|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
23rd & 24th Meetings (AM & PM)
Arbitrary Detention, Excessive Force, Israeli Settlement Activity Increasing
Palestinian Hardship, Regional Commission Chief Tells Second Committee
Development Role of Information and Communications Technology Also Discussed
Arbitrary detention and disproportionate use of military force, the expansion of settlements and the blockade of the Gaza Strip continued to constrain the functioning of the Palestinian Authority while contributing to the growing economic and social hardship faced by its citizens, Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary for Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
Israel’s excessive use of force had resulted in 98 Palestinian deaths between 1 February 2010 and 29 March 2011, with a further 142 killed between March and October, including 18 children, she said, as she presented the Commission’s report, “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and of the Arab Population in the occupied Syrian Golan”. The Committee was considering permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples in occupied lands over their natural resources.
Describing cases of torture and ill-treatment of detained people, particularly children, as alarming, she said no one had been brought to justice, a particular concern given that Israeli laws allowed indefinite detention without charge or trial. Some 700 people were detained and prosecuted each year, she added. The Israeli occupation remained, despite the General Assembly’s calls for its end, she continued.
Emphasizing that Israeli settlements were illegal under international law, she said there were now more than 500,000 of them, with a population growth rate double that of Israel. Segregated roads were inaccessible to Palestinians and settlers operated a “price tag” policy, which entailed responding to Israeli Government policies with attacks on Palestinians. The separation wall had been built in defiance of the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice, she said, adding that 85 per cent of the wall ran through the West Bank. It had isolated 855,000 Palestinians and severed Jerusalem completely, leaving its residents in need of visitor permits to visit their own land. There were further restrictions on mobility within the West Bank, extending to buffer areas intended for settlements, military areas and nature reserves, she said.
Further restrictions imposed on Palestinians included the systematic demolition of homes as part of a “facts on the ground” strategy, she continued, noting that the number of demolitions had grown by 59 per cent in 2010, with 23 million square metres of land confiscated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians faced building restrictions, she said, adding that many built homes without permits, which left them vulnerable to displacement. Palestinians also needed residency permits, more than 13,000 of which had been revoked between 1967 and the present.
She went on to describe the Gaza blockade as collective punishment imposed on an entire people, saying it imposed severe restrictions on people living in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Despite announcements that it had been lifted, the blockade remained fundamentally in place, restricting movement, as well as imports of construction materials, banning most exports, preventing Palestinians from accessing land within 1 to 1.5 kilometres from the Green Line, and blocking their access to water more than three nautical miles from the seashore.
Expressing similar concerns, the observer for Palestine agreed that Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade on Gaza prevented the movement of imports and exports to and from the enclave, in addition to restricting the free movement of people. Israel continued to prevent Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands and fishermen from reaching 80 per cent of the available fishing waters, he said. That had exacerbated living conditions in Gaza, where more than 38 per cent of the population lived under the poverty line.
He went on to cite a report issued by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which stated that the pace of Israeli settlements construction had doubled from the previous year. Attacks by settlers against the Palestinian people and their property, including farmlands and water resources, had also doubled, he said. Since the beginning of 2011, the settlers had uprooted, burned and destroyed more than 8,000 olive trees, on which most Palestinian farmers depended for income.
Israel’s representative expressed disappointment that the Committee had again “wasted its time on an issue with no relevance to its mandate”, adding that that many of those paying lip-service to Palestinians did nothing to actually help them. Israel, meanwhile, had committed to helping Palestinian progress with concrete actions on the ground to develop the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, he said, adding that his country shared the interests of its neighbours. He said close cooperation was required to help the environment, and efforts to do so would be greatly enhanced if the Palestinian Authority proceeded with numerous projects already approved.
He went on to say that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had coordinated the establishment of energy infrastructure and joint agricultural projects. The wide scope of their cooperation directly contradicted the impressions conveyed by the debate, which conveniently ignored the agreements that had already conferred jurisdiction over those matters to the Palestinian Authority, he said.
Qatar’s representative, however, speaking for the Arab Group, said the systematic destruction of development in occupied Arab territories had led to a very serious socio-economic situation. Families had been dislocated, unemployment was rampant, and Palestinians had been deprived of their right to life, he said. Their land was being seized and destroyed as they were deprived of their right to food. In addition, Israel’s exploitation of the land had polluted the environment through its dumping of sewage and wastewater in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Syria’s representative said the report shed light on some but not all the economic and social sufferings shared by the Palestinian and Syrian peoples. The figures reflected Israel’s barbarism and its violations of international law, he said, recalling that the occupying Power had imposed its rules and laws on the Golan Heights since the beginning of its occupation in 1967. The Israeli annexation of the Golan had led to the exploitation and wastage of natural resources, he said, adding that Israel continued its confiscation of land, imposition of high taxes, uprooting of trees and destruction of the natural environment by dumping nuclear waste.
As the Committee concluded its considerationofpermanentsovereignty of the Palestinian and other Arab people over their natural resources, it took up its agenda item on information and communications technology.
Singapore’s representative said information and communications technology strategies were an effective means to realizing the economic, social and environmental aspects of development. Geographical and physical boundaries mattered less with the growth of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, which were perhaps pioneering e-building blocks for a truly global society, he said. In 2010, he recalled, the world had witnessed the launch of the first websites using domain names in non-Latin languages, which had opened the way for billions of non-English speakers to access and understand the Internet.
Brazil’s representative pointed to significant progress since the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, pointing to the expansion in the use and development of information and communications technology, as well as the greater consideration accorded its role in formulating broader public policies globally. However, much more needed to be achieved, he said, underscoring the essential importance of overcoming the digital divide through policies that would ensure that all Member States benefited from instant networking, free or low-cost access to information, education and cultural goods, and the promotion of cultural diversity.
India’s representative reinforced that point, calling for the establishment of a new institutional mechanism within the United Nations for global Internet-related policies. The goal of the proposed “United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies” would not be to control the Internet but to ensure that it was governed in an open, democratic, inclusive and participatory manner, he said. It would take on the task of developing international public policies to ensure coordination and coherence in cross-cutting Internet-related global issues while addressing Internet-related developmental issues, among others.
