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November 26, 2003Last minute bid for pre-WSIS solutions. Marc Furrer, the Swiss Government's Information Minister, plans last minute talks, on Dec 5 and 6 - the very eve of WSIS - to find agreement on key contentious issues. The No. 1 issue, for Furrer, is defining "the role of the press in the digital age... it's big.. for countries like Iran, China, Syria and Tunisia".
Believe it or not, Switzerland, home to perhaps the UN's biggest European operations, only joined the U.N. in March 2002: not because anyone had excluded the Swiss but because it took that long before the people in a tightly fought referendum overcame their inborn resistance to international entanglements and the fear that membership would affect their long-prized neutrality.
Hosting WSIS is Switzerland's first task as a member of the U.N. family - which may explain the investment in the so-called parallel events like the World Electronic Media Forum - and Minister Furrer's initiative in setting up those last ditch meetings. "It doesn't have to be high-level people - not ministers", says Furrer, "but I want people who can negotiate because they won't be able to consult with their capitals any more".
WSIS-watchers who have waded through three and a half PREPCOMS may be wondering whether to hold their breath on December 5 and 6.