Cablegate: Usunesco: Post-Wsis Readout

Published: Wed 30 Nov 2005 01:21 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: NONE
REF: Paris 7472 and 7677
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Mission met with Elizabeth
Longworth, Head of the Information Society Division of
the UNESCO Communication and Information Sector on
11/23/05 and discussed WSIS follow up at UNESCO, UNESCO
views on how Internet Governance was handled at WSIS,
and the U.S. Library of Congress plans to work with
Google to develop a digital library. Longworth also
raised UNESCO's discomfort with the media freedom and
human rights in Tunisia, whether MIT's 100 USD laptop
would impact development, and UNESCO public relations
successes at WSIS. END SUMMARY.
WSIS Follow Up at UNESCO
2. (SBU) Longworth described UNESCO's post WSIS role
as a "mixed bag." UNESCO had wanted a lead role in
post WSIS implementation. There were lots of different
pieces to put together now, she stated. She added that
it would take time to sort out which WSIS stakeholders
within the UN family wanted to be involved in post-WSIS
implementation and which ones did not. The main
problem for UNESCO, she said, was now carrying out its
facilitative work to implement WSIS decisions without
resource implications. All in all, she acknowledged
that the "right compromise" was struck at WSIS. UNESCO
would lead on WSIS action lines on media and culture,
but share all other action lines with various actors in
the UN system.
3. (SBU) Longworth discussed plans to link WSIS goals
with building "knowledge economies" that she and the
head of the communication and information sector are
devising in order to move beyond WSIS and the
"knowledge society" to build "knowledge economies"
modeled on Finnish, Irish, New Zealand, Australian,
U.S. and U.K. efforts to create a more educated
workforce. The goal is to encourage UNESCO to think
about how to encourage developing countries to build
cognitive skills in their workforce. Longworth has
invited Amcit Louis Allardo to UNESCO for a workshop on
this topic scheduled for January.
Internet Governance:
4. (SBU) Longworth stated that she was "delighted"
that the Internet Governance issue was resolved. She
noted that it was a "must" to set up a forum to avoid
alienating countries from the current arrangement. She
observed that the final compromise document was well
drafted, subtle, and full of acknowledgements that made
various member states feel included. At the same time,
she said she was equally delighted that the Internet
governance negotiations went no further. No one in the
UNESCO Communication and Information sector, she
confided, wanted the Internet in the hands of the UN.
(COMMENT: Assistant Secretary General for
Communication and Information, Abdul Waheed Khan (an
Indian national and Longworth's boss) was reportedly
under extreme pressure from the Government of India to
change his position on this issue but appears to have
held firm. END COMMENT.)
5. (SBU) Longworth divulged that she had moved to add
the term "avoid fragmentation" to all UNESCO speeches
and interventions on the subject of Internet governance
leading up to WSIS because she wanted to highlight the
point that if duplicate Internets were created, the
value of the Internet would be lost. She stated that
"if the U.S. has not changed its position, certain
countries would have been ready to start their own
Internets the day after WSIS concluded." Maybe, she
speculated, the market would have soon corrected such
moves as Internet users all gravitated to one net in
particular, but nonetheless, she added, it would have
been a retrograde step.
LOC Digital Library Plans:
6. (SBU) We provided Longworth with a copy of the
11/22 Washington Post article on this topic, which she
had already seen. We clarified that LOC's James
Billington has gotten ahead of the process by engaging
the press and we affirmed that the project was still in
very early stages - eventually, the U.S. National
Commission for UNESCO would be beginning to brainstorm
ways in which to approach UNESCO about possible
engagement. Then, it would approach UNESCO. Longworth
understood that there was no action needed from her
end, praised the project as "great news" and something
her office would be very interested in getting involved
with, but noted that she would be concerned if access
were to be sold to the items placed on the Internet
through the program. She asked us to convey to
Washington that UNESCO had not been in contact with the
LOC on this issue, as the article implied there was a
Tunisia and Human Rights:
7. (SBU) Longworth noted that UNESCO was "exceedingly
uncomfortable" with the location of WSIS Phase 2 in
Tunisia and the Government of Tunisia's (GOT) behavior
toward journalists and NGOs. An unhappy side effect of
this, she observed, was to move the media spotlight
from the good work being done at WSIS to the human
rights abuses of the Tunisian government. The GOT,
Longworth stated, had missed an opportunity to show
100 USD Laptop:
8. (SBU) Longworth said the mood at UNESCO on
prospects for the new MIT-created 100 USD laptop
designed to help populations in developing countries to
access ICTs, was "cynical", but acknowledged that one
has to start somewhere. If the invention of this
laptop, which was still not fully realized, eventually
shook the market up and got people thinking about what
a developing nation's environment demands from ICTs,
she said, then it was a step in the right direction.
UNESCO Visibility at WSIS:
9. (SBU) We asked Longworth what the biggest success
of WSIS was for UNESCO. She stated that UNESCO
achieved great visibility through its exhibit stand and
that she received formal approaches from Sun
Microsystems and Cisco on future ICT partnerships. She
is also pursing leads with the Canadians, the World
Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Office and several
African governments. UNESCO delegates were overbooked
for speaking engagements and "doing a lot of business"
at the conference, she enthused. The trick now was to
keep this momentum and communication going, she said.
10. (SBU) Longworth stated that a UNESCO workshop on
ICTs for the Disabled had been a success, despite
unfortunate logistical problems for attendees that, she
suggested, caused some embarrassment for UNESCO. (The
venue was not disability friendly.) While there were
no specific member states or actors taking an active
role on the issue right now, UNESCO has shone a
spotlight on the issue and encouraged industry to
anticipate the needs of the disabled, even if only as a
market. She noted that the topic was of high personal
interest to the Assistant Secretary General.
11. (SBU) COMMENT: We are pleased that UNESCO agrees
with us that there should only be one Internet and that
the compromise reached at WSIS is the best way to
ensure this. At the same time, we note with concern
the resonance at UNESCO of arguments for an increased
international role on Internet governance. UNESCO's
muted reaction to its more limited role in WSIS
implementation is an indication of USG success at WSIS
in ensuring that no one UN agency had a leading role.
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