Tunisia’s representative accorded particular importance to the debate, saying the entire world had witnessed for the first time “digital revolutions” that had succeeding in toppling autocratic regimes. Information and communications technology could be a powerful means for emancipating people if well mastered and used to promote democratic ideals, he said, adding that it had potential as a catalyst for political change and had succeeded in Tunisia because the country’s educated youth knew how to use it as a non-traditional means of disseminating information and breaking down the walls of fear to overthrow a dictatorship that had been in place for 20 years.
Others speaking on permanent sovereignty of Palestinians and other Arabs over their natural resources were representatives of Sudan, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Jordan, Libya and Indonesia.
Syria’s representative made a statement in exercise of the right of reply, as did a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine.
Participants in the debate on information and communications technology included representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Nepal (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Trinidad and Tobago (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Bangladesh, China, Malta, Nigeria, Bahrain, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Montenegro and Sweden.
Presenting the relevant report for the Committee’s consideration were the Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the Chief of Science and Technology with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 27 November, to take up the question of commodities under its agenda item on macroeconomic policy questions.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to take up the question of permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples in occupied lands over their natural resources.
Before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and of the Arab Population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/66/78-E/2011/13). Dated 9 May 2011, it was prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in response to Economic and Social Council resolution 2010/31 and General Assembly resolution 65/179 (2010).
According to the report, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to contribute to the economic and social hardship of Palestinians. The Israeli army continued to resort to arbitrary detention, disproportionate use of force, settlement expansion, destruction of property, home demolitions, restrictions on mobility and building permits, and closure policies.
The report says Palestinian access to water remains inadequate, the environment is increasingly degraded, poverty levels remain high, unemployment is still endemic, despite some growth in gross domestic product (GDP), and health indicators continue to deteriorate. More demolitions were recorded in 2010 than in any other year since 2005, it notes. At least 432 Palestinian structures were demolished in occupied East Jerusalem and Area C in the West Bank, including 137 residential structures, displacing 594 people and affecting 14,136 others.
On the occupied Syrian Golan, meanwhile, the report says that occupation and the tightly closed crossing into Syria constitute the most important barriers to economic development and normalization of the region’s social fabric, the report says. Syrian citizens wishing to maintain their Syrian Arab identity face hardship and severely restricted prospects with regard to income generation.
Taking up information and communications technology this afternoon, the Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General on Enhanced cooperation on public policy issues pertaining to the Internet (document A/66/77), dated 4 May 2011. It was prepared in response to the Economic and Social Council’s invitation to convene open and inclusive consultations on public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, involving all Member States and other stakeholders. The consultations were organized by the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs between September and December 2010, and contributors reflected on public policy issues of concern, on international cooperation mechanisms to address those issues, and on the role of the United Nations and other entities in facilitating enhanced cooperation.
The report says particular mention was made of the value of cooperation between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other organizations that might have an important role to play in the development of Internet-related technical standards. Participants generally agreed that contribution is already taking place in many respects, although it could be enhanced in some areas; that specific issues of concern could be identified and discussed; that progress has not necessarily been the same on all issues since the 2005 World Summit; and that existing cooperation mechanisms should be used to the extent that they are helpful.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum (document A/66/67). Dated 14 April 2011, it was prepared by the Chair of the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum in response to requests made in Economic and Social Council resolution 2010/2 and General Assembly resolution A/RES/65/141 (2010). It briefly recounts the establishment and outcomes of the Working Group’s two meetings in early 2011, when it sought, compiled and reviewed inputs from Member States and other stakeholders on improving the Internet Governance Forum, in line with the mandate set out in the Tunis Agenda.
According to the report, the wealth of information, as well as the complexity, political sensitivity of the subject, and significant divergence of views among Member States on a number of concrete proposals, did not allow the Working Group to finalize a set of recommendations, given the short time frame it had been given to compete its task. It was, therefore, suggested that the Working Group extend its deliberations beyond the fourteenth session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
The report of the Secretary-General on Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/66/64-E/2011/77) dated 14 March 2011. Prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretariat in response to a request made in Economic and Social Council resolution 2006/46, it finds that the value of mobile telephony has been enhanced by new services and applications. As a result, many people in developing countries now have direct access to information and communications technology services, including e-government, e-business and developmental services. However, the growth of mobile communications does not imply an end to concern about the digital divide, but raises new challenges about its changing nature, the report says, noting the growing gap in broadband provision between developed and developing countries, and the risk that the latter will be further disadvantaged.
Among a number of other issues and challenges raised by different agencies, the report notes that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs emphasizes the importance of “citizen-centric practice” in e-government, the need to adjust strategies to technological change and the potential of social networking platforms. It calls for continuing research, analysis and sharing of best practice in e-government and citizen engagement. Several agencies also draw attention to the continuing challenges of human capacity-building, from raising awareness and understanding of the potential of information and communications technology among parliamentarians, through the development of the skills of policymakers, civil servants and industry professionals, to addressing the needs of citizens and micro-enterprises.
Introduction of Report
RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, introduced that body’s report, saying that it aimed to help ease the plight of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples until the end of occupation, which was the main reason of their suffering.
She said Israel had continued to use excessive force against Palestinians, resulting in 98 deaths during the reporting period. Between March and October, 142 Palestinians had died, including 18 children. Cases of torture and ill-treatment of detained people, particularly children, were alarming, and none had been brought to justice. That was of particularly concern, given that Israeli laws allowed indefinite detention without charge or trial, and that 700 people were detained and prosecuted each year, she said.
The occupation remained despite the General Assembly’s calls for its end, she continued, adding the systematic demolition of homes had been part of a “facts on the ground” strategy since inception. Demolitions had increased 59 per cent in 2010, she said, adding that 23 million square metres of land had also been confiscated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians faced building restrictions, including the need for permits, and many built homes without them, which left them vulnerable to displacement. Palestinians also needed residency permits, more than 13,000 of which had been revoked between 1967 and the present.
