Thursday, November 02, 2006


Written on October 28
Two years ago I received a copy of a film about the French filmmaker Bresson by my UCSD colleague Babette Mangolte called Les Modeles de Pickpocket. At that time, Joel and I started to watch it, but turned it off because we both felt that we needed to watch Pickpocket again (we had both seen it many years ago) BEFORE we watched Babette’s film. For months we tried to get a copy of Pickpocket. We searched the internet. We asked all our friends. We combed the shelves of Kim's Video. No luck. So somehow your film languished on a lower shelf near our VCR-- not forgotten, just in a state of limbo.

This weekend Molly and Shawheen came up with their latest netflick choice: PICKPOCKET! Hooray. Unfortunately Joel is not here (he's in the city lecturing at a conference), but the three of us climbed under covers and leaned against pillows (it is cold and windy in Willow tonight) and were transported to the Paris of Bresson and then when we had finished that, we put on Babette’s tape and we finished in Mexico! (the last scene takes place in Mexico with one of the actors, or a Bresson put it, “model” from the film). What a delicious combination! We all three really loved both Pickpocket and Babette’s documentary. What a lovely combination! A brilliant coda to a brilliant film!

The UNESCO Building, which was designed in the 1950s as a modernist dream within a park and sculpture garden, is now a fortress behind a sort of bunker with layers of heavyduty steel fencing.

I happened to be in Europe for The Dictionary of War in Graz ( so I was able to attend the October WSIS meetings. The following is a report I did to some of the friends and colleagues who have worked with me on civil society issues within the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and UNESCO.

I went to two days of the UNESCO meetings. The first day was on e-learning. The morning was mostly a showcase for a variety of educational corporations to stand up and identify themselves as creating software for e learning sales. There was also a rep from the International Chamber of Commerce. Rikke and Jane from Denmark were there, Marianne from EU(?), and also Divina from Paris and IAMCR. There was a very active youth delegate from Sweden-- a very tall young woman. But there were few other people that I recognized from earlier WSIS CS meetings, with the exception of the Tunisians.

A link about the meeting is here:

There were people from the European Union one of whom made the first "public interest" statement I heard-- that e-learning should not mean just putting a CD in a machine or turn on a satellite and leaving. A woman named Rosalie Plaisir who is an IT engineer is working with educators in the French Caribbean working with ICTs for All.

There was someone from Nigeria who talked about the need for a national internet backbone and that they were hoping that the private sector would give reduced prices to universities. He said that African universities cannot deliver connectivity.
Alex Tukov (sp?) from ITU spoke about the difficulty of setting up exchange points in Africa.

There was discussion of setting up a clearing house at UNESCO on e-learning including things like ethics and technology.
There was a discussion about the MIT initiative for the $100 computer. The reporter (?) said that there are now MIT lap top programs planned for Malaysia and Kerala. The beta version is now out and they expect a million to be manufactured by April 2007. They have eliminated the wind up function. (:-( ) However there was also a statement that India does not want to go that direction (I don't understand how this meshes with the report of initiative in Kerala!).

There was a lot of discussion about "protecting" the internet from "dangerous content".
A UNESCO official talked about the collaboration of UNDP and GAID (Global Alliance for ICT and Development) in four areas:
education, health, entrepreneurship and participation.
The El Salvador gov rep made many interventions, but I never got any real sense as to what he wanted.

There were proposals from Tunisians, El Salvador and a few others to change the wording on the "action plan' but they were told by the UNESCO guys that this was not possible. The WSIS docs were now in stone.

The afternoon was more interesting. It was broken into eight groups with a variety of subjects. I chose research and development. We met for about an hour. My group had some young law students who talked about the need for e-legal protocols. The other reports listed the needs for access, etc. The government reps from Africa spoke of frustration about the lack of funds for implementation, etc. There was a feisty black woman from Canada, Carol something who was quite good.

Break Out Groups
This is the report I did as convener for research and development discussion group:
We discussed priorities for research in the field of electronic education.
In no particular order these are:
-Need for gender equity in e-learning
-need for language and cultural equity-- this is a human right. We need systems which fit the cultural systems. (To impose new cultural forms can be a form of genocide.)
-Need for "e-legal" We need access to legal frameworks. Need for parity in issues such as privacy, intellectual property and free speech
-Need for research the history and on-going procedures of governance of the internet.
-Encourage set-aside and use of transponders for public interest for universities and independent producers. (obviously this is my point!!!)
-Comparative analysis of distribution and use of ICTs, equipment, etc. (For example what are the comparative results of "one laptop per child, vs community sharing at local ICT centers)
-Research where people gt their information. News? Human Rights? Civic engagement? education? Health?

We ended our presentation with a call for minimal intervention. The example of the "Hole in the Wall" experiment in India where youth were able to write without keyboard. The inherent intelligence and creativity of people must be respected.
The over all goal should be to use e-tools to reach beyond our current global situation and make the world a better place.

This "breakout" was actually a useful, but very quick meeting. I was impressed with the level of interest and experience on the part of the members, once we were able to hear each other and not just the podium speakers. My sense was that the 7 other break out groups had similar positive experiences.

After these reports, we had to stop, as the translators had to leave and then, of course, the "Civil society" meeting would happen--without translators. Unfortunately there were very few of us there. Francis Muguet did a heroic job of trying to chair a meeting of at the most five people. There was some discussion about whether to ask for co-convening by the civil society, though people seemed afraid that if it was more than UNESCO, the commercial and gov entities would also try to co-convene so people sort of trusted UNESCO more than the "unknown". Marianne suggested that there be someway that newcomers get information about the history of the Civil Society work-- that all papers from Geneva and Tunis stay available and be recommended to newcomers. Unfortunately Rikke and Jane were unable participate as they had to leave early and couldn't to take part in this very short small meeting.

