Report from UNESCO parallel events
Organized at the second phase of the
World Summit on the Information Society
Presented by Elizabeth Longworth
Director, Information Society Division, UnESCO
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to report on the very rich
debates of the three parallel events that UNESCO organized
during the Summit.
All of the UNESCO events promoted
knowledge societies based on the principles of freedom of
expression, universal access to information and knowledge,
respect for cultural and linguistic diversity and access to
quality education for all.
The need to promote culturally diverse
and people-centered content was emphasized by leading
information technology thinkers and policy-makers at
UNESCO's main event, the high-level round table debate on
"Shaping the Future through Knowledge" hosted by the
Director-General of UNESCO on 17 November.
They stressed that education is an
indispensable premise for the building of knowledge
societies and that UNESCO should continue with this focus.
They also highlighted the need for universal access to
information for all people, in all languages, and for an
open internet that rests on freedom of expression and
Stressing that the growth of a digital
society does not guarantee the development of knowledge, let
alone wisdom, the participants voiced concern about the loss
of vast quantities of knowledge, notably indigenous
knowledge. They commented that we use old structures for new
ideas, when we need to think fresh and new.
Because of the globalization of
lifestyles and cultures, cultural and linguistic diversity
is essential for the development and well-being of
Closing the debate, the participants
stressed that the information and communication tools
available are far less important than the way they are used.
The Workshop on "ICT and Persons with
Disabilities" held on 16 November looked at how to guarantee
participation of persons with disabilities in inclusive
ICT has transformed the ability of people
to accelerate human development. Therefore, its potential to
unleash productive capacity and facilitate social
participation and empowerment is profound for persons with
A key message from Delegates was the need
to make a fundamental shift in the relationship between ICT
and the disabled so that their access needs are integrated
into the very design of ICT.
Participants urged governments actively
to honour their commitment to the WSIS decisions related to
persons with disabilities, including greater ICT investment
on education and literacy, and ensuring that e-government
activities take into account the needs of persons with
They also called for support of the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
The Round Table on "The role of UNESCO in
the construction of knowledge societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO
Chairs Programme" held this morning reviewed experiences in
networking universities to contribute to the creation of
knowledge societies, in particular through the unique
imitative of the "UNESCO Chairs and Networks in ICTs".
From the outset, participants highlighted
the need to include the concept of academic 'knowledge' in
universal access strategies. They stressed the importance of
freedom of academic knowledge creation and its independence
from commercial and political influence.
In knowledge societies, academic
institutions need to grasp the potential of increased cross
border information and knowledge flows to ensure universal
access to research results and to the creation and
dissemination of technical, socioeconomic and culture
practices and know how. Existing networks should be used to
contribute to the implementation of the WSIS Action Plan.
Thank you for your attention