[JURIST] The UN's World Summit on the Information Society [official website] opened Wednesday in Tunisia as participants reached an 11th-hour agreement on a draft declaration [PDF text] which will leave the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) [official website] in charge of overseeing the main computers that control Internet traffic. Pakistan and other countries had called for the UN or another international body to assume responsibility for the system, but ultimately agreed to create an international forum where Internet issues can be raised. The Internet Governance Forum would begin operating next year, but would not have binding authority. The draft declaration is expected to be ratified by the end of the three-day summit. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the summit by calling [statement text] for participants to focus on the needs of developing countries and outline a specific plan to provide information and communication technologies to the world's poor. AP has more.
Meanwhile, three UN human rights experts on Wednesday took an opportunity during the summit to urge Tunisia, the summit's controversial host [JURIST report], to improve its record on human rights. Hina Jilani [UN mandate], Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative on human rights defenders, Ambeyi Ligabo [UN mandate], the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and Leandro Despouy, the Commission's Special Rapporteur on the independence of judge's and lawyers, voiced "profound concern" about numerous attacks on organizations, individuals and judges for raising human rights issues in public. According to the experts, the Tunisian government has also systematically banned labor unions, human rights organizations, and meetings among journalists, judges and attorneys. The UN News Centre has more.