This Message sets out the core values which the Council of Europe felt should be included in the final declaration and action plan of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Warsaw, 17 May 2005).
The Council of Europe’s contribution to WSIS Tunis consisted of two parts: (1) the Committee of Ministers’ political declaration on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Information Society; (2) two parallel events; one entitled “From here to e-democracy: promoting e-participation and dealing with harmful content”, and a second one on “The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime: a global treaty?”.
Moreover, on 18 November, Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio addressed the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis to promote the positive use of new information technologies.
World Summit on the information Society (WSIS) - Tunis, 15-17 November 2005:
Speech delivered by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General at the Seventh Plenary Session of the WSIS, Tunis, 18 November 2005
Political message from the Committee of Ministers to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
Democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the Information Society