Civil Society’s struggle to make its voice heard

Freedom of expression is shown valuable in a democratic society not only when civilians and organizations have the ability to express themselves, but also when their voices and concerns are taken into consideration. When it comes to the ICT world, unfortunately the voices that take the floor come from a powerful minority that frequently neglects the aims of the rest of the stakeholders.

International organizations, such as the UN, have confronted this issue by establishing world summits that aim to allow civil society to have the opportunity to use freedom of expression to advocate for their causes more successfully. The UN backing such an initiative is extremely relevant considering its reputation internationally. This implies that civil society’s discourse will definitely reach a broader audience, captivating governments’ and decision-maker’s attention, by using UN’s platform for debate on issues that sometimes are handled by decision-makers that ignore the majority’s opinion.

This theme is addressed by Hans Klein’s article “Understanding WSIS.” Klein emphasizes the importance that world summits have in creating policy forums that work on empowering civil society to strongly advocate for policy change and improvement.  The author takes the WSIS in 2003 as an example of a successful summit where the UN used the forum to challenge the power of the American ICANN. Developing countries that have been affected by ICANN’s policies took the WSIS as an opportunity to discuss ways to change the organization’s regime.

Dereck Cogburn also addresses this issue on his work “Diversity Matters Even at Distance.” Cogburn’s article stresses the fact that international forums not always are successful in combining civil society’s and developing countries’ aims. These groups may acquire more influence and advocate more successfully through summits backed by the UN. This brings, again, the point that the UN’s initiative to create these forums, such as WSIS, is extremely valuable for freedom of expression. UN’s approach brings relevance to civil society’s and developing countries’ concerns and ideas. As discussed by Cogburn, a multi-stakeholder participation for global governance is important to make these groups’ aims move forward in the policy arena.

Despite of the fact that the WSIS’ outcomes might have brought some divergent views on how civil society is organizing itself to raise its power, it is important to take into account the fact that great steps have been taken toward improving its participation in the decision-making process.  Prior to WSIS, civil society and developing countries had the opportunity to express their concerns on how information has been handled. However, it was after the WSIS that these voices were certainly heard by the main actors on this issue, the government and private sector. Having the right to express ideas is important but having these ideas to gain power and weight internationally is crucial for a greater impact on policy change.

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