Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Press:
The next milestone in building the Information Society is WSIS Tunis in November this year. Tunis is the Summit of Solutions, covering a wide canvass of the world’s needs — both in the developed and developing world. Holding the Summit on the African continent will mean a closer focus on ICT development — and the potential they have to accelerate the emergence of a truly inclusive, development-oriented and equitable Information Society. It will be a major political event where heads of State and Government, business leaders and other stakeholders, will put forward an agenda to implement the WSIS Action Plan that was endorsed by 175 countries here in Geneva in December 2003. An effective implementation of the WSIS Action Plan also means a concrete way to achieve the internationally recognized development goals set out in the Millennium Declaration.
The most important task of PrepCom-2, which opens tomorrow morning, will be to work towards agreement on what the output of the Tunis phase of WSIS should be. The focus is on establishing the mechanisms needed to implement the WSIS Action Plan. We must also look beyond Tunis to put together a dynamic agenda that aims at keeping the momentum for the next decade. Ambassador Karklins, the PrepCom President , has prepared the draft text of a political commitment and an operational agenda based on a series of informal consultations with representatives of governments and other partners, including international organizations, non-governmental organizations, business entities and civil society. The bulk of this document is expected to be the basis of negotiations at PrepCom–2.
One of the main issues concerning the second phase of WSIS is financing mechanisms. A Task Force on Financial Mechanisms was set up by the UN Secretary-General at the request of WSIS Geneva. The Task Force completed its report in December last year and will present its findings to PrepCom-2. Key elements of this report will feature in the Tunis output document, which deals with Financial Mechanisms to meet the challenges of ICT for development.
Another issue was Internet governance. A Working Group was also set up under the auspices of Mr Kofi Annan, and it is continuing its deliberations at this time. It will submit a preliminary report to PrepCom-2, but its work will not be completed until next summer. It will therefore be left to PrepCom-3 in September to examine its final report. The section of the Tunis output document dealing with this topic will be finalized accordingly.
Accelerated technological developments and commercial investments have helped connect more than a billion people to telecommunications in less than 15 years. But this has not been sufficient to close the digital divide. Ways to finance appropriate ICT outreach for access by all is badly needed. Access to information and knowledge can empower people to achieve their aspirations, increase productivity and reduce poverty. This is a major goal of the Information Society.
Also feeding into the process are inputs from Regional Meetings that were held in Damascus, Syria, for West Asia; and in Accra, Ghana, for Africa. The Regional Meetings call for building partnerships and securing appropriate mechanisms, including financial means, to implement regional action plans. In addition, reports will also be presented from other regions that will hold WSIS-related meetings in the near future.
In addition to regional meetings, a number of thematic meetings have also been held since the last PrepCom in Hammamet. These cover issues such as spam, Internet governance, freedom of expression in cyberspace, economic and social implications of ICTs, and applications in Natural Disaster Reduction.
The world was awakened to the stark reality of a lack of communication when the devastating tsunamis struck the Indian Ocean region just 7 weeks ago. A quarter of a million people lost their lives and millions more continue to suffer in the aftermath. Better communication and early warning could have saved many lives and reduced the impact of the disaster.
Many countries are now trying to establish early warning systems. As a technical organization, ITU has the responsibility to help them do this. ITU will use its expertise to provide countries advice on information and communication technologies and how best these technologies can be used to prevent human loss.
Holding one Summit in two phases provides a unique opportunity for the international community to examine these issues in a comprehensive and inclusive manner, and to ensure that the mechanisms for implementation are firmly in place. In order to assess and evaluate progress along WSIS action lines, a ‘stocktaking’ exercise was initiated as a support to the implementation process and as an opportunity for coordinated follow-up and information-sharing. The interim report will be discussed at PrepCom-2 and updated before being submitted to the Summit in Tunis.
As you can see, a lot of work has been going on since the last PrepCom in Hammamet. I am keen to see PrepCom 2 address and frame the issue of Financing of ICT which is important to the fulfillment of ITU’s core development mission. It is equally important that the negotiations at PreCom 2 be on track so that the other outstanding issue, that of Internet Governance can be fully addressed at PrepCom 3. Another area PrepCom 2 must grapple with is the outcome of the Tunis phase as a major political event.
I am confident that the effort put into preparing this second PrepCom, the good will shown by all and the leadership of the PrepCom President bode well for a successful outcome of the second phase.
I will now give the floor to Ambassador Karklins.
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