Emphasizing that Israeli settlements were illegal under international law, she said there were now more than 500,000 of them, with a population growth double that of Israel. Segregated roads were inaccessible to Palestinians and attacks against Palestinians had doubled in 2010 compared to 2009. Despite 97 investigations, there had been no indictments, she said, adding that settlers operated a “price tag” policy, which entailed responding to Israeli Government policies with attacks on Palestinians. The separation wall had been built in defiance of the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice, she said, adding that 85 per cent of the wall ran through the West Bank. It had isolated 855,000 Palestinians and severed Jerusalem completely, leaving its residents in need of visitor permits to visit their own land. There were further restrictions on mobility within the West Bank, extending to buffer areas intended for settlements, military areas and nature reserves, she said.
She went on to describe the Gaza blockade as collective punishment imposed on an entire people. It imposed severe restrictions on people living in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Despite announcements that it had been lifted, the blockade remained fundamentally in place, restricting movement, as well as imports of construction materials, banning most exports, preventing Palestinians from accessing land within one to one and a half kilometres from the Green Line, and blocking their access to water more than three nautical miles from shore.
The occupation had severely impacted Palestine’s natural resources, she said, pointing out that each Palestinian had access to 73 litres of domestic freshwater per day in the West Bank and 52 litres per day in Gaza, well below the daily 100 litres recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Settlers received seven times those amounts while Palestinians paid five times the price, she said, adding that the settlements dumped waste water, as well as solid waste in the West Bank. In Gaza, 60 million litres of partially treated or untreated sewage reached sea and land, affecting public health.
Palestine continued to suffer economically, with limited sources of growth and welfare, she continued. Gross national product (GNP) had shrunk 30 per cent since 2000 and more than half of cash expenditures went on food. Palestine had become one of the world’s most aid-dependent economies and its social sectors were bound to deteriorate, she warned, noting that 1.43 million Palestinians were suffering food insecurity, while two out of three children were traumatized. Drugs and medical equipment was in short supply, she added.
As for the occupied Syrian Golan, she recalled that the Security Council had declared its annexation null and void, yet 19,000 Israeli settlers continued to live there, denying Syrians jobs due to their lack of service with the Israel Defence Forces.
Recalling that delegates had queried the absence of specific recommendations in the previous report, she said the present one made only one — an end to the occupation and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.
The representatives of Kuwait, Egypt and Syria, as well as the observer for Palestine asked what specifically could be done to ensure that the international community followed-through to ensure that Palestinians achieved statehood. Syria’s representative also sought to know why ESCWA reports were not used in the monthly Security Council briefing on the Middle East.
Ms. KHALAF replied that, although the United Nations and its development entities had been working to alleviate suffering, their efforts had become ineffective, and the only solution was to end the occupation, which ran counter to the idea of a post-colonial world and also contravened international law.
RABII ALHANTOULI, observer for Palestine, said the international community had stood powerless for more than 44 years as Israel continued its violations of international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions. Those violations by the “occupying Power” included the killing of Palestinian civilians, arbitrary arrests, the confiscation of land and destruction of property, including agricultural land and water wells, the demolition of homes, and the imposition of strict restrictions on the movement of people and goods. All those actions hindered the growth potential of the Palestinian economy and people.
Israeli military operations were severely restricting the ability of the Palestinian people to access their natural resources, including water, land, and energy, she continued. Describing the ongoing construction of illegal settlements as a violation of international humanitarian law, he said the occupation had a negative impact on the environment through the depletion of water resources, land degradation and air pollution. For generations, it would have long-term ecological and health effects for the entire Palestinian people, he said, noting that the building of the “apartheid wall” had compounded the scarcity of water through the confiscation of wells and water springs.
He cited a report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which stated that the pace of settlement construction had doubled from the previous year. Also, the number of attacks by settlers against Palestinians and their property, including farmlands and water resources, had also doubled. According to the report, the settlers had uprooted, burned and destroyed more than 8,000 olive trees since the beginning of 2011, he said, pointing out that most Palestinian farmers derived their income from them.
In addition, Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade on the Gaza Strip prevented the movement of imports and exports to and from the enclave, and restricted the free movement of people, he continued. Israel continued to deny Palestinian farmers access to their lands and to prevent fishermen from reaching 80 per cent of the available fishing waters, which had led to the worsening of living conditions in Gaza, where more than 38 per cent of residents lived under the poverty line.
Calling on all Member States and the international community to compel Israel to abide by international law, international treaties and the relevant United Nations resolutions, he reiterated that the Palestinian people would never accept the occupation which tried to control their fate and destiny, plundered their natural resources, undermined their economic and social development, and sought to destroy their hopes and aspirations to live in dignity. He concluded with a call for an independent State of Palestinian with East Jerusalem as its capital.
ABDULRAHMAN AL-HAMADI ( Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Palestinian and Syrian peoples faced serious hardships due to Israel’s flagrant violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. Illegal settlements had closed off entire areas and caused an increase in poverty and humanitarian disasters. The Palestinian people had no rights to their own lands, water, jobs or markets, he said. Through illegal blockades, Israel continued to impose harsh restrictions on the movement of people and goods, while exploiting the land had polluted the environment. It dumped sewage and waste water in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and sought to dump nuclear waste under the Golan Heights.
Israel continued to demolish buildings in the West Bank in order to build settlements, he said. In Jerusalem, expropriations continued amid efforts to change the city’s demographics. Israel continued to build cities over the ruins of Syrian villages, while the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank continued in defiance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which stated that the wall was illegal, he said, pointing out that the structure deprived Palestinian farmers of access to arable land, denying them the exercise of their right over their natural resources. Palestinians could not use their own water resources, 80 per cent of which was being used by Israel, he said, adding that the latter was also selling water at a much higher price to Palestinian than to settlers.
The systematic destruction of development in the Occupied Palestine Territory had led to a very serious socio-economic situation there, he said in conclusion. Families had been dislocated, unemployment was rampant, and people had been denied their right to life. Their land was being seized and destroyed as the Palestinian people were deprived of their right to food, he added, emphasizing that the international community must take steps quickly to ensure that Israel complied with international law and United Nations resolutions so that the suffering of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples could be brought to an end.
