World Summit on the Information Society Hailed as Resounding
Consensus and commitment in Tunis paves the way to a more
equitable Information Society
Tunis, 18 November 2005 — The second phase of the World Summit on the
Information Society closed today after almost a week of intense negotiations,
eight plenary sessions, 308 parallel events organized by 264 organizations and
33 press conferences attracting around 19’000 participants worldwide.
Hailed as a resounding success by national delegations from 174 States and
participants from more than 800 entities including UN agencies, private sector
companies and civil society organizations, the Summit was convened in Tunis to
tackle the problem of the “digital divide” and harness the potential of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) to drive economic and social
The two Summit outcome documents — the Tunis Commitment and the
Tunis Agenda for
the Information Society — were endorsed by world leaders at the closing plenary
of the Summit on Friday evening.
Addressing delegates at the 8th and final Plenary session, Yoshio Utsumi,
Secretary-General of the Summit, said it had been a long road and seven years
since the idea for the Summit was first adopted by the ITU Minneapolis
Plenipotentiary Conference. “It is fitting that this stage of our journey ends
here in Tunis, the capital of the country that launched the process,” said Mr
Utsumi. “Uniquely, WSIS was a Summit held in two phases. Through this approach,
WSIS took place in one developed and one developing country. This helped ensure
that the full range of issues of the Information Society were addressed, while
highlighting the critical need to bridge the digital divide.
He added that the two-phase process has enabled the development of a concrete
plan for implementation at the national, regional and international levels,
which will ensure commitments that have been undertaken are fulfilled. “In a
very real sense, WSIS is about making the best use of a new opportunity and a
new tool. WSIS reinforces the value of global dialogue and cooperation to
address emerging issues in the 21st century. The Information Society can be a
win-win situation for all, provided that we take the right actions.”
19’401 participants took part in the Summit, including:
- 46 Heads of State and Government, Crown Princes and Vice-Presidents and 197
Ministers/Vice Ministers and Deputy Ministers
- 5’857 participants representing 174 States and the European Community
- 1’508 participants representing 92 international organizations
- 6’241 participants representing 606 NGOs and civil society entities
- 4’816 participants representing 226 business sector entities
- 1’222 accredited journalists from 642 media organizations of which 979 onsite
from TV, radio, print and online media worldwide
Global agreement on crucial issues
Three key issues dominated the preparatory process leading to the Tunis Summit:
Internet governance, financing strategies, and implementation mechanisms for the
Action Plan developed by the first phase of WSIS in 2003, in Geneva.
The breakthrough agreement on Internet governance brokered in Tunis
acknowledges the need for enhanced cooperation to enable governments and is
based around a number of newly agreed principles and future mechanisms:
- all governments should play an equal role and have equal
responsibility for Internet governance while ensuring its continuing
stability, security and continuity
- nations should not be involved in decisions regarding another nation’s
country code top level domain (ccTLD)
- there is a need for strengthened co-operation among stakeholder for public
policies for generic top level domain names (gTLDs).
This cooperation should include the development of globally applicable
principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and
management of critical Internet resources. The process of moving towards such
enhanced cooperation will be initiated by the end of Q1 2006.
Another important element of the Tunis output document is the creation of a
new Internet Governance Forum (IGF), to be convened by the UN Secretary-General,
to foster and enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy and development
issues. This Forum will provide a platform for discussion of cross-cutting
public policy issues not adequately addressed by current mechanisms. The new
Forum is expected to be established in the first half of 2006, with an inaugural
meeting to be hosted in Athens at the invitation of the Government of Greece.
The IGF will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and
help find solutions to issues of concern to every day users arising from the use
and misuse of the Internet, identify emerging issues and bring them to the
attention of relevant decision-making bodies, and where appropriate, make
recommendations. The forum will draw upon resources from all interested
stakeholders, including the proven expertise of ITU.
The IGF will have no oversight function and will not replace existing
arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations. It will have no
involvement in the day-to-day running and technical operation of the Internet.
The principles and elements agreed at Tunis mark the turning of a new page in
the ongoing internationalization of Internet governance. In the coming years,
the continued reinforcement of regional and national Internet resource
management will guarantee the national interests and rights of countries in
managing their own Internet resources, while at the same time maintaining global
The WSIS outcome texts reaffirm the Geneva agreements that information and
communication technologies are a key tool in national development strategies.
For that reason, financing of ICT deployment is vital to meeting the Millennium
The document welcomes the creation of the Digital Solidarity Fund. It underlines
the importance of providing quality, affordable communication access to all
citizens, and notes the inequalities that presently exist.
