Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Weird, Ironic and Hypocritical WCIT and the new International Telecommunication Regulations

I am back home after the WorldConference on International Telecommunications - WCIT, whose main job was to review the International Telecommunication Regulations. Since the official closing and signing by 89 members, I have been reading tons of comments. For me, I no longer engage in lengthy arguments these days. But I can say that Milton was spot on when he typed :

Here are a few of my own views on the « weird, ironic, and hypocritical nature of Dubai »that I would like to share :

1. Weird participation of Member States : Out of the Member States that attended, there are some who never put in a contribution, a word, an opinion or any kind of value to the whole of the meeting. They let others think, speak and act for them.

2. The stand of the African countries : Some people doing analyses seem to overlook the huge challenge that the « Africa group » posed to US, and EU. Once the MS from Africa decided to channel their position as a group, it meant they automatically had more influence than the EU and USA together

3. The Iran pioneer : No doubt, the fact that the Iranian head of Delegation was a « Master Gamer » and the spokesperson for APT was a huge game changer in Dubai. The man has 23 years of experience in ITU ins and outs.. He knows almost all the parts of the constitution by heart and knows how to use which tools in his favor. He did hold influence and he used it... real good

4. The American lobby that turned sour : For those CS folks in Baku for IGF, you recall that there was a meeting with the Kramer-led USA team. The lobbying machine was huge.. the negotiations were long and the meetings were several.. but as Hamadoun Touré explained during the I hour+ meeting he had with CS, « there is an unwritten rule that when a country wants something badly, everyone works to make sure that country does not win » Within the Africa group, the resolution on « To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet » was not so much a big deal.. and they could have let go... but for those who were in Dubai, there was that time when Saudi Arabia made it clear that « some parties get all they want and they are not willing to compromise anything »

5. I followed WCIT12 remotely.. : Dead wrong. By the Friday of the first week, all working groups were to be reporting directly to plenary. By the second week, only informal groups were « negotiating » and coming back to plenary. Towards the end, the Chair was doing what I termed in my tweets as « inter-regional ». Here, each region was asked to choose 4 delegations to represent it. I do recall one French-speaking delegate of Africa complained that Ad Hocs  and informal group meetings were only in English.. Guess what, at the very end.. the Chair was just talking with each of the regional leads... And I can say one thing.. Ad Hoc and informal groups decide within themselves and report. If you miss a meeting or come late.. you miss. So it is quite possible that an official delegate will be in Dubai and still not be able to explain exactly what happened.. let alone someone who followed remotely

6. Compromise text : Folks seem to have forgotten this. The Chair, in presenting his "Combined Draft Proposal" reminded the plenary that this text has seen some compromise. I still hear Civil Society talking as if the « Internet » resolution just surfaced for a vote.. The initial proposal was 2000 % more serious. In fact, the first version of that proposal was withdrawn and watered down. It is not hidden agenda that some countries would love to control the Internet totally.. so you will need to read through the lines to see the huge compromise such countries made.. and ask yourself, what compromise did the « No Internet » camp make. The compromise is the text you have in the resolution.

7. Human Rights and Right to access : I do recall it took hours to come to the « Iran call for vote » on the preamble. That bit of text was negotiated for 3 straight days.. It was surreal, to see the countries that were waving the human rights flag and the ones that were opposing accessing the right of MS to a non-discriminatory access to telecommunication services. I do recall that the Africa group decided to support the HR line partly to support the person of Hamadoun Touré.. but when it came to the right to a non-discriminatory access, even when Touré said we could do without it.. they said « we have heard you but we still maintain our position ».

8. The non-discriminatory access of Member States to international telecommunication services : Yes, that was the WCIT game changer.. It led to « THE VOTE ». Maybe folks have forgotten, that line was in 7.3. It was negotiated for days on end, and its proponents lost. 7.3 was deleted. I recall working with some Member States on a possible acceptable language.. holding different meetings on that particular point and the text just had to be dropped. So when it wormed its way back to the preamble, I could easily recognise it.

9. The last 15 minutes before THE TEMPERATURE VOTE ON THE INTERNET : The Wednesday night, plenary went on till 1:40AM on Thursday.  Before then, the able Iranian Delegate has talked about « Consensus by exhaustion ».. and people laughed at the term. The chair brings up a draft resolution which, if I recall clearly, was on « Service and Privilege Telecommunications » which was proposed by the USA. That proposal did not receive any positive feedback. It was deleted and the US delegate said it was very sad that WCIT did not see things their way, and that they will resubmit that resolution in other spaces. The US has hardly « recovered from that » that the Chair pulls up the next resolution that was talking about access to the Internet. At this time is was going to 1:30.. and discussions started on who was going for or against. That was when he decided to do the temperature vote.. and the « Internet » resolution carried it. 5 minutes later.. it was « thank you and goodnight » from the Chair. I am convinced that the speech that Terry Kramer read out on Thursday night was drafted after that vote, not after the Iran-called vote on non-discriminatory access.

10. The gains and the losses : Dont be fooled, many member states had a clear goal in mind. Even me, I had certain objectives I wanted to achieve. The Treaty process was either a way to achieve one's goals or a means to make one's opponent miserable. So it is not surprising that there were many unhappy persons.. albeit, some left more miserable than others.

On a personal note, I got funding as an individual to attend WCIT about One week before opening ceremony. I had to find a Member State of a Sector Member to register me.. It took two days. Finally when I got confirmed, I tried to fill in the form provided by Pearl of Arabia for Visa. I did not see « Nigeria » as a country. For Credit/Debit card information, I could not find « Côte d'Ivoire ». So how is a Nigeria living in Côte d'Ivoire supposed to apply for a visa. I send an email containing the documents requested. But when I arrived, there was NO visa application in my name, and I had to buy an on-the-spot tourist visa for 575$

I first had a green badge as a sector member delegate. This meant that some Working Group Sessions were closed to me. But good enough, the Africa group meeting was open and I attended each and tweeted as I could. I also attended the Nigeria national consultations. When Nigeria saw I was being useful to them, they registered me as a full country delegate and that allowed me to engage on a higher level and also represent, negotiate text and influence some lighter stuff.

1 comment:

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