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Access to Information is a Fundamental Right in Information Society
Themes and Content of World Summit on Information Society Focus of Preparatory Meeting

Geneva, 17 February 2003 — The second Preparatory Committee meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva 10-12 December 2003 and Tunisia 2005) opened with an appeal for all of the stakeholders to work ‘quickly and constructively’ to develop the declaration of principles and first draft of the plan of action that will ensure the benefits and rights of the information society are extended to all of humanity.

Freedom to receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers is enshrined as a fundamental right in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, access to information and communication technologies, which are increasingly important to ensure this right, are neither freely nor equitably distributed. Mr Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of ITU, the United Nations agency organizing the Summit said that the time has come to gain the commitment of the world’s political leaders "to develop urgently needed new policy and legal frameworks that are appropriate to cyberspace, and that will help give a structure within which new information and communication technologies will serve all of society in a meaningful way."

The United Nations Millennium Declaration acknowledges that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can make the world a better place, by helping to alleviate poverty, improving the delivery of education and healthcare services, and making government more accessible and accountable to the people. "The UN Millennium goals provide humanity with a united vision of what we wish to achieve in the next decade. ICTs are tools that will help us achieve that vision, and the World Summit on the Information Society can provide the direction," noted Mr Utsumi.

Mr Utsumi implored delegates to spend the two weeks of the preparatory meeting developing a draft of a text of the declaration and action plan "that will help to attract the attention of the world’s leaders and persuade them to lend their support to the Summit. It must be compelling and provocative, and it must capture our hopes and aspirations and those of the societies of which we are all part — as well as addressing our fears and concerns."

A World of Information Society Stakeholders

The dawning of the information society is having an impact on every citizen of the world, therefore in order to ensure the widest possible input to the Declaration of Principles and Action Plan for the World Summit on the Information Society, regional meetings have been held in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Western Asia, as well as in the sub-regions. Numerous contributions from governments, UN Agencies, including ITU have also been prepared.

The President of the Preparatory Meetings, Mr Adama Samassékou remarked that, "the work must be done in such a way as to be inclusive and that participations of all stakeholders — government, private sector, civil society and intergovernmental organizations — be taken into account." The result has been more than 100 contributions to the Preparatory process thus far. "These contributions provide a point of departure for a new era in which the information society becomes a society of shared knowledge, and where its ethical guidelines will result in greater human communication and global solidarity." For a complete list of the stakeholder contributions, please click here.

ITU — Changing Roles in the Information Society

The work of ITU has traditionally been focused on telecommunications — facilitating standardization, the peaceful use of radio waves and promoting development. However, the World Summit represents a new phase of its work. As the uses of our fixed and mobile telecommunication networks extend and change, so too has ITU’s conception of its responsibilities. "We have to look beyond pure technology, at the way in which information and communication technologies are used," says Mr Utsumi.

This expanded focus is clearly reflected in the broad range of roundtables and workshops being held during the first week of the Preparatory Committee meeting. These discussions will provide input and guidance for the second week of plenary meetings and concerted efforts in specifying the themes and content for the Summit. The Roundtables include topics ranging from ICT infrastructure and financing and legal and regulatory frameworks to ICT applications, services and security to the needs of special groups. For a complete description of the multi-stakeholder roundtables consult our website.

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Updated : 2004-01-06