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WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024

Statement by Pedro Manuel Moreno, Deputy Secretary-General of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024

Geneva, Switzerland
27 May 2024

Dear Tomas Lamanauskas, Deputy-Secretary General of ITU,

Dear Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information of UNESCO,

Dear Robert Opp, Chief Digital Officer of UNDP,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to join our fellow co-organizers in welcoming you to the WSIS+20 High-Level Event.

This WSIS Forum comes at a very timely moment as member states and other stakeholders are currently discussing the Global Digital Compact and preparing for the Summit of the Future in September.

We need the power of the digital economy for a more inclusive and sustainable future. We are merely six years away from the deadline of the 2030 Agenda but only 15 per cent of the SDGs target are on track.

While the digital economy and digitalization offers a wealth of opportunities, the digital landscape continues to be challenged by persistent digital divides or ever evolving cybersecurity threats. Access to digital connectivity remains highly uneven. Today, a staggering 65 per cent of the population in the least developed countries still lack access to digital connectivity. The cross-cutting impact and growing presence, and concerns, of digital technologies in our daily lives underscore the urgency of amplifying digital cooperation.

This year’s forum will serve as a prelude to an important occasion next year – the 20th anniversary of the World Summit on the Information Society. It is a good moment to reflect on the achievements of the WSIS community of stakeholders, who have made incredible strides in harnessing the power of digital technologies for development.

At UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD), we have been proud to leveraging the digital economy for development and fostering digital cooperation.

For example, through our role as the Secretariat of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development. The CSTD facilitates intergovernmental policy discussions on science, technology, and information for development. Just last month, we had the 27th session of the CSTD here in Geneva, marking almost three decades of cooperation!  

The Commission has been mandated to conduct the WSIS+20 Review through widespread consultation and prepare a report.

Consultations were held at the Internet Governance Forum in Kyoto in October last year, as well as at the UNCTAD eWeek here at the CICG in December. The eWeek has become a key actor for inclusive debate and dialogue for the digital future. The intersessional meeting of the CSTD in Lisbon in November 2023 also included a full discussion on the review. Then, an online questionnaire gathered further inputs between January and March 2024. And only last month, the CSTD held a high-level panel on progress made at the regional and international level and discussed the WSIS+20 review.

So far, the consultation has shown widespread support for the multistakeholder approach to policy development and to the design of governance frameworks. Stakeholders have stressed the importance of avoiding fragmentation of the digital ecosystem, the need for better data to monitor progress towards achievement of WSIS outcomes, and to seek harmonization between the outcomes of WSIS+20 and the Global Digital Compact.

The process is not finished yet. I encourage all stakeholders to actively engage in the consultation activities at the regional level from May to December 2024. This will ensure that in 2025 we have a solid report on the 20 years of achievements, lessons learned, and future challenges of the WSIS action lines.

In the review of the e-business action line implementation, which we co-facilitate with the International Trade Centre and the Universal Postal Union, international cooperation is also crucial. These three organizations together with 32 other entities of the eTrade for all initiative have helped channel technical assistance to developing countries to improve their digital readiness.

Before I stop, let me reemphasize that UN Trade and Development remains deeply committed to enabling development gains from digitalization. We look forward to engaging with all stakeholders here in Geneva, and across the globe – wherever discussions on the digital economy unfold.

Thank you.