AMAR DAOUD ( Sudan), associating himself with the Arab Group, said Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples was causing increased suffering, with its restrictions on the movement of people and goods hindering the provision of assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. That had helped to increase poverty and the suffering of the people. Noting that the occupation had not spared Palestinian resources, he said the occupying Power took 97 per cent of their water, with most going to settlements, in flagrant violation of the 1948 Geneva Convention. Recalling that the General Assembly had concluded that Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan was illegal, it was still building settlements and detaining Syrians there. Israel’s policies violated international law and human rights, he said, pointing out that the economic and social situation of the Palestinians had worsened, with institutions failing to operate properly, which led to even more suffering for the occupied people.
ZALWANI ZALKAPLY ( Malaysia) said it was a shame that the world’s people were unable to ensure the economic rights of the Palestinian people. Israeli actions continued to constrain the existence and successful functioning of the Palestinian Authority, while contributing to the economic and social hardship of Palestinians. Citing the ESCWA report, he said it presented data that reflected the low value placed on Palestinian lives by the leadership in Tel Aviv, she said, adding that Israeli actions had also jeopardized the economic and social development of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan.
Calling for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be resolved through mediation, she warned, however, that patience and prudence must not result in paralysis. Although the General Assembly and the Security Council had adopted 80 resolutions on Palestine, at the last count, there had been no tangible outcome on bringing the illegal occupation to an end, she pointed out, reiterating her country’s support for full Palestinian membership of the United Nations as part of a two-State solution that took the security concerns of both parties into consideration.
MUNA ALMEAINI ( United Arab Emirates) said Israeli policies and military actions had destroyed Palestine’s infrastructure, drainage and environment, while the Palestinian people were suffering psychological damage. They were unable to go to their places of work, and unemployment had grown. The humanitarian, economic, and social situation had worsened, with people deprived of their right to food. Although the General Assembly and Security Council had called for a halt to illegal settlement building, Israel continued that activity in spite of condemnation. The Israelis continued to seize water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem, where they sought to alter the demographic composition and status to their advantage.
The international community had also deemed the annexation of the Golan Heights illegal, yet settlement building continued there, she noted, expressing support for Syria’s claims to the occupied region and solidarity with the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to achieve independence. Expressing support for the Arab Peace Initiative, she said it was essential that Israel end its settlement building and withdraw from all Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory, in accordance with United Nations resolutions. In the meantime, people living in those territories should receive the assistance allocated to them and international organizations must be allowed to work, she emphasized.
RABEE JAWHARA (Syria), associating himself with the Arab Group, noted that the ESCWA report shed light on some but not all the economic and social suffering shared by Palestinians and Syrians. The figures reflected Israel’s barbarism and violations of international law, he said, pointing out that its wastage of natural resources deprived Palestinians and Syrians of the minimum means needed to live in dignity. In addition, the economic blockade against 1.5 million people in Gaza had led to the deprivation of food and electricity. The blockade prevented the reconstruction of the United Nations school that Israel had destroyed, demonstrating that it did not care about international opinion of its collective punishment policy, which was illegal under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention.
Israel had imposed its own rules and laws on the Golan Heights since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, he continued. The annexation had led to the exploitation and wastage of natural resources in the Golan, where Israel continued its confiscation of land, imposition of high taxes, uprooting of trees, and destruction of the natural environment through the dumping of nuclear waste, he said, adding that Israel’s control of water resources was also a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Expressing astonishment that some countries could describe themselves as defenders of human rights, while ignoring the suffering of people under Israeli occupations, he emphasized that the General Assembly’s inability to implement its resolutions due to an imbalance of power did not mean those resolutions were not important. Syria called for compensation for the Palestinian and Syrian peoples, he said.
THILMEEZA HUSSEIN ( Maldives) said formal recognition of Palestinian statehood was the only avenue available for any substantial, sustainable economic and social development. Welcoming the slight easing of the Gaza blockade, she said, nevertheless, that Gaza remained in a state of occupation, with heavy controls over its air, sea and land borders. There were also greater controls in the West Bank, where more than 500 obstacles hindered movement and travel. She also expressed concern over the expansion of settlements, which had cost Palestinians access to water, land and energy.
Noting that the illegal separation wall in the West Bank isolated $38 million worth of fertile land, while $50 million worth of similar land in Gaza was in restricted areas, she said the fishing industry, too, had lost $26 million over the last five years. Resources were being corrupted and degraded, undermining future sustainable development, she said, pointing out that settlements alone dumped 40 million cubic metres of raw sewage on occupied lands, while Gaza’s only water source was a polluted aquifer. It was time for the debate and the story of Palestine to move forward, with the State of Palestine bearing primary responsibility for building infrastructure in its own territory.
ABDULAZIZ ALOUMI ( Kuwait) said the continuing Israeli violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the oppressive treatment of Palestinians were a clear message that Israel was above the law. It had continuously ignored calls from the international community to halt such practices, and the last few months had witnessed a sharp increase in home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where 446 buildings had been destroyed. That was part of a systematic Israeli policy to “judaize” those areas and evacuate Palestinians from them, he said.
The occupation continued to deprive Palestinians of their right to natural resources, specifically water, he said, adding that the water provided in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was insufficient in both quality and quantity. Israel used Palestinian land as a dumping ground for the sewage and garbage produced by more than 500,000 settlers, causing the degradation of the environment and living conditions of Palestinians. Kuwait called for an end to collective punishment against the unarmed civilian population in the Gaza Strip, urging the international community to continue exerting pressures on Israel.
FAISAL HASHIM ( Saudi Arabia) said there was a continuing lack of good intentions on the part of Israel, which was claiming more land for settlements while trying to force an exodus of Palestinians and seizing their goods, property and lands. The Arab Peace Initiative showed a commitment to a just and lasting peace, but that could not occur without Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied territory. The Israeli Government persisted in its refusal to allow the Palestinians their rights and remained in contravention of various United Nations resolutions, he said, noting that the blockade of Gaza and the continuing “immoral” settlement-building was opposed by Security Council’s permanent members, who had condemned its actions.
