The second phase of WSIS, held in Tunis, concludes with the adoption of two documents: the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society . The two documents underline three main areas of action: the identification of financial mechanisms to be used in overcoming the digital divide, the promotion of debates on Internet governance, and the implementation of the WSIS documents. The Tunis Agenda also contains a definition for the term Internet governance (as proposed by the Working group on Internet Governance), and it mandates the UN Secretary General to convene the Internet Governance Forum.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) holds its first annual meeting in Athens, Greece. The forum, convened by the UN Secretary-General, is intended to serve as a platform to ‘discuss public policy issues related to key elements of internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability, and development of the Internet’. The IGF mandate is detailed in paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society.
The forum will continue to hold meetings on an annual basis.
After several meetings in 2004 and 2005, the Working Group on Internet Governance issues its report which: (a) proposes a working definition for internet governance; (b) identifies public policy issues that are relevant to internet governance; and (c) explores the roles and responsibilities of various actors (governments, the private sector, civil society, as well as academia and the technical community) in internet governance. The group also suggests the creation of a multistakeholder forum for dialogue on internet-related public policy issues.
The first phase of WSIS, held in Geneva, finalises with the adoption of two documents: the Geneva Declaration of Principles, which underlines a set of principles to form the basis of an inclusive and global information society, and the Geneva Plan of Action, which contains several objectives and action lines related to bridging the digital divide. The Declaration also makes reference to Internet governance, by saying that this concept should constitute a key element of the information society agenda, and that the international management of the Internet should be a multilateral, transparent, and democratic process which includes all categories of actors. Signatories of the Geneva Declaration mandated the UN Secretary General to create a Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), as a multistakeholder entity tasked with: elaborating a definition for the term ‘Internet governance’, identifying public policy aspects pertaining to Internet governance, and developing a common vision of the role and responsibilities of governments, international organisations, private sector and the civil society, as Internet governance actors.
In June 2001, the ITU Council endorses the ITU Secretary-General’s proposal to hold WSIS in two phases, in 2003 and 2005. Later in the year, the UN General Assembly, through Resolution 56/183, also endorses the holding of WSIS in two phases. It invites the ITU to ‘assume the leading managerial role’ in preparing WSIS. It also invites and encourages governments, UN bodies, other intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society, and the private sector to contribute to the summit and its preparatory process.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference held in November 1998 in Minneapolis puts the basis of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Adopted at the conference, Resolution 73:
– Instructs the ITU Secretary-General ‘to place the question of holding a world summit on the information society on the agenda of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination;
– Instructs the ITU Council to ‘consider and decide on the Union’s contribution to the holding of a world summit on the information society’.