STATEMENT FROM CANADA
Statement delivered by The Honourable Mac
Harb, Senator before the World Summit on the Information
Tunis, November 17, 2005
Mr. President — it is a privilege to
address this distinguished audience today on behalf of the
government and people of Canada.
All of us have come to Tunis to reflect
on the positive role this Summit can play by developing a
vision of the future for our societies – a vision of an
information and knowledge-based society.
The mere existence of advanced
communication systems does not, by itself, ensure progress.
Our vision must have people at its centre. Unless we set
out, with purpose, to harness the benefits of the
information age for the betterment of our people, we cannot
expect to reach our development goals. As the Canadian
scholar, Marshall McLuhan, once said, "There are no
passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew."
In a rapidly-changing technological
field, we can rely on one thing to remain constant: human
creativity and innovation. ICTs have developed as a direct
result of our collective innovation. We humans are innately
driven to express ourselves. That is why, Mr. President, the
information society that we aim to build must be rooted in
respect for the freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive, and impart information
and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers.
Restricting these freedoms is contrary to
the obligations all countries represented here entered into
the day they signed the UN Charter. Restricting the freedom
of opinion and expression impoverishes a society. It
deprives it of the vitality, creativity and diversity it
needs to thrive. It should be clear, Mr. President that,
here, I am not talking about the responsibility of states to
fight against the use of ICTs to promote racial hatred,
child pornography and trafficking in humans.
Throughout the Summit process we have
stressed the importance of involving all stakeholders in an
integrated process. Without participation from civil
society, including the private sector, this Summit could not
have achieved its goals. The same is true for the
information society. We are pleased that the documents
before us for adoption further enshrine cooperation between
the UN system and civil society.
In Geneva, we agreed on an outline for
the Information Society we envisage as set forth in the
Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. In Tunis, we
pledge our determination to see the commitments of the
Summit implemented well beyond this Summit. We will do so
working together with all the stakeholders within an
integrated process. We have also ensured the continued
stability and security of the Internet, while at the same
time we have committed to evolving and improving how we, as
governments, deal with Internet-related public policy
issues. The way we will do that is through an expanded
process involving international institutions, governments,
and civil society including the private sector.
Our challenge as a world community is "to
harness the potential of knowledge and technology" to
achieve the Millennium Development goals. How do we put this
potential to work to alleviate poverty? Building on our own
national experience in developing an information society
strategy and on the work of existing "ICT for development"
initiatives, Canada has proposed a number of guiding
principles accepted this Summit: an enabling environment;
development of human capacity; mainstreaming ICTs for
development; and access for all.
Canada is fortunate to have a diverse
population. Fostering the creation and preservation of local
content has built Canadian excellence in this field.
Canada’s linguistic heritage includes English, French and
Indigenous languages. We are proud of the three Canadian
recipients of the Tunis World Summit Awards in the
categories of e-government, e-inclusion and e-health.
Today, Canada is one of the most
connected countries in the world. We are global leaders in
connecting schools, communities and governments in every
part of our vast land. We have pledged to ensure that
high-speed or broadband services are available in every
Canadian community, including Canada’s remote areas and
This goal can only be reached through
multi-stakeholder partnerships: government, the private
sector and civil society – all working together. Such
partnerships enhance grassroots involvement and help to
empower communities. We are pleased that the WSIS has set an
example of how such partnerships can work in the UN system.
Civil society provides real-world
perspective on the possible uses and applications of ICTs.
The views of Indigenous peoples, the disabled, youth and the
academic and scientific communities, to name but a few, must
The Government of Canada has worked with
non-profit organisations, such as the Canadian Commission
for UNESCO, to ensure that civil society representatives
from across Canada could provide feedback on our WSIS
Through out the Summit process, Canada
has been happy to partner with the UN Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Peoples and aboriginal communities to bring their
perspectives to the WSIS, and to lay the groundwork for
developing an international indigenous portal.
Canada recognizes the need to engage
young people as the future stakeholders in the information
society. We have supported youth participation at the Geneva
and Tunis summits through the WSIS youth caucus and, in this
instance, through SchoolNet Africa. We applaud the dynamism
of the youth groups and the Summit awareness campaigns which
they mustered in close to 30 countries.
For a sense of our approach to the uses
of technology for development, I encourage all delegates to
visit Canada’s pavilion at the ICT 4 All Exhibition and to
spend some time with Canada’s International Development
Research Centre, along with the other departments and
agencies represented there
The Canadian International Development
Research Centre has done pioneering work with researchers
from the South. A unique $21 million public/private
partnership has been forged between IDRC, the Microsoft
Corporation and the Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation to support the telecentre.org initiative for
building capacity of local telecentre operators around the
In addition, the Canadian e-Policy
Resource Centre, Canada’s contribution to the Global ePolicy
Network (ePol-NET), serves as the focal point for
consolidating Canadian expertise and resources to support
the efforts of African countries to develop national
e-strategies and policy. The Canada Fund for Africa is
contributing $10 million over three years.
The global "Partnership on Measuring ICT
for Development" was established in June 2004. Since then it
has produced methodologies and provide resources for ICT
statistics relevant for development. Canada is a key
contributor to the partnership. We warmly welcome the recent
release of the publication, "From the Digital Divide to
Digital Opportunities: Measuring Infostates for
Over the last few days it has been
exciting to discover many success stories. Stories of
success in building a diversity of information societies,
and stories of commitments made to help close the global
digital divide. In spite of these achievements, our task has
Achieving our vision of an information
and knowledge-based society will require unprecedented
levels of commitment, imagination and above all partnership.
Let us all pledge to work together to achieve the noble goal
of building an inclusive information society that supports
freedom and opportunity for all.