Calling for a collective position on sanctions against Israel, he described the separation wall as racist, saying it was in violation of international law. It sought to change the terrain with the aim of making the Palestinians leave their land, and to ensure Israeli authority over East Jerusalem. The wall existed only for the settlers, he said, emphasizing, however, that change could only come about with respect for law and rights. The situation of Palestinians was worsening, he said, adding that it was unjust and prevented them from exercising their natural rights. He called on Member States to live up to their responsibilities, stressing that the historically defined borders must be respected and a Palestinian State founded officially.
AWADH BIN SAID AL-SHANJARI ( Oman) urged Member States and the United Nations to strengthen their concept of peace and security under the framework of international law, stressing that there must be no discrimination in implementing the rule of law. The international community must shoulder the responsibility by encouraging talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, he added. Stressing that the Israeli occupation was making the Palestinian population suffer, he said it was unfair to force a people into exodus, isolate them from their agricultural territories, and impose an economic blockade on them. The Palestinian people must be protected and assured of the sovereignty to be able to harvest the fruits of their land, he said, emphasizing that Israel’s expropriations were a blatant violation of international law and calling on the United Nations to encourage the formation of an independent Palestinian State, based on the 1967 borders, for the sake of lasting peace in the region.
RAZZAQ ALSEEDI ( Iraq) said the occupation had increased the economic and social difficulties suffered by the Palestinian people, and Israel’s policy in the Golan Heights clearly aimed to make life difficult for the Syrians living there. There was no peace due to the Israeli stubbornness that had turned the lives of unarmed Palestinians into an open battlefield through the continued use of excessive military force, the continuing illegal blockade and the holding of Palestinians as hostages in their own land. Israeli forces were especially cruel, “working relentlessly to exterminate the defenceless Palestinian people”, he said, expressing hope for an imminent and just end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on international legitimacy, and calling for the creation of a Palestinian State, based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
DIANA AL-HADID ( Jordan), emphasizing that the right to development was based on self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources, said the development situation in Palestine was of great concern. Palestinians had no control over their own natural resources, which meant that they relied on assistance to a great degree, putting their development at risk. Israeli practices contravened international law, she said, pointing out that collective punishment was applied throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and inviting the international community to live up to its responsibility to deliver sovereignty to the Palestinian people.
ALI KRER ( Libya), associating himself with the Arab Group, said the report demonstrated that there was no change in the Israeli attitude towards the Palestinian and Syrian peoples. It was unfortunate that the United Nations was unable to ensure implementation of its many resolutions. The Palestinian people were, in a way, being forced to starve, he said, adding that the population was experiencing the consequent serious psychological effects.
That it was happening in plain sight of the international community was deplorable, he stressed. To make matters worse, thousands of olive trees had been destroyed by Israeli settlers and olive production had dropped, causing increased unemployment and poverty. The construction of the illegal “apartheid” wall would completely isolate Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, preventing them from practising their religion, he said.
TUTI IRMAN ( Indonesia), describing the occupation as the biggest impediment to Palestinian development, said it continued to cause economic hardship and to limit access to resources, as well as economic prospects. Israel’s failure to maintain a moratorium on settlement construction further worsened the situation. Deliberations in the Second Committee would be meaningless unless they helped tackle the problems, he cautioned. Indonesia was providing training opportunities for Palestinians, and its capacity-building efforts were aimed at helping in development. The country’s humanitarian assistance continued, including the building of a cardiac facility in Gaza, he said. Expressing unequivocal support for the sovereign statehood of Palestine and firm belief in a two-State solution, he said the success of such a solution would be strategically significant as it would provide the basis for peace in the Middle East.
AMOS RADIAN ( Israel) said he was disappointed that the Committee had again wasted its time on an issue with no relevance to its mandate. It had capitulated to the demands of hostile Member States with the sole mission of disparaging Israel. That was as predictable as it was biased and irreparably flawed, he said, noting that, without fail, the Committee had endorsed an inflammatory draft resolution against Israel every year.
Many of those paying lip-service to Palestinians did nothing actually to help them, he said, adding that it was no surprised that the report was tainted with the same inherent failings. Israel had committed to helping Palestinian progress with concrete actions on the ground to develop the Palestinian economy and infrastructure, he said. Although it would be impossible to refute every false claim made, no responsible or professional discourse would advance in the Committee.
Addressing issues of development and progress, he said every member that had used the Committee to bash Israel had benefited from its work to advance sustainable development. Israel’s innovations and technical know-how had been put to use in dealing with matters at the heart of the Committee’s work throughout the developed and developing world, he said, adding that his country was relentlessly committed to fulfilling the Committee’s goals. Israel’s natural shortage of resources had led to the development of sophisticated agricultural techniques, which, in turn, had led to revolutions in agricultural technique. Advanced techniques that had “made the desert bloom” had been exported around the world, he said, pointing out that his country led the world in innovative techniques for reducing stress on water resources. Israel was also a model in forestry and land reclamation, he added.
It was those issues that should be the focus, and the fact that Israel shared the interests of its neighbours, he emphasized. Close cooperation was required to help the environment, and such efforts would be greatly enhanced if the Palestinian Authority proceeded with numerous projects already approved. Israel and Palestine had coordinated their efforts in establishing energy infrastructure and joint agricultural projects, he said, stressing that the wide range of cooperation on natural resources-related matters directly contradicted the impressions conveyed by the debate, which conveniently ignored the agreements that had already conferred jurisdiction on those issues to the Palestinian Authority. The draft resolution before the Committee ignored the real issues to advance a narrow agenda, he said, adding that such an exercise in politicization did nothing to improve the lives of Palestinians.
Rights of Reply
The observer for Palestine, speaking in exercise of the right to reply, said the Israeli representative had clearly missed the report’s clear-cut message and was not interested in hearing about the facts on the ground. The Israelis continued to attack the Committee’s work programme by claiming that they were singled out for attack. That was not true, he stressed, adding that nobody had attacked Israel.
