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Locating Civil Society Participation in WSIS

Date & Time:
12:45:00 - 17:30:00,
Monday 24 April, 2006


Seminar Outline

Civil society participation in a range of international forums and governance processes has been strengthening and changing in character over recent years. To what extent is civil society participation in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) reflecting, and to what extent is it distinct from, these patterns?

Issues for discussion include:

  • Civil society participation in WSIS seems to have split between those who have become deeply involved in the notionally ‘technical’ issues, such as who allocates domain names, and those whose primary interest is in the way ICTs should be used to support broader goals such as the UN Millennium Development Goals. Is this distinctive to WSIS or can similar cleavages be identified at other summits?

  • WSIS was distinctive as a UN summit in taking place in two stages (2003 and 2005). Did this characteristic, and WSIS’s explicit commitment to a multi-stakeholder approach encourage civil society to engage more and protest less about the process in comparison to other summits – or was it just that the issues were seen as less important to the key concerns of civil society groups?

  • Why have some major UK civil society organisations which have been prominent in other international forums not participated in WSIS?

  • How should we judge the success of civil society participation in WSIS in comparison to participation in other international forums or governance processes?

  • Are there any lessons to be learnt by civil society groups involved in pursuing information society issues from observation of non-governmental action in other forums or governance processes?

Session abstracts

Civil society engagement in suprastate governance: the democratisation of globalisation

Jan Art Scholte (Warwick University)

This presentation will address civil society engagement in suprastate governance and the democratisation of globalisation (i.e. how these activities do and do not bring greater public awareness, participation and accountability to this process).

Getting gender on the agenda: unravelling the macro-dynamics of the new information age

Gillian Youngs (University of Leicester)

This presentation will look at the problem of addressing gendered relations to technology in processes such as WSIS and the frustrations involved for civil society actors in raising deep structural issues related to inequality and empowerment in the context of technical agendas and processes, which are themselves highly gendered. The problem highlights the institutional nature of the information society and the ways in which deeply embedded historical inequalities resurface in new forms and make the politics of the so-called new era completely meaningless without reference to the past. It also provides us with broader critical insights into the nature and of ‘change’ in contemporary global political economy, and implications for new human rights agendas.

Indymedia and the organisation of civil society

Andre Spicer (Warwick Business School), Steffen Bohm (Univ. of Essex) (tbc), Sian Sullivan (Univ. of East Anglia) (tbc), Steffen Bohm (Univ. of Essex), Andre Spicer (University of Warwick), Sian Sullivan (UEA)

This presentation will look at how global civil society participation is organized, by focusing on the case of a global web-based self-publishing media outlet called Indymedia. We ask how this unique form of civil society participation is organized through social movement dynamics, institutional dynamics, and everyday social movement work. We conclude by considering what Indymedia might tell us about global civic participation more generally.


It is the final event in a series funded by the ESRC: Critical perspectives on the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS): civil society participation and issues (ESRC grant RES-451-26-0295).

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

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  • Dr Sonia Liff
  • Name: Dr Sonia Liff|Professor Jan Aart Scholte|Dr Andre Spicer|Dr Gillian Youngs
  • Affiliation: Reader in Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour, Warwick
    Business School|Professor in Politics and International Studies, and Co-Director of the
    ESRC/Warwick Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, Warwick
    University|Lecturer in Organisation Studies, Warwick Business School|Senior Lecturer, Department of Media and Communication and Course Director,
    MA Globalization and Communications, University of Leicester
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