unctad.org | First WSIS+10 Review Meeting Towards Knowledge Societies for Peace and Sustainable Development
Statement by Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
First WSIS+10 Review Meeting Towards Knowledge Societies for Peace and Sustainable Development
25 Feb 2013


Director-General of UNESCO,
Secretary-General of ITU,
President of the general conference,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this first WSIS+10 Review Meeting. I am most grateful to Ms Bokova and her team for hosting the event here at UNESCO Headquarters and for having taken the lead in its preparation in partnership with UNCTAD, ITU and UNDP.

This meeting marks a key stage in our common efforts to assess the implementation of the various outcomes from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). As you will recall, the WSIS outcome documents called upon Governments and other stakeholders to work towards a "people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society". It is important that we use this occasion to reflect upon achievements made to date and also think about how we can build on them to make our work more effective in the future.

The role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development is becoming increasingly important in the globalizing knowledge-based economy. As noted by world leaders at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in The Future We Want, it is essential to work towards improved access to ICTs and to bridge the digital divide. Special reference was made to the role of ICTs in empowering farmers and in enhancing learning outcomes.

Since the Tunis phase of the Summit in 2005, the scope for ICTs to support people-centred and inclusive development has expanded in so many ways. The mobile revolution has allowed huge numbers of people with small incomes to access information and to communicate over long distances for the first time. Mobile money deployments are spreading fast, extending financial services to many people in Africa and other developing regions that were previously unbanked. Meanwhile, improvements in the access to international submarine fiber-optic networks have enabled more countries to participate in global value chains, for example, related to outsourcing or what we call "crowdsourcing" of services. As highlighted in UNCTAD's Information Economy Report, programmers from as many as 150 countries are today engaged in online software development projects. And these are just a few illustrations of opportunities that are emerging in the new ICT landscape, including in low-income countries.

At UNCTAD, we are fully committed to advancing the work towards a more inclusive Information Society. We must not forget that many people are still unable to reap the benefits from the evolving ICT landscape. Despite the talks of the notable achievements in ICT access and use, the broadband divide is widening. It is therefore important for all of us to continue to identify new and innovative ways to leverage ICTs to promote the development goals that we have internationally agreed upon.

One way in which UNCTAD contributes to these efforts is through our servicing of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD). At the Commission's 15th session, in May 2012, a ministerial Roundtable and a special panel on broadband examined the potential role of Universal Service Funds in bridging the digital divide. At the CSTD's inter-sessional panel last month in Peru, delegates heard presentations from member States, academic experts, private sector firms, civil society and international organizations, and technical entities regarding the efforts and expertise required to ensure broadband for an inclusive digital society and further contribute to implementation of the WSIS outcomes. The Commission will continue to discuss findings and suggestions in all these areas in its next session in June.

As the designated focal point for follow up and implementation of the WSIS outcomes and on issues related to science, technology and innovation, the CSTD has a role in understanding the evolving situations and needs of developing countries and in formulating actionable next steps including drafting resolutions and decisions for consideration by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. We greatly appreciate the high-level representation of the ITU, UNESCO, and other entities at the last CSTD session and inter-sessional panel, for discussions on the ten-year overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, including the important event being held this week here at UNESCO headquarters. In the CSTD's draft resolution last May, member States recommended that "consistent with the WSIS process and subject to the decision by the General Assembly, an appropriate preparatory process should be launched drawing from the experience of the two phases of the WSIS summit." UNCTAD is much pleased to assist with the preparatory process, including through our support of this event this week.

The convening of this event is a concrete expression of the inclusiveness with which UN agencies are working with each other and with the private sector, civil society, academia, governments and others to leverage their capacities and know-how. I am very happy to see good attendance from all stakeholders at this WSIS+10 Review Meeting. Let us exploit this and take full advantage of all the various sessions that will be organized in the next three days. Let us learn from the first eight years of WSIS implementation and look for constructive approaches to make ICTs an even more effective tool for inclusive development.

Late last year, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed its role in the overall review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes to be held by the end of 2015. It also decided to consider the modalities for this review process by the end of 2013. Let us use this occasion as well as forthcoming gatherings to review progress made, lessons learned, and to come up with constructive ideas concerning the way ahead that can inform the General Assembly. The outcome of this Meeting will serve as a valuable input into the discussions during the WSIS Forum 2013 in Geneva in May. It will also feed into the 16th session of the CSTD in June, when the Commission reviews progress made towards WSIS implementation.

Thank you very much for your attention.


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