Speech from Mr Houlin Zhao, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

CSTD’s 12th Session: Presentation of the Outcomes of the WSIS Forum 2009

Geneva, Switzerland
25 June 2009

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to provide an up-date on the results of the Outcomes of the WSIS Forum 2009, held from 18 to 22 May 2009 in Geneva, organized by the ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and hosted by the ITU.

This event built upon the tradition of annual WSIS May meetings, and its new format was a result of the open consultations with all WSIS Stakeholders. With its new name and its new format, the “WSIS Forum” aimed at achieving more inclusiveness, more action and more focus on concrete results, oriented towards implementation of the WSIS outcomes.

We started the week with a high level opening ceremony on ICTs and MDGs with our UN partners and many Ministers – and our friend Nicolas Negroponte who has challenged us to connect children at no cost. This was followed by the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Ceremony.

We were so honored that Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden had accepted our invitation to be the patron of the 2009 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. Queen Silvia was the founder of the World Childhood Foundation and has a grand vision of the future of children in the digital age. During the ceremony we awarded three eminent personalities, H.E. Mr Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Ms Deborah Taylor Tate, International Advocate for ICT Child Safety Issues , and Mr Robert G. Conway, CEO, GSMA, for their exceptional contributions towards protecting children in cyberspace.

On the same occasion within the framework of the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, the first release of the Draft Guidelines for policy-makers, industry, parents, guardians, educators, and children on child online safety were presented.

During the Forum itself, we were pleased to welcome close to 600 delegates from around 100 countries, who contributed to the many debates in a spirit of constructive multi-stakeholder partnership. Around 40 per cent of the participants represented governments, including many ministers, ambassadors, and the directors of the leading ICT authorities. 30 per cent came from civil society, 20 per cent from international organizations, and more than 10 per cent from the private sector. In addition many of the WSIS stakeholders, who could not join us in Geneva, followed the event through live web-casts and interacted with us electronically.

The Forum built on a number of High-Level Panels, which addressed some of the most important issues we face at a global level, including Accessing Knowledge, Financial Mechanisms in the Economic Downturn, Cybersecurity, Climate Change, ICT Applications for Better Life. The panels were followed by several WSIS Action Line Facilitation Meetings and thematic workshops. In total more than 35 sessions contributed to the development of much a better understanding of needs for future action and the way forward. Several kick-off meetings and speed exchanges held throughout the week concluded with the initiation of partnerships and cooperation agreements. Several initiatives and platforms have been officially launched, including UNESCO WSIS Community Platform, ITU Academy, several WSIS Thematic Platforms.

Friday meeting of the WSIS Action Line Facilitators appreciated new format of the Forum, drawing attention to the importance of interactivity during such events. Written briefings from the WSIS Action Line meetings and covering the progress made since May 2008 are going to be posted on the event’s web site. The meeting in general endorsed the need for forward looking branding of WSIS implementation process and for preparation to the mid term review. 

The WSIS Forum 2009 concluded with a meeting of the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), created by the CEB after the Tunis phase of the WSIS. UNGIS was chaired over the past year by UNESCO and ITU will take the chair for the next year. The meeting provided an opportunity to advance the group’s objective of coordinating substantive and policy issues facing the United Nations system’s implementation of the outcomes of the WSIS. Following the adoption of GA Resolution A/RES/62/208, which refers to “Strengthening UN role in facilitating access of developing countries to new and emerging technologies”, the group also planned concrete actions to respond to the decisions of the High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) to expand the mandate of UNGIS .

I was pleased to see that UNGIS has been re-energized.  The meeting concluded with:

  • a revised terms of reference for the group expanding the mandate to include science and technology,
  • Members agreed on a concrete work programme which includes carrying out an open consultation on financial mechanisms
  • UNGIS agreed to work on three joint initiatives – open access to scientific knowledge; child on-line protection; and science, technology, and innovation
  • UNGIS will have an important role to play over the next year as we head towards a mid-term review of WSIS implementation next year.

Concluding, all results achieved during the whole last week are very satisfactory, which is especially important given that only six years remain to 2015. World leaders at WSIS recognized the vital role of ICTs in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs), and entrusted all of us with an important mission which must be achieved on time.

The next year – 2010 – is a key date for all of us, as it will mark the half-way point between the Tunis phase of WSIS and 2015, when the United Nations General Assembly will review how WSIS outcomes and the MDGs have been implemented.

The MDGs not only recognize the potential of ICTs as a development enabler but also highlight the importance of “cooperation to make the benefits of ICTs available to all”. This gives the WSIS Forum, which is based on an open and multi-stakeholder approach, a particularly important role. In this context, it is necessary that we already start the preparation of the mid term review.  

The success of this year’s Forum and the dedication of the WSIS stakeholders gives me great hope.  By working together, we will be able to achieve the WSIS goals by the target date. At the same time, I strongly believe that in some areas such as connectivity, the goals should be achieved much earlier, and that it is feasible to make all villages, towns and cities connected by 2012 – which is three years ahead of the Millennium Development Goals.  And as you know, ICTs underpin the way forward to achieve the other Millennium Development Goals.

I would like to convey my special thanks to all WSIS stakeholders, who have done so much to facilitate this Forum. I would also like to express my great appreciation to all our partners, and in particular UNESCO and UNCTAD, with whom we joined forces to organize this Forum.

Thank you very much for your attention.