STATEMENT BY H.
E. MR. KOFI ANNAN
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED
Tunis, 16 November 2005
President Ben Ali,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I commend our hosts -- President Ben Ali and the
Government and people of Tunisia -- for all they have done
to make this gathering possible. Let us remember that it was
the Government of Tunisia, back in 1998, that first proposed
the idea of a summit on the information society.
I also thank the International Telecommunication Union
and other members of the UN family for their unremitting
efforts to ensure that this process produces concrete
Two years ago in Geneva, the first phase of the World
Summit articulated a vision of an open and inclusive
information society. Our task here in Tunis is to move from
diagnosis to deeds.
Last night you spelt out this task in the Tunis Agenda
for the Information Society.
This Summit must be a summit of solutions. It must push
forward the outcome of the World Summit held two months ago
at the United Nations in New York. It must lead to
information and communications technologies being used in
new ways, which will bring new benefits to all social
classes. Most of all, it must generate new momentum towards
developing the economies and societies of poor countries,
and transforming the lives of poor people.
What do we mean by an "information society"? We mean one
in which human capacity is expanded, built up, nourished and
liberated, by giving people access to the tools and
technologies they need, with the education and training to
use them effectively. The hurdle here is more political than
financial. The costs of connectivity, computers and mobile
telephones can be brought down. These assets -- these
bridges to a better life -- can be made universally
affordable and accessible. We must summon the will to do it.
The information society also depends on networks. The
Internet is the result of, and indeed functions as, a unique
and grand collaboration. If its benefits are to spread
around the world, we must promote the same cooperative
spirit among governments, the private sector, civil society
and international organizations.
And of course, the information society’s very life blood
is freedom. It is freedom that enables citizens everywhere
to benefit from knowledge, journalists to do their
essential work, and citizens to hold government
accountable. Without openness, without the right to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas through any media
and regardless of frontiers, the information revolution will
stall, and the information society we hope to build will be
The time has come to move beyond broad discussions of the
digital divide. By now, we know what the problems are. We
must now get down to the specifics of implementation, and
set out ways to foster and expand digital opportunities.
Those opportunities are immense. Already, in Africa and
other developing regions, the rapid spread of mobile
telephones and wireless telecommunication has spurred
entrepreneurship, and helped small businesses take
root, particularly those run and owned by women. Doctors in
remote areas have gained access to medical information on
tropical diseases. Students have been able to tap into
world-wide databases of books and research. Early warning of
natural disasters has improved, and relief workers have been
able to provide quicker, better coordinated relief. The same
opportunities – and other, new ones – can be given to many
more people in the developing world.
The UN system is ready to help member states and all
stakeholders to implement whatever decisions are taken at
this Summit, including on Internet governance. But let me be
absolutely clear: The United Nations does not want to "take
over", police or otherwise control the Internet. The United
Nations consists of you, its Member States. It can want only
what you agree on. And as I understand it, what we are all
striving for is to protect and strengthen the Internet,
and to ensure that its benefits are available to all.
The United States deserves our thanks for having
developed the Internet and making it available to the world.
It has exercised its oversight responsibilities fairly and
honourably. I believe all of you agree that day-to-day
management of the Internet must be left to technical
institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of
day-to-day politics. But I think you also all acknowledge
the need for more international participation in discussions
of Internet governance issues. The question is how to
achieve this. So let those discussions continue.
This is envisaged in the agreements you reached last
night and we in the United Nations will support this process
in every way we can.
The experiences of recent years – in this Summit process,
the ICT Task Force, the Working Group on Internet
Governance, the Digital Solidarity Fund, UNFIP -- the UN
Office for International Partnerships, the Global Compact
corporate citizenship initiative and other efforts -- have
given us new insights into what it takes to build effective
partnerships and platforms. UN agencies and departments
continue to work hard to build capacity, and to use
information technologies to boost our efforts to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals.
These efforts are bearing fruit. But for far too many
people, the gains remain out of reach. There is a tremendous
yearning, not for technology per se, but for what technology
can make possible. I urge you to respond to that thirst, and
to take the tangible steps that will enable this Summit to
be remembered as an event which advanced the causes of
development, of dignity and of peace.
Thank you very much.