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December 12, 2003

Last word. It's a success, Jim, but not as we know it. Despite failing to discuss the most important issue (who governs the internet) and making limited progress on how change should be funded in the developing world (contributions are voluntary) the Summit's heads were cheerier than a lioness in heat.

Pascal Couchepin, the Swiss President, said that he was pleased that there was any agreement at all.

"Some feared that we were holding a shallow and empty shell of a meeting," said Moritz Leuenberger, the Swiss minister of communications. The fact that he thinks otherwise tells you more about the nature of United Nations summits than it does about the achievements at Geneva.

M Couchepin believes that despite an impasse so insurmountable that the subject could not even appear on the agenda, negotiations over who governs the internet had come along in leaps and bounds. "To begin with, [private companies] were not prepared to accept that they had any control over the internet at all," he said. "We did not reach an agreement but we were able to agree on the process. This is something positive that was not manageable two months ago."

As for the Global Solidarity Fund (the means through which non-Western countries envisioned that Western countries would help them to build their digital infrastructure) Summit leaders believed that they had not been compromised by their compromise. "Not all member governments are satisfied with the plan of action… but I believe that they are more or less satisfied," said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union.

Scepticism aside, however, it was unrealistic to expect concrete results from this World Summit. Just because the digital world operates at such a rapid pace, one should not expect UN summits to keep up. Perhaps Nitin Desai, special assistant to Kofi Annan, got it right when he said: "I've been doing this for 10 years now. No UN conference is a pledging conference."

On a final note, Mr Utsimi revealed that he had once had a language test with the British Council as a foreign student. Did he pass? "No," he replied. From the closing press conference you would hardly have known.
Jack Malvern @ December 12, 2003 09:17 PM | TrackBack

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