The next day the theme was media. This time Sean O'Siocru from Ireland and Steve Buckley from AMARC were there. And the familiar face and diminished voice of Ron Koven from the World Press Freedom Committee. There seemed to be great relief from UNESCO that at least a few civil society folks showed up. Otherwise it would not have been a "multi" stakeholder meeting!

Charles Geiger from UNESCO gave a lengthy report on the history of WSIS and the "action line"

Steve has posted a report on this meeting. As he discussed there was talk of meeting in May in Geneva.

UNESCO seemed defensive about the lack of funding for "action lines". One thing that was emphasized by the UNESCO people is that UNESCO only supports training programs, not setting up access centers. There was a request that they provide a list and mapping of the current training initiatives. Divina discussed initiatives and a publication about e-learning and wondered how to scale up the education initiatives to include journalism training, and for example training for trauma and danger-- there are more journalists being actually targeted throughout the world. We need to address the safety of journalists.

Charles Geiger recommended the World Information Society Report which he said was done by ITU UNESCO and UNCTAD (trade and development).

The questions always come down to who will fund any of the public interest actions.

My own intervention was to suggest that there be a mechanism similar to the DBS set-asides in the US to preserve transponders for non-profit, public interest use. Also that there should be a fund from orbital slot allocation. Is it not the ITU who allocates this?

There was a call for media literacy guides and information about freedom of information. Again the World Information Society Report 2006 was brought up.

Okendi (sp?) from the ministry of information in Nigeria says that they are doing workshops on Mass Communication with students. The training is focused on showing what is available already so they do not have to start from scratch.

Ronnie stated that the Council of Europe does not reflect reality. He opposed the harmful content concept.

David Lewis of EBU linked freedom of expression/censorship to dead journalists. Obviously they can't write anymore, he said. EBU is doing safety training. He suggested that the UNDPI (?) get the Security Council to pass a resolution to protect journalists and to prosecute people who kill journalists. He asked UNESCO to help facilitate this and set up various training mechanisms on safety.

Kurkman Alemdar from Turkey's national commission on UNESCO was troubled by globalization of media and said he cannot complain to UNESCO. That the overwhelming commercial international media networks were blocking out local information and culture.

Steve Buckley of AMARC talked about the need to have action lines which supported producers who worked on development themes and the need for research on the social impact of media. That we need measurement and tools. There is a special need for women's involvement and gender parity. AMARC will be a co-convenor of the action line.

A guy was there from the International Association of Television Archives who spoke of the importance of archiving self expression and that this can reduce international hostility and feed into cultural diversity actions.

A Tunisian spoke of the need for UNESCO to focus on resource mobilization as regards to media and also the need to explore appropriate technology such as solar power for transmission.

Hadda Eimer said that the discussions lack theoretical basis and WSIS in general is on the practical side, but need to explore issues of methodology.

The Council on Europe spoke of need for independence and pluralisty of media.

The rep from the Vatican (!) spoke of the need to have some way to identify if information on the internet is believable.

Divina spoke of the importance of research and freedom of expression. The need for production of qualitative paradigms of sustainability. We need to weigh the risks and promises of knowledge over protection.

Someone from Niger spoke of the use of radio to preserve diversity of languages.

Someone from Trinity 'College in Wales talked of the need to have ethical criteria for media professionals.

Someone from Tunisia said the lord gave us only one mouth and two ears, so we should listen carefully. (?)

UNESCO guy made a boo boo when he state emphatically that your (!) work needs to have vertical coordination. "Oh! I mean horizontal!" he apologized.

In a statement I didn't really understand, the El Salvador rep said that the issue of children was difficult to mediate so that we need a better name for the topic to reflect a balance. (This was another case of the UNESCO guys saying, sorry but we cannot change the WSIS text at this point!)

Someone from Stockholm University (I think the youth rep woman) said we shouldn't put research in its own box-- that it should be oriented to sustainability and development.

I suggested that for the May meetings that we work with people who have been active with the cultural diversity meetings.. that there is a great deal of overlap.

Francis on the issue of language suggested that official documents can be appended with working methods... that there should be rapporteurs for both on-line meetings and face to face.

Bishop Lagague (sp?) said that this meeting was serene compared to African heat.
(I was told that the registered participants were posted on the unesco web site, but can't seem to find that list. Does anyone have it?)

Francis said that the civil society process is not isolated, but is part of a larger process of renovation of the UN.

So after the official meeting, the civil society met, with many more people than the day before. This time facilitated very well by Divina and Francis. (Though again, without official translators.) We spoke of continuing the dialogue and I suggested having a separate posting place for civil society at which we could enter by area of interest-- i.e. research, communication rights, gender issues, indigenous rights, internet gov, media, community media, etc. Divina talked about not being reactive all the time, but to form our own priorities and take initiative. There was a consensus that UNESCO would actually appreciate that.

So the representation of CS was valiant but small. I am convinced that it is important to stay with this struggle. Although I am a bit troubled with the thought that my presence somehow legitimated this grand exercise in posturing and rhetoric. How to get beyond this? WE SEIZE!

I inclose a photo from a page from The Media Cookbook by Oleg Kireev, Russian author and film critic, who includes in his book a discussion of WSIS from the WE SEIZE initiative. The poster above was one made for the alternative center in Geneva during WSIS 2003.

Best to all my WSIS Civil Society coilleagues and please forgive this rather rambling report!

These are the countries I have visited in my life.

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