Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General
GAID: Open Consultation
Geneva, Switzerland
23 February 2009

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all, here in Geneva, in New York as well as all around the world, to this UNDESA-GAID Open Consultations, hosted by the ITU.

As you all know this meeting is a continuation of the consultations we had last year in May 2008. It was an interesting brainstorming on the future framework for the GAID. Many important issues have already been addressed, and already implemented. Some issues still stay open.  Therefore it is my hope that our sharing of ideas here will become a valuable contribution to this process.

Now, being here, at the open consultations, it is our role to advise on the appropriate directions to this multi-stakeholder platform. As you may know last week the ITU launched a new publication Confronting Crisis: Its Impact on the ICT Industry, and drew attention to the possible consequences of the financial crises for the ICT sector, also in the context of financing of the development oriented initiatives.

Facing the situation of the scarce financial resources, we need to be very clear in determining substantive focus of all initiatives, in order to ensure that the activities carried out within the framework of UNDESA-GAID indeed will bring significant value added to the process of mainstreaming the ICT issues into the global agenda.

Therefore, it is essential that we avoid any possible duplication of on-going efforts as well as to work extensively with the private sector in order to attract them as reliable partner and potential sponsors of many activities carried out via UNDESA-GAID as well as its members.

Significant efforts have been already made in these terms, and we would like to congratulate the UNDESA-GAID secretariat for its several initiatives, nevertheless building on the existing multistakeholder spirit all partners need to continue working together in order to ensure continuation.

Having said that, I would like to reconfirm the ITU’s commitment to play a role of an active partner of the Global Alliance, and having spoken with Dr Toure today, on his behalf I would like to reconfirm his willingness to continue as a member of the steering committee.

Having seen the agenda of this meeting I was happy that we will have the possibility of discussing several operational issues, like for instance communication and transparency, work programme, as well as partnerships. I strongly believe that thanks to our exchange of views we will be able to develop good guidance for the UNDESA-GAID secretariat.

Many of the activities carried out in 2008 prove that the UNDESA-GAID attracts new partners in joining the forces in work on the ICT issues.  We note that many of them are coming from the civil society and we strongly believe that it will be possible to maintain this tendency in the future. I am confident that the civil society has an important role in building all inclusive Information Society and more visible and tangible involvement of the civil society in the global initiatives, which mainstream the ICT issues into the global development agenda, might be with advantage for all parties involved.

Since the WSIS summit, which set out a clear vision to harness the vast potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to achieve the development aspirations of all the world’s inhabitants, much progress has been made. Significant initiatives, agendas, and follow-up mechanisms have been put in place, like for instance the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Agenda a framework for international cooperation aimed at enhancing confidence and security in the information society or the Connect the World initiative with the series of the regional summits, the next one taking place in November and focusing on CIS countries.

Nevertheless we need to keep in mind that much more needs to be done and there are only six years remaining to 2015. All WSIS Stakeholders need to recognize the fact that, in order to benefit from the capability of ICTs to act as a key enabler for achieving MDG goals, we may need to be more ambitious in many domains, for instance aiming to connect the unconnected by 2012.

Therefore, it is necessary that, we, the WSIS Stakeholders, building upon the momentum achieved in Tunis, we continue working together, focusing on concrete actions and projects in the field of ICTs, supporting the development of the inclusive information society, spurring investment, employment and broader human, social and economic development.

I hereby would like to thank you for your attention and wish you fruitful discussions during the consultations.