United Nations  International Telecommunication Union  




 Thursday 20 February 2003

A Chairman for Subcommittee-2

The Chairman of the PrepCom, Mr Adama Samassékou, opened today’s plenary meeting, the second of the conference, with news of the decision by the Asian Group to nominate Ambassador Yasuaki Nogawa of Japan as Chairman of Subcommittee 2 (the task of which is to develop a draft declaration of principles and action plan for WSIS). Mr Nogawa’s election in Plenary received a warm response from the regional groups and numerous delegations, who were convinced of his ability to steer the work of the subcommittee to a successful and fruitful conclusion.

The Secretary of the plenary, Mr Pierre Gagné, introduced a compilation prepared by the Executive secretariat of the regional declarations to assist the Subcommittee in its work. This compilation had been requested by the Bureau. Mr Samassékou also presented his updated orientation document, which takes into account the outcome of all the regional conferences. All documents and contributions are available on the WSIS website at:

Summing up, Mr Samassékou said, “The roundtables have borne witness to the wealth of ideas you all have, including your impressions and recollections from the regional meetings. These will provide food for the work of the days ahead”. He added: “I believe that the fraternal atmosphere between us here will continue to set the tone for our work.

Finding the Way Forward

Opening Thursday’s meeting of Subcommittee 2, the newly-elected chairman of Subcommittee 2, Ambassador Nogawa (Japan), recalled the words of the President of PrepCom,  saying: “I hope we can conduct our work in a spirit of peace and friendship.” The subcommittee has before it the difficult task of developing a draft declaration of principles and action plan for WSIS. But Ambassador Nogawa was optimistic at the high degree of convergence already achieved in regional meetings. Given the limited time for work, he called for expediency, and hoped the subcommittee would move rapidly onto substantive issues.

But as discussions began on procedural matters, consensus was not easy to come by. The first point of contention was which document to use as the basis for the draft declaration and action plan. Some delegations, including Greece, Kenya, Mali and Switzerland, thought Mr Samassékou’s informal, orientation document “information and communication for all” formed a good starting point with broad scope for development. Others thought that the compilation document of outcomes from the regional conferences (document WSIS/PC-2/DT/1) prepared by the WSIS Executive Secretariat should be used. The output from the regional meetings was, it was argued, representative of both the decisions reached at PrepCom-1, and reflected the views of governments at ministerial level Others called for a new document to be produced on the basis of the compilation document, taking into account all the other contributions, as well as the PrepCom-2 roundtable outputs.

While consensus hovered close at hand at times during what was a heated debate, no clear solution emerged. In an attempt to overcome the stalemate, a number of calls were made for a drafting, or ad hoc, group to be set up to produce a basic document based on the compilation document and other inputs to date, in addition to the output from the roundtables. Despite widespread support for this in principle, the question could not be resolved of whether such a group should be open-ended, or composed of a limited number of  representatives from each of the different regions. A third solution, supported by Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, the Dominican Republic and others, was for the WSIS Executive Secretariat to produce the new draft document on the basis of its compilation of regional outcomes.

In a plea to delegates to work to overcome their differences in a spirit of open-mindedness, and to restore “serenity to the working atmosphere” of the conference, Mr Samassékou urged the subcommittee to move ahead rapidly in developing its basic working document so that it could begin the substantive part of its work.

Different Stakeholders, A Common Objective

The need for all players to define their roles and responsibilities in the Information Society was the appeal made by the moderator Maria Cattaui, who opened the last of the roundtable sessions ‘Role of the different stakeholders’. “We all need to talk about our digital commitment instead of a digital divide”.

Ms Thérèse Gastaut, of the United Nations Department of Public Information, acknowledged the critical role that the media plays in any discussion on the information society. She also recognized the important role of public communications in ensuring cultural and linguistic diversity, and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Ms Gastaut asked delegates to help make the Summit a milestone in the history by making it, "a stage towards what the Secretary-General calls an open information society, promoting tolerance and diversity, a society that will put globalization and its benefits within the reach of all."

Bruno Lavin, from the World Bank, referred to the Summit as a major opportunity to bring all stakeholders’ broad range of experiences together, learning from their best and worst practices. However, in his view the information society is an area where action often precedes talk.

Global Knowledge Partnership presented its contribution to WSIS ‘multi-stakeholder partnerships in ICT for development’. Rinalia Abdul, represented the organization and focused on the need for partners to understand each other’s objectives and respect each other’s mandates. “Partners must accept differentiated roles and responsibilities based on individual capacity, mandate and strengths”.

Finally, Michael Warner from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reminded delegates “both ICT and strategic partnerships are a means to an end and not an end in itself”.

The most informal forum for the discussion of topics of importance to the World Summit on the Information Society was convened at PrepCom-2. The first of four Workshops was presented. For more information on these Workshops click here.

Making Partnerships Possible

Developing ICT programs by enabling multi-sector partnership was a workshop presented by Michael Warner of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), an expansion of his presentation at the roundtable entitled ‘The Role of the different stakeholders in the Information Society’.

The model outlined the need for parameters in ICT for development programmes by identifying the areas of work such as building human capacity, policy and regulation, infrastructure, enterprise and content and applications. He emphasized that pooling core competencies with multi-sector partnerships in the business sector, public sector or civil society leads to a “partnering process”, which will facilitate the exploration, building and maintenance of strong partnerships.  

“All partnerships must be based on a level of trustable interdependency where all partners clearly see the added value of working together”.

For media information concerning the second phase of the Summit, click here

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