8 September 2000

Press Release



NEW YORK, 8 September -– The first ever meeting of the heads of State and government that are members of the Bureau of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was held this morning at the United Nations Regal Plaza Hotel, as part of the United Nations Millenium Summit. The meeting concentrated on globalization issues crucial to the development of all countries, with a focus on the role of information technology.

The heads of State taking part were: President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia; President Thomas Klestil of Austria; President Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria; President Paul Biya of Cameroon; and President Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Costa Rica. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, also participated and Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette also attended.

Following opening remarks by President Wahid, who chaired the meeting, and the Secretary-General, there was a free exchange of views. The heads of State and government welcomed the Economic and Social Council Ministerial Declaration of 7 July 2000 on the role of information technology (IT) in development. They recognized that IT is central to the creation of the emerging global knowledge- based economy and that it can open new vast opportunities for economic growth and social development.

They further welcomed the emphasis placed on IT in the Millennium Summit, and noted that the issue recently has received wide international attention in various fora, including at the South Summit in Havana in April and the Summit held by the group of seven industrialized countries and Russia – the Group of Eight -- at Okinawa in late July. The latter meeting, which followed the 5 to 7 July high-level Council segment by several weeks, endorsed the Council Ministerial Declaration. The challenge was to build on these encouraging developments, the heads of State and government agreed.

They expressed concern that, at present, IT’s potential for advancing development, in particular of developing countries, has not been fully captured. The majority of the world population still lives in poverty and remains untouched by the IT revolution. In this regard, urgent and concerted actions, at national, regional, and international levels, are imperative if the digital divide is to be bridged. They emphasized that the United Nations must play its part in mobilizing the efforts and resources required to achieve this objective.

They noted that in the United Nations system, many initiatives have been taken to promote and use IT as an instrument of development. The Council

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Ministerial Declaration forms the basis for a global agenda for action to bridge the digital divide and contains specific recommendations for the United Nations to play a key role in expanding the impact of IT on development.

In this connection, they appreciated the efforts of the Secretary-General to create a United Nations Digital Task Force, which would bring together governments, multilateral development institutions, private industry, foundations and trusts to collectively help to bridge the digital divide and foster IT opportunities in developing countries. The heads of State and government welcomed the role that a revitalized ECOSOC is playing as a strategic global forum, in fostering partnerships with all the key stakeholders and in promoting international cooperation to tap the full potential of the IT revolution for development.

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