Workshop A1: NGO’s in Info-Development

Toni Eliasz (Ungana-Afrika, South Africa)

Toni discusses the role of civil society in ICT Policy Processes. He raises the two questions “why should or why shouldn’t C.S. sit around the table with governments or private sector.
He sketches a simplified view of how policy processes work .There are three main group actors. The first are governments, the second the private sector and the third group civil society. The level of policy varies from global and national to regional and local policy issues. After policy decisions have been, legislation and regulation processes start to take over.
Tony gives three examples of why civil society should sit down round the table with policy makers. First they can enable, coordinate and facilitate specific elements; they can bring up issues from grass roots towards the other actors “round the table” but also the other way round they can inform grassroots what policy makers have in mind. Network building and mobilizing citizens are mentioned too in this first example. Secondly context expertise is important. Important issues like human rights, gender rights concerning grassroots marginalized groups or issues relating to open source, universal access can be raised. Finally an ethical approach is mentioned.

During discussions with the audience questions of representation concerning NGO’s were held. An important agreement in this discussion is that civil society is not a clear, fixed group of people where you can point your finger at and say “this is civil society”. Within civil society there is an enormous diversity of different civil society groups. There are social, cultural, linguistic differences, goals, aims or issues can vary. Therefore, questions are raised like to whom are NGO’s accountable, how transparent are NGO’s? Who or what is civil society and is there a global civil society ?
Other interesting points made during the audience discussion;
– There is too much discussion, time or effort put into the fact that within civil society there is so many difference and diversity. We must put effort into the question who are the dominant voices in this diversity and who are left out in this diversity for instance in the WSIS summit.
A interesting remark of a Brazilian delegate of a Brazilian, southern Ngo was the question how to get contact with the big global NGO’s of the north. He had no money to buy tickets for NGO meetings in the north and emails sent to these global big NGO’s often weren’t replied.

— daan