The outcome of this World Summit on the Information Society should be seen in the light of the broader Development Agenda, generated over the past decade and a half through major UN conferences and summits.
The agenda itself represents a wealth of achievements in terms of priority setting, policy consensus, and public commitments to specific courses of action and to multistakeholder partnerships.
But the full force of the Agenda, and of the internationally agreed development goals that have derived from it, will not come to benefit societies until we achieve a more extensive and enduringly effective implementation. At the global level, this will require much greater coherence in implementing the outcomes of the conferences and summits.
The 2005 World Summit took key steps in this direction. It secured a solid recommitment from world leaders to the global partnership for development set out in the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. It unequivocally recommitted world leaders to the full and timely realization of the international development goals, including MDGs. And it decided to establish a unified implementation review process by assigning substantial new functions to the ECOSOC system. In this implementation drive, the World Summit on the Information Society has a crucial role to play.
This phase of the Summit, along with its outcome document, underscores the extraordinary potential of multistakeholder mechanisms in implementing the Geneva and Tunis Plans of Action. This experience can be drawn upon by the range of follow-up process underway for the other conferences and summits.
And here in Tunis, governments, civil society, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, academia, and the media have together focused on the promise of information and communication technologies to help meet the development goals.
The upshot of all of this is that the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society must be closely linked to the follow-up of the 2005 World Summit. As Head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force, I can tell you that promoting this linkage will be for us an absolute priority.
The UN ICT Task Force is a multistakeholder body created by an intergovernmental decision of the United Nations in which all members have equal rights and responsibilities. It is an experiment that has successfully promoted cooperation between diverse actors in harnessing the potential of ICT for advancing development.
Its inclusiveness, legitimacy and convening power made the Task Force a truly global policy forum for multi-stakeholder interaction and consensus building on ways and means to harness the potential of ICT for advancing development. Such a global reach was made possible by imprinting in the very structure of the Task Force the principles of multi-stakeholder participation both at the global and regional levels and by its cross-sectoral approach to policy dialogue, through the open membership of its Regional Networks and Working Groups.
Since its inception in 2001, the Task Force has been instrumental in bringing together various actors to discuss, exchange ideas and achieve consensus on issues of common interests such as “Internet governance”, “Promoting enabling environment for digital development” and “Harnessing the potential of ICT for education”, through the open “Global Forums” organized alongside its bi-annual meetings.
These events were well attended by members and non-members of the ICT Task Force, from developed and developing countries, the private sector, civil society and academia. Participants confirmed that these Forums were open, representative and productive events.
On the eve of the 2005 World Summit in September, the ICT Task Force convened a high-level round table on “Innovation and investment: scaling science and technology to meet the Millennium Development Goals”. The round table explored how to utilize science and technology in general and ICTs in particular to achieve the MDGs. Yesterday, we held a follow-up round table on “Putting ICT to Work for the United Nations Development Agenda”. Both suggested a need for a global, open, multi-stakeholder platform for continued policy dialogue, under the umbrella of the United Nations, to link the ICT-for-development agenda with the broader UN Development Agenda and the follow-up to the 2005 World Summit.
Following a series of open consultations, both physical and on-line, including those within the context of the WSIS, a broad consensus has been reached on the need to continue and strengthen an open multi-stakeholder dialogue on ICT4D-related issues. Endorsing this approach, the United Nations Secretary-General has responded favorably to the recommendation that a Global Alliance on ICT for development be established.
There is considerable agreement that the proposed Alliance should be a global, multi-stakeholder platform and associated with the United Nations. It should not assume operational functions, but should provide a platform for open, cross-sectoral policy dialogue, on the use of ICT for enhancing the achievement of development goals. It could also potentially serve as a “think tank” on key ICT policy and development issues. The Alliance should build on the work of and cooperate with relevant institutions and networks.
A broad based group has just begun discussions on the modalities of the Global Alliance. We want to ensure that the process adheres to the principles of openness, inclusiveness and participation we all heartily agree upon. So I invite you to put those principles in practice by submitting your thoughts and suggestions on this initiative.
We members and partners of the ICT Task Force look to you, United Nations Member States, to work in concert with other stakeholders to build upon and improve past models of collaboration in the field of ICT-for-development. Let us not miss this opportunity to establish a constructive platform for cross-sectoral policy and partnership dialogue, a “think tank” on global ICT-4-D and Information Society issues.
Only by engaging all stakeholders in open, inclusive, and participatory mechanisms and by empowering developing countries to take full advantage of the tremendous possibilities afforded by ICTs can we realize the broad development vision that we all share.