It also identifies areas where existing financing mechanisms could be
improved, and where ICTs could be given a higher priority by both developing
countries and their development partners, based on such existing financial
commitments such as the Monterrey Consensus. While it is recognized that
financing of ICT infrastructure cannot solely be based on public investment, it
is also recognized that private investment and market forces alone cannot
guarantee the full participation of developing countries in the global market
for ICT services. Strengthened cooperation and solidarity is therefore
encouraged, along with national development policies that support an enabling
and competitive environment.
The Way Forward: Follow-up and implementation
Tunis is not the end of the road for WSIS. As the Summit of Solutions, the
Tunis Agenda for the Information Society recognizes that it is now time to turn
principles into actions.
Although more than 2’500 projects were undertaken to bridge the Digital
Divide between the first and second phases of WSIS, the Tunis output documents
clearly emphasize that more needs to be done, and done quickly. Already, ITU is
managing the WSIS stocktaking process to create a database of ICT implementation
activities. For the Tunis phase of the Summit, it also created a so-called
Golden Book listing projects announced during the Summit. More than 200 projects
have been included to date, many of which are multi-million dollar undertakings.
The eleven Action Lines in the original Geneva Action Plan set forth key
elements in the building of the Information Society. The Tunis Agenda now
establishes a specific list of possible moderators/facilitators for each of
these Action Lines.
In the coming months, major efforts will be undertaken to organize the
implementation of the Geneva and Tunis resolutions.
To coordinate this work — and as requested in the Tunis Agenda —
Secretary-General Utsumi announced that ITU will soon convene a meeting of
Action Line moderators. This meeting will be organized in collaboration with
UNESCO and UNDP, who, together, represent the three key pillars of the
Information Society: infrastructure, content and development.
Work to implement the Action Lines will be complemented by ongoing ITU
stocktaking work and on finalization of an agreed methodology for evaluation of
progress in bridging the Digital Divide based on a common set of core indicators
as well as the use of composite indices.
To facilitate the implementation of WSIS outcomes, the Secretary-General of
the United Nations is also asked to consult the Chief Executive Board (CEB),
which consists of the heads of major UN agencies and meets biannually, to
establish a UN Group on the Information Society. Over the coming months, a plan
will be developed for the creation, functioning, objectives and work methods of
this Group. This Plan will be presented to the next CEB meeting in Madrid in
April 2006. ITU, UNESCO and UNDP are all expected to play a lead role in the
creation of this Group.
In addition, through ECOSOC the UN Secretary-General will report to the
General Assembly by June 2006 on the modalities of interagency coordination of
implementation. At the same meeting, Mr Yoshio Utsumi, as Secretary-General of
the Summit, will also report on the outcomes.
In November 2006, ITU will hold its Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya,
Turkey and on that occasion will continue to adapt its mandate to the demands of
the Information Society.
The Dialogue Continues
The world of ICTs is characterized by fast-paced and non-stop technological
change. The Internet of tomorrow will look very different from the Internet of
today, as revealed in ITU’s new report, The Internet of Things, which was
released at the Tunis summit.
The follow-up process established by WSIS contains several built-in milestones
to ensure that policy review and debate continue, so that the outcomes of the
Summit can be shaped to changes in the world of ICTs.
At the national level, all countries are called upon to develop national
e-strategies as an integral part of national development plans and poverty
reduction strategies. The deadline for this action is 2015, but many countries
have already begun to implement such plans.
Affordability of access is a critical part of bridging the Digital Divide. As
tasked by the Summit, ITU will continue its efforts to study the question of
international Internet connectivity as a matter of urgency.
The Tunis Agenda calls on ECOSOC to oversee the system-wide follow-up of the
Tunis and Geneva outcomes. Consistent with the reform of ECOSOC requested by
world leaders at the Summit in September in New York, the Tunis output calls on
ECOSOC to review the mandate of the Commission on Science and Technology for
Development, including the multi-stakeholder approach.
These efforts will culminate in an overall review by the General Assembly in
2015 of the implementation of WSIS outcomes. This is the same deadline
established in the Geneva Plan of Action to connect all unconnected communities.
Finally, the UN General Assembly is asked to declare 17 May as World
Information Society Day. 17 May has traditionally been celebrated as World
Telecommunications Day, so ITU will collaborate in this process to give even
greater magnitude to that event.
Addressing delegates at the closing of the 8th and final Plenary session, Mr
Utsumi spoke of his satisfaction that the WSIS process has put ICTs at the
centre of countries’ national development plans. “As a result of this Summit,
world leaders are now fully aware of the critical importance of ICTs,” he said.
In the end, he continued, WSIS is “not just about technology. It’s mostly about
people, and their potential.”
The full text of the Tunis Commitment can be found
here and the
Tunis Agenda for the Information Society can be found