[AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY]
Agenda Item 1: Opening by the Chair and handing over the Chairmanship to UNESCO
Let me start by welcoming you to the Ninth High-Level Meeting of UNGIS. It is as far as I know the second time that UNGIS meets in Paris and at the Headquarters of UNESCO. The last time was in 2007. I am most grateful to Ms Bokova and her team for hosting this meeting and wish to commend all your efforts in the preparatory process leading up to the WSIS+10 Review. I am very pleased to see that a significant number of the member organizations of UNGIS are here today.
When we met in Geneva last May, UNCTAD took on the role of the Chair of UNGIS for the first time. Let me in this context thank all the vice-chairs of UNGIS -- ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNDESA-- for your collaborative spirit and constructive cooperation in the past few months.
I am happy to note that UNGIS has continued to raise awareness of the opportunities for information and communication technologies (ICTs) to contribute to more inclusive and sustainable development. It is clear that this body serves as a very useful coordinating mechanism within the UN system.
A detailed discussion concerning the UNGIS work plan will be organized on Thursday during the working level UNGIS meeting. But let me just note that the past nine months have once again shown that UNGIS can make a real difference in advancing the UN's work in the area of ICT for development.
For example, the work that UNGIS undertook was featured in June 2012 during the Rio+20 Conference as a side event entitled ICTs: The Foundation of Our Sustainable Future. The event highlighted the role of ICTs as cross-cutting drivers of sustainable development, and identified specific ICT applications and services that can assist in the transition towards a green economy. Participants discussed policies, regulations and international standards that may facilitate the uptake of relevant applications. Experts from several UNGIS agencies were present, including FAO, ITU, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNESCO, UN WOMEN and WMO as well as industry representatives.
I was pleased to note that the outcome document of Rio+20 underlines the importance of ICTs and broadband networks for sustainable development. It also gives attention to science and technology more broadly. For example, the document recognizes equitable gender access to technology as a means of empowerment. I think it is fair to say that the document illustrates the relevance of UNGIS work on coordinating work within the UN on substantive and policy issues related to the role of ICT and innovation for sustainable development.
Let me take this opportunity to thank Dr Touré and his staff at ITU for having taken the lead in organizing the side event in Rio. The Rio experience can in my view be seen as a good illustration of what we can achieve when we join forces.
I hope that there will be more initiatives through which UNGIS members can work together in the lead up to relevant UN conferences. I know, for example, that only a few weeks ago ITU convened a meeting of UNGIS members to discuss how best to leverage the Global Youth Summit that will be held in Costa Rica in September 2013. Similarly, UN Women has taken an active role in advancing work on ICT and Gender, feeding into other fora such as the Commission on the Status of Women. For example, the multi-stakeholder initiative on Women and ICT for Development (WICTAD) involved many UNGIS members.
At this point in time, we are at the early stages of the 10-year Review of the WSIS process. This may give some reason to reflect upon what role UNGIS can and should play in the next few years. For example, how can we as a Group help to ensure that the role of ICT and science, technology and innovation is adequately reflected in the post -2015 development agenda? What lessons can we draw from the past few years of collaboration in this area? The combination of persistent development challenges, continuous changes in the global ICT landscape and austerity measures makes effective cooperation among UNGIS members even more important. We should leverage this excellent platform to do more with less.
Let me conclude by thanking all of you for your support during UNCTAD's chairmanship. I am pleased to hand over the chair to the Director General of UNESCO, Ms Bokova, who will lead the rest of this meeting. I can assure you of UNCTAD's fullest support to you as our chair.