PRESS CONFERENCE – Palais des Nations, Geneva, 25 February 2005
Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union
and Secretary-General of WSIS, Mr Montasser Ouaili, Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies, Ambassador Janis Karklins, President of the Second Preparatory Committee of WSIS (PrepCom-2) and Mr Marc Furrer, Secretary of State for WSIS
Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union and Secretary-General of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), met the press at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 25 February, to brief journalists about progress made during the WSIS Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-2) meeting. Secretary-General Utsumi and Ambassador Karklins congratulated all the participants for the successful PrepCom. He said negotiations were intense, but the results showed remarkable progress in the build-up to the Summit in Tunis in November 2005.
Mr Utsumi informed journalists about the key areas of Financial Mechanisms, the Digital Solidarity Fund and Internet Governance. He said the issues were considered by all the stakeholders of the Information Society - governments, business entities, media and civil society - who contributed to the preparatory process and intersessional activities. This was made possible by the inclusive nature of the WSIS process.
Mr Utsumi emphasized that the World Summit on the Information Society is one Summit two phases. During the first phase in Geneva in December 2003, 175 countries endorsed the WSIS Plan of Action and Declaration of Principles. In the second phase in Tunis in November 2005, the objective is to move forward towards the implementation and construction of a just and equitable Information Society. Appropriate financial mechanisms are critical for developing nations to build their information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. There are already numerous partnerships and projects, which complement the aims of
The working groups on Internet Governance and Financial Mechanisms, set up under the auspices of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have made remarkable progress during PrepCom-2. The Task Force on Financial Mechanisms had completed its report and the Working Group on Internet Governance Governance is preparing a report that will be made available by mid-July 2005. An information session on the report will be held in Geneva probably on 18July. Discussions on Internet Governance will take place during PrepCom-3, which will take place in Geneva 19-30 September 2005. During PrepCom-2, an interim report was presented followed by an exchange of views and shared understanding on Internet Governance.
Ambassador Karklins said that the Digital Solidarity Fund was established to complement already existing financial mechanisms. The challenge is to improve these mechanisms and link ICTs and finance to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Goverments adopted paragraph 27 on Financial Mechanisms: “We welcome the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) established in Geneva as an innovative financial mechanism of a voluntary nature open to interested stakeholders with the objective of transforming the digital divide into digital opportunities for the developing world by focusing mainly on specific and urgent needs at the local level and seeking new voluntary sources of ‘solidarity’ finance.” The DSF will complement existing mechanisms for funding the Information Society, which should continue to be fully utilized to fund the growth of new ICT infrastructure and services.” Ambassador Karklins added that the Digital Solidarity Fund is guided by the decisions of the governing board of the Fund and it will finance projects mainly in the least developed and developing countries, but also small projects in countries with economies in transition and in developed countries where needed. The Fund is voluntary in nature and is open to all interested stakeholders.
The Political Chapeau and the Operational document on Tunis and beyond was a result of the preparatory work done by the Group of Friends of the Chair. Negotiations will continue during PrepCom-3. Most of PrepCom-2 was dedicated to the issue of financial mechanisms and to the discussions on how to ensure that the decisions taken in Geneva will be made possible. PrepCom-3 will deal with Internet governance.
Ambassador Karklins also stated that PrepCom-2 discussed the format of the Summit in Tunis. The Summit will begin with an opening ceremony on 16 November 2005. The Plenary meetings will take place 16-18 November 2005. In addition, there will be multi-stakeholder round tables for Heads of States and government, CEOs and civil society. The panel discussions are designed to offer a more interactive Summit. The Bureau has also suggested establishing better links between the numerous side events and the official part of the Summit and reports from the side events will be presented in the official plenary.
Tunisian Minister of Communication Technologies, Mr Montasser Ouaili expressed his satisfaction on the remarkable progress made during PrepCom-2. As host country for the second phase of the Summit, Tunisia will spare no effort to prepare a successful and distinguished Summit. It will provide a favourable and enabling environment for the benefit of all Summit participants.. The Summit organization will be excellent, and the side and parallel events in the ICT4all exhibition will facilitate larger participation of the private sector. Moreover, the Summit will be inclusive for all stakeholders including governments, civil society, the private sector and media. Mr Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic of Tunisia, welcomes all stakeholders. The Government of Tunisia has been actively promoting the Summit in Africa and around the world.
Countering a question by a reporter from Reuters on human rights violations in Tunisia, Mr Ouaili emphasized that the Summit is not a Summit only for Tunisia, but a Summit for the international community. It is the political will of Tunisia to be inclusive in the Summit on the Information Society. Therefore, the Government of Tunisia has initiated a fund, worth CHF 400 000 to ensure participation of civil society from least developed countries. The fund has not been yet established and the final decisions about the fund will be made soon. He reiterated that the civil society from all parts of the world should be present in the World Summit on Information Society.
Mr Furrer reminded journalists that the first phase of the Summit in Geneva was a political base for the Information Society. The Tunis Summit will concentrate more on implementing projects in e-Health, e-Learning, financing and so on. There is also the need to find a way ahead beyond Tunis. For example, ITU has already showed interest in the future initiatives on WSIS.
Responding to a question on the price of using the Internet and ICTs, Mr. Furrer replied that fifty of the poorest countries of the world need financial assistance to be able to participate in the Information Society and build the necessary infrastructure. It is important to bring down costs and make access to ICT affordable.
A Tunisian journalist wanted to know what the countries of the South can expect from the Summit and what role good governance has in the WSIS process. Minister Montasser Ouaili said that it is necessary to establish implementation mechanisms to resolve the digital divide. The process will not end in Tunis, but the Summit will kick-start the solutions.