Israel’s development of technology in different fields had been accomplished at the expense of the Palestinians, he said. Its “blooming desert” had happened at the expense of the Bedouin population, and it had solved its lack of water resources by stealing from the Palestinians, he said, adding that Israel’s expertise was in stealing. Palestine had opted for peace and negotiations, but dealing with the Israelis did not mean they accepted the current status.
Cooperation had been undertaken only for the benefit of Palestinians and should not be exploited to entrench the occupation, he emphasized. The draft resolution before the Committee demonstrated that the international community cared to safeguard Palestinian natural resources, and sent a message from the international community to the occupying Power, he said. It was unfortunate that the message had not been absorbed or understood by the Israeli delegation.
The representative of Syria, also speaking in exercise of his right to reply, said that Israel’s delegate sought to “disfigure” the work of the Second Committee and ESCWA, which revealed the actions perpetrated against occupied peoples. He claimed to be extending an olive branch but the reality was to the contrary, given that Israel constituted the most abominable occupying Power. It attempted to counteract rules against occupying Powers and its list of international law violations was not getting any shorter. It continued to believe that it was above international law, he said. It was ironic that Israel’s advanced technology was being applied in stealing water from the Palestinians. He called on Member States to recognize that Israel was trying to cover up its violations of international law and custom, while starving the Arab peoples in the occupied territories and depriving them of the simple right to sustainable development.
The Committee then took up information and communications technology as officials introduced the relevant reports for its consideration.
HAIYAN QIAN, Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that five years after the World Summit on Information Society, there was no common perspective on how to achieve enhanced cooperation on Internet-related international public policy issues. However, cooperation would be helpful on a wide range of key policy issues, including cybercrime, privacy and capacity-building, she said, adding that, although opinions differed on the most appropriate mechanisms, there was agreement on shared principles. While authority over Internet-related public policy issues was the sovereign right of States, management of the Internet should continue to follow a multi-stakeholder approach, she said, adding that consultations had reaffirmed the facilitating role of the United Nations in the relevant policymaking.
Mongi Hamdi, Chief of Science and Technology, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the agency’s report covered efforts to implement the World Summit outcomes, with a view to sharing the best and most effective practices and lessons learned. He said the growth of mobile telephony had greatly exceeded expectations, with networks reaching 90 per cent of the world’s population, including 75 per cent in rural areas. Its nature was also changing, with smartphones providing easier Internet access in developing countries.
The Internet continued to evolve rapidly, especially through social networks and user-generated content, he said, noting that the ability of more people to express their views online had had a significant impact on recent political changes in Egypt and Tunisia. It was likely to continue to have an impact in the next five years, he added. However, concerns over privacy and security continued to grow amid efforts to address cyber security through a recent Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats.
He went on to note that the World Summit on Information Summit Forum, organized annually through ITU was a major platform for follow-up, and the Internet Governance Forum was also a useful and valued mechanism for engaging in dialogue with Internet stakeholders, promoting capacity-building and incubating ideas that could help shape policy decisions taken by other institutions. He said 2,000 people had participated in its sixth meeting, held in Nairobi.
Introducing the report on the Working Group on improving the Internet Governance Forum, he said it had held two consultations before the fourteenth session of the Commission on Science, Technology and Development, developing a questionnaire and examining responses to it. While it planned to extract a list of recommendations from the many suggestions offered, it had not had enough time to do so, he said. The Commission had proposed extending the Working Group’s mandate for another year to allow it to complete its task and report to the next General Assembly.
NATALIA HANDRUJOVICZ ( Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said information and communication technology was vital to the full participation of developing countries in the global economy. It had the potential to eradicate poverty, promote socio-economic development and bridge the technological gap between developing and developed countries, she said, pointing out that creating links between knowledge and development was one of the greatest challenges currently facing the latter.
The Group of 77 and China remained hopeful that the full and effective implementation of both Geneva and Tunis phases of the World Summit on Information Society would deliver the results to developing countries, she said. Information and communications technology was a powerful tool for socio-economic development and the proper use of technology could help in realizing the Millennium Development Goals, she said, emphasizing the need to transfer it to developing countries, and to close the large remaining gaps in access and affordability.
MANI PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said least developed countries increasingly faced greater challenges in making information and communications technology accessible, affordable and reliable to their people, especially those living in rural and remote areas. The multiple global crises had impacted negatively on the investment flows needed to develop technological capacity, which had, in turn, undermined efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.
Noting the enormous inequality in information and communications technology between the rich and poor in least developed countries, he pointed out, however, that there was an even wider gap between developed and developing countries in terms of accessibility and affordability. In order to materialize the development commitments undertaken by least developed countries, he called upon their development partners to provide greater financial and technical support to help develop the necessary infrastructure and while transferring skills, knowledge and technology. He also stressed that the Information Society should be based on respect for cultural identity, linguistic diversity, local content and foster dialogue among cultures without undermining ethics. He called on the international community and the United Nations system to continue promoting pro-poor information and communications technology policies with the goal of narrowing the digital divide.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said information and communications technology was a key driver of economic and social transformation. With barely four years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals, it was important to harness effectively its full potential as a strategic tool to help in meeting development goals.
Calling for an increase in information and communications technology investment to bridge the digital divide, he pointed out that more than 78 per cent of ASEAN citizens used it in various facets of their lives and that the industry employed more than 11.7 million people who contributed $32 billion annually. At least five ASEAN Member States had breached the 100 per cent mobile penetration mark, he pointed out, emphasizing that such success was possible because of the close relations within the bloc.
EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said there was a framework for collaboration on information and communications technology, particularly in relation to development. It had been instrumental in developing national regional policies, particularly in improving the delivery of public services and overcoming poverty, remoteness, and gender inequality.
In 2005, the Caribbean Community had launched the Regional Information and Communications Technology Steering Committee to help improve the public sector and strengthen the single market, she said. The Committee had developed the Regional Digital Development Strategy, focusing on e-business, development of the information and communications technology industry and other areas. Its aims had been to establish a culture of innovation and quality and to guide businesses and Governments to use information and communications technology for sustainable growth while supporting social development objectives through partnerships.
