Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General
ITU Council Working Group on WSIS - 15th Meeting
Geneva, Switzerland, 22 June 2009

Dear Ladies and gentlemen,
Distinguished colleagues,

On behalf of the Secretary-General and my Colleagues Elected Officials, it is my great pleasure to welcome you at the 15th meeting of the Council Working Group on WSIS, which will be most probably last one prior to the Council-09. Prior to starting the meeting I would like to use this opportunity to share with you few recent developments related to the WSIS.
As you may know last month, ITU hosted the new “WSIS Forum 2009” aimed at revitalizing the WSIS process and achieving greater inclusiveness, more action and greater focus on results in the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. I am pleased to say that, in collaboration with its partners from all the UN agencies involved, we have successfully responded to calls for a more streamlined structure to WSIS follow-up.

The new format consisted of six high level segments, the WTISD ceremony, more than 35 parallel sessions including several thematic workshops, briefing sessions and other components such as kick-off meetings, and speed exchanges.

We had around 600 delegates from around 100 countries.  The feedback on the new format was very positive.  Suggested improvements included:

  • Need for more interactivity
  • Need for discussion on development of the roadmaps for action lines;
  • Need for closer coordination between NY and Geneva
  • Need for real outcome of the Forums (recommendation, report, etc.)
  • Need for more meetings worldwide related to the implementation process (regional meetings)
  • Need to address e-inclusion in the agenda for the next year

The WSIS Forum 2009 concluded with the meeting of the United Nations Group on the Information Society. The meeting this year was chaired by UNESCO.  I am pleased to inform you that ITU will take the chairmanship for the next year. 

UNGIS agreed on a revised terms of reference for the group expanding the mandate to include science and technology addressing the GA Resolution A/RES/62/208.  The meeting also agreed on three joint initiatives – open access to scientific knowledge; child on-line protection; and science, technology, and innovation.

In the two year work programme, it was agreed to hold open consultations on Financial Mechanisms for Meeting the Challenges of ICT for Development, which is already under preparation. Meeting will be held in Geneva, in 4th quarter of 2009, most probably during the TELECOM week.

Moreover in its role as leading facilitating organization ITU co-organized with ESCWA, Ministry of Syria and UNESCO regional meeting, Regional Follow-up to the Outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society, which was held in Damascus last week. Objective of this exercise was to ensure better coordination while reviewing and following-up on the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, the Regional Plans of Actions for building the Information Society in Western Asia, the Arab ICT Strategy and other national strategies and plans of action. Meeting was very well attended and we hope to have much more cooperation with the Regional Economic Commissions on the WSIS related issues in the future.
Having in mind all these positive developments of recent weeks let me address few issues, which will need to be addressed during this meeting. We need to keep in mind that, if it will not be decided differently, it will be the last meeting of this group prior to the Council 2009, there fore several recommendations needs to be elaborated, like for instance

  •  the Roadmaps and the overall ITU’s strategy for WSIS implementation and follow-up
  •  role of the ITU in the mid term review (WSIS+5) and the final review (WSIS+10) in 2015
  •  reporting on the progress in WSIS implementation and the follow-up

Thank you very much for your attention, wishing you fruitful discussions during coming three days.