CARICOM had also sought to harness the attributes of social networking and leverage their dynamism, particularly in education, she said, noting that C@ribNET — the region’s research and education network — provided social bandwidth to connect education and research institutions, thereby facilitating access to tertiary education and collaboration in providing health care. However, CARICOM members lacked the technical or human capacity to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by information and communications technology, she said, adding that in light of the slower expansion of broadband technologies in developing countries, there was concern about a new digital divide based on quality of access to information and communications technology resources. In light of the linkages highlighted in the Report between broadband availability and economic growth, it was clear that the negative implications of the digital divide for developing countries were likely to be marked and pervasive.
ONGE SZE WANG ( Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77 and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said information and communications technology strategies were an effective means to realizing the economic, social and environmental aspects of development. Geographical and physical boundaries mattered less with the growth of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, which were perhaps pioneering e-building blocks for a truly global society, he said. In 2010, he recalled, the world had witnessed the launch of the first websites using domain names in non-Latin languages, which had opened the way for billions of non-English speakers to access and understand the Internet.
He said that in addition to the growth of the private online community, his country had focused on creating a strong e-government, providing more than 1,600 public services through information and communications technology that ranged from e-filing of taxes to applications for e-passports and e-visas. Regarding environmental protection, he said information and communications technology research could and should make energy efficiency a top priority for all new products and systems. Investments in physical infrastructure should be divided between hardware and software, he added.
FÁBIO FARIAS ( Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said information and communications technology must promote information and knowledge in the service of development. Since the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, there had been a significant expansion in the use and development of information and communications technology, and greater consideration had been given to its role in formulating broader public policies globally. However, much more needed to be achieved, he said, underscoring the essential importance of overcoming the digital divide, with policies to ensure that all Member States benefited from instant networking, free or low-cost access to information, education and cultural goods, and the promotion of cultural diversity.
Calling for more investment in broadband infrastructure, he said that in light of the Internet’s standing as a global facility, according to the World Summit, its governance should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of all Governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. The Internet Governance Forum should continue to focus on policy dialogue, on Internet governance and on creating mechanisms for greater participation by representatives of different stakeholders from developing countries, he said. It should also produce clear outputs of its discussions in order to fulfil the goal of contributing to the shaping of policies on the various actors involved in Internet governance.
MD TAUHEDUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, described information and communications technology as the “backbone” that empowered developing countries to keep pace with the forces of globalization. Developing countries lagged behind in trade and development because of their relegated position in science and technology, and that was why it was especially important to bridge the widening gap in the field of science and technology though technological know-how and scientific innovation. Saying he placed “utmost emphasis” on technology transfer, especially to the developing world at an affordable cost, he expressed hope that it would positively affect the agriculture, health and education sectors. The private sector’s involvement was crucial, but Member States should also address the need to reduce the cost of technology, including that of broadband connections.
XIE XIAOWU (China), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the rapid development of information and communication technology had changed humanity’s mode of production and way of life. The Government of China attached great importance to the development of the information and communications technology industry, and as of June 2011, the country had had 1.2 billion telephone users, 142 million broadband users and 80.5 million 3G issuers. Internet access had recently been upgraded to a high-speed network and wireless access was beginning to take shape.
China would also speed up its efforts to promote innovative development of information and communication technology, operation and business models, he continued. In addition, it would push for the development of mobile Internet, e-government, e-business, and telecommunication in rural areas. He stressed that States had the sovereign right to make decisions on any Internet-related public policy issues, adding that though the United Nations should play an active role in Internet governance, the principles of multilateralism, democracy, and transparency, should be respected. Efforts should also be made to include developing countries on an equal footing in the management of key Internet resources, he said, emphasizing that every State and individual was entitled to an information society that benefitted all citizens.
SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) said future social cohesion and development depended strongly on providing access to information and communications technology, particularly for vulnerable groups. Various programmes were helping in that regard, including subsidized Internet subscriptions, refurbished computers, free Wi-Fi in all towns and villages, and the establishment of various community centres. The Government of Malta was providing basic training in information technology skills, and financial support for training by non-governmental organizations, he said, adding that it was developing a new information and communications technology strategy as a follow-up to its Smart Island Strategy. It would build on current achievements focusing on employability, he said.
Within the European Union, Malta was working to build a European digital single market, he continued. Under the Digital Agenda for Europe Strategy, the revision of current national legislation, the creation of new national laws, new research and innovation projects, and better interoperability and standards were ongoing. Malta was also working on projects within the framework of the Commonwealth, including the COMNET Foundation for Information and Communications Technology Development, which promoted collaboration between Commonwealth members. Malta also led the “Commonwealth Connects” programme, which worked on technology transfer, he added.
He said that for the last three years, Malta had led a Commonwealth Internet Governance Forum, and had developed extensive repositories on cybersecurity and child protection. It was currently working on a cybercrime initiative to help developing countries realize the requisite legal, technical and human capacity to combat cybercrime. Malta also supported the DiploFoundation and its Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme since the start of the World Summit on the Information Society process. That initiative helped small and developing States to follow the World Summit policy process, he said, adding that it had played a critical role in building programmes for developing-world participants and had had a high impact by training the first generation of Internet governance policymakers.
DUSHYANT SINGH ( India) proposed the establishment of a new institutional mechanism within the United Nations for global Internet-related policies, to be called the United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies. The goal of such a mechanism would not be to control the Internet, but to ensure that the Internet was governed in an open, democratic, inclusive and participatory manner. The proposed committee would take on the task of developing international public policies to ensure coordination and coherence in cross-cutting Internet-related global issues, and addressing Internet-related developmental issues, among others.
He said that his multi-ethnic, multicultural country, as a democratic society with an open economy and an abiding culture of pluralism, emphasized the importance of strengthening the Internet as a vehicle for openness, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, diversity, inclusiveness and socio-economic growth. The governance of such an unprecedented global medium that embodied those values should be similarly inclusive, democratic, participatory, multilateral and transparent in nature, he said, emphasizing that India attached great importance to the preservation of the Internet as an unrestricted, open, and free global medium that flourished through private innovation and individual creativity. In order create the proposed committee, India called for the establishment of a working group to draw up the detailed terms, under the auspices of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
ELYES LAKHAL ( Tunisia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said he accorded particular importance to the discussion because the entire world was, for the first time in history, seeing “digital revolutions” succeed in toppling autocratic regimes. He acknowledged the essential impact of information and communications technology on economic participation in the global economy, saying it had great potential for bridging the technological gap between developed and developing countries.
However, information and communications technology could also be a powerful means of popular emancipation if well-mastered and used to promote democratic ideals, he said. It had potential as a catalyst for political change and had succeeded in Tunisia because the country’s educated youth knew how to use it as a non-traditional means of disseminating information and breaking the wall of fear to overthrow a dictatorship that had been in place for 20 years.
The report on follow-up to and implementation of the World Summit on Information Society was fairly positive on implementation, though it pointed to a digital divide based on quality of capacity, he said. The inversely proportional relationship between the two reflected the state of the world. Progress in the digital revolution had not reached all countries and people, however, and a global vision was needed to emphasize the transfer and dissemination of information and communications technology to developing countries. He called on the United Nations to follow up on the progress of technological transfer to ensure a development-oriented information society, paying particular attention to reducing costs, particularly that of broadband connections.
ADAMU EMOZOZO (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that while he was happy to note the tremendous progress worldwide, Africa still lagged behind. Some 65 per cent of Europe’s population was online while only 9.6 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans were connected to the Internet. It was imperative that more efforts were made to scale up Internet use, but also to secure its sanctity, he stressed, adding that the Internet-governance forum on public policy issues was also very important.
Mobile telephone usage continued to grow, while strides were also being made in mobile banking, he said. Through the work of United Nations agencies and other stakeholders, Nigeria had sustained development in its telecommunications sector. Africa’s entire coastline was connected to international submarine fibre-optic cables, while Governments and businesses in many countries were upgrading national networks and inter-country connectivity. Still, the widening gap in broadband connectivity was a major concern, he said, calling for an innovative approach to stimulate greater access.
MOHAMED KOOHEJL ( Bahrain) said cooperation with the private sector could provide access to the benefits of new technology, especially information and communications technology, to promote development. Bahrain’s national strategy focused on the use of information and communications technology, applying it in many sectors of administration and human development. In education, the country’s “Schools of the Future Project” showed the potential of information and communications technology in education. The Ministry of Health used it in prevention and primary health-care, based on the establishment of interlinked information systems connecting all hospitals, health centres and clinics to a central health system. Recalling that his country had won the prize for leadership of the ICT Middle East Academy of Excellence in March 2011, he said Bahrain had also won the World Futures Prize in Malaysia.
AARON HOLTZ ( United Kingdom) stressed the Internet’s importance for the global economy and society in general, saying that as it grew and expanded, a serious assessment of how it was governed and regulated was important. Governments had a unique responsibility to their citizens and should include other key stakeholders in dialogue. He reiterated his country’s support for the Internet Governance Forum as a unique platform for all stakeholders throughout the world to come together in discussing issues relating to the evolution of the internet.
Noting that Kenya had recently hosted such a forum, he said it had attracted 2,000 attendees and an additional 1,000 remote participants, which demonstrated the real value of important issues, such as cybersecurity and child protection. More than 70 individual workshops had been held, covering a wide range of issues that were highly relevant to the interests and concerns of developing countries, he said, adding that he looked forward to the next session of the Internet Governance Forum, to be held in Azerbaijan next year.
He pointed out that while the internet provided tremendous economic and social opportunities, it also provided opportunities for cybercrime, which cost the world economy as much as $1 trillion dollars annually, and the risk of misunderstanding arising between States, which could cause tensions in international relations. He expressed hope that next week’s London Conference on Cyberspace would present a unique opportunity for participants to debate relevant issues constructively, with the common goal of reaching a consensus on how to make the Internet safer and more secure.
HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA ( Azerbaijan) said the World Summit on the Information Society had set the policy agenda on the promotion and development of information and communications technology in her country. The Government had prioritized the sector and set targets, and Azerbaijan’s successes had gained international recognition. Information and communications technology continued to account for an important share of the rapidly growing economy and was expected to grow, she said.
She said the priorities in the State’s information and communications technology policy included improving the legal framework for the sector’s application, as well as developing a telecommunications sector, Internet services market and information society. Targeted measures had resulted in effective regulation, the creation of a competitive environment and the liberalization of the information and communications technology market. That “open door” policy had allowed Azerbaijan to integrate into the world economy, she said, adding that it had also helped to attract capital and public investments, underpinned by a rise in private investment.
In the context of the follow-up to the World Summit, the United Nations had a strong role to play, she said. The United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia and Azerbaijan was promoting knowledge-based economies and innovation, and Azerbaijan valued the cooperation framework. She said information and communications technology infrastructure could drive change, potentially making the information society more inclusive. She supported efforts to promote regional connectivity, saying her country had advanced the Trans-Eurasian Information Superhighway to create a “fibre-optic backbone” for the subregion’s countries, complementing the transit route between Frankfurt and Hong Kong. Progress on that project had been gathering pace and a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed in November, she added.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said his country’s Government, fully aware of the significance of the information society as a precondition for further overall development, was working intensively on the preparation of new legislation that would contribute to faster harmonization with European Union standards. The Government was actively participating in the development of the information society, fostering social and cultural cohesion while encouraging economic integration. Montenegro was firmly committed to the adoption of legislation in order to shoulder the responsibility of development, he said, adding that it had prepared the Strategy for the Development of the Information Society, consisting of two strategies — developing electronic communications, and broadband. Efforts in education had also been intensified, with special attention paid to primary and secondary schools, where curricula had been modified to include information and communications technology-like programmes, he said.
Erik Ringborg ( Sweden) said many developments relating to freedom and openness on the Internet had occurred, and it was important to find the right balance in global governance structures that would take all interests into account. Emphasizing the importance of full multi-stakeholder participation in the Internet Governance Forum, he expressed hope that it could play a key role in facilitating improved Internet governance.
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