Affirms Right to Freedom of Expression; Recommends Creation of National Cyber Strategies in all Countries by 2005; Requests Working Group on Internet Governance The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) this afternoon concluded the first phase of its work by adopting a Declaration of Principles in which the participants reflected their common vision of the information society. The Summit also adopted a Plan of Action with the view of translating into concrete action lines the common vision and guiding principles expressed in the Declaration of Principles to advance the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals by promoting the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to help countries overcome the digital divide.
The second phase of the Summit will take place in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005.
The Declaration of Principles, entitled “Building an Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium”, reflected the common desire and commitment of governments to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, where everyone could create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development; and also in improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The challenge was to harness the potential of ICTs to promote the development goals of the Millennium Declaration.
In the Declaration, the participants reaffirmed as an essential foundation of the information society, and as outlined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone had the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right included freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. They further reaffirmed their commitment to the provisions of article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone had duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of their personality was possible.
Further, it was declared that the international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic. It was recognized that policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues was the sovereign right of States; the private sector should continue to have an important role in the development of the Internet; civil society should continue to play an important role, especially at community level; and intergovernmental organizations should continue to have a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was asked to set up a working group on Internet governance, to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005.
Pascal Chouchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation, in a concluding remark, said the events over the past three days had allowed the Summit to highlight the information society, and everybody had expressed desires and preoccupations constructively. It was hoped that a new political dialogue, one of digital solidarity, would now be launched.
Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Secretary-General of WSIS, said it was strange that an event that had taken five years to prepare could be over so quickly. However, this was not the end, rather the end of the beginning. The international community had plotted a course that would take it to Tunis in 2005 and had agreed on a common set of policy principles.
Habib Ben Yahia, the Foreign Minister of Tunis, speaking as the host of the second phase of the Summit, expressed deep satisfaction at the results achieved. He said Tunis would spare no effort so that the second phase of the Summit was a historical success.
Declaration of Principles
The participants adopted the Declaration of Principles, entitled “Building an Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium”, in which they declared their common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone could create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The challenge was to harness the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote the development goals of the Millennium Declaration.
The participants reaffirmed as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone had the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right included freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. They further reaffirmed their commitment to the provisions of article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone had duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of their personality was possible, and that, in the exercise of their rights and freedoms, everyone should be subject only to such limitations as were determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
They affirmed that ICTs provided enormous opportunities for women, who should be an integral part of, and key actors, in the Information Society. They should mainstream a gender equality perspective and use ICTs as a tool to achieve that end. They would also pay particular attention to the special needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups of society and recognize the special needs of older persons the disabled. They were resolute to empower the poor and to use ICTs as a tool to support their efforts to lift themselves out of poverty. They recognized that building an inclusive Information Society required new forms of solidarity, partnership and cooperation among governments and other stakeholders, that is, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. Realizing that the goal of bridging the digital divide would require strong commitment by all stakeholders, governments called for digital solidarity.
All stakeholders should work together to improve connectivity. Universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services should be a main objective. Policies should favour a climate of stability, predictability and fair competition to attract more private investment for ICT infrastructure development. The sharing and strengthening of global knowledge could be enhanced by removing barriers to information and by facilitating access to public domain information, as well as by promoting awareness of the possibilities offered by different software models, including proprietary, open-source and free software.
Strengthening the trust framework, including information security and network security, authentication, privacy and consumer protection, was a prerequisite for building confidence among users. It was important also to ensure the protection of data and privacy. While recognizing the principles of universal and non-discriminatory access to ICTs for all nations, the governments supported the activities of the United Nations to prevent the potential use of ICTs for purposes that were inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security. It was necessary to prevent the use of information resources and technologies for criminal and terrorist purposes. Also, spam was a significant and growing problem and spam and cyber-security should be dealt with at appropriate national and international levels.
In order to promote an enabling environment, the rule of law, accompanied by a supportive, transparent, pro-competitive, technologically neutral and predictable policy and regulatory framework, was essential. Intellectual property protection was important to encourage innovation and creativity in the information society. Facilitating meaningful participation by all in intellectual property issues and knowledge sharing was a fundamental part of an Information Society. There should be particular emphasis on the development and adoption of international standards and the development of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven standards.
The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic. It was recognized that: policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues was the sovereign right of States; the private sector should continue to have an important role in the development of the Internet; civil society should continue to play an important role, especially at community level; intergovernmental organizations should continue to have a facilitating role in the coordination of Internet-related public policy issues; and international organizations should continue to have an important role in the development of Internet-related technical standards and relevant policies. They asked the Secretary-General of the United Nations to set up a working group on Internet governance, to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005.
The creation, dissemination and preservation of content in diverse languages and formats should be accorded high priority, as well as the preservation of cultural heritage by digitisation. Governments also reaffirmed commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of media. All actors in the Information Society should take appropriate actions and preventive measures against abusive uses of ICTs.
Plan of Action
The Plan of Action translates into concrete action lines the common vision and guiding principles expressed in the Declaration of Principles to advance the achievement of the internationally-agreed development goals by promoting the use of ICTs and to help countries overcome the digital divide. It notes that the Information Society is an evolving concept that has reached different levels across the world, reflecting the different stages of development. It emphasizes the important role that governments, the private sector and civil society have in developing and implementing comprehensive, forward looking e-strategies. International and regional institutions also have a key role to play in integrating the use of ICTs in the development process and making available the necessary resources for building the Information Society and for the evaluation of the progress made.
Indicative targets may serve as global references for improving connectivity and access in the use of ICTs in promoting the objectives of the Plan of Action, to be achieved by 2015. The targets are: to connect villages with ICTs and establish community access points; to connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs; to connect scientific and research centres with ICTs; to connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs; to connect health centres and hospitals with ICTs; to connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email addresses; to adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances; to ensure that all of the world's population have access to television and radio services; to encourage the development of content and to put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world languages on the Internet; and to ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach.
By 2005, all countries should encourage the development of national e-strategies, taking into account different national circumstances. Each country is encouraged to establish at least one functioning Public/Private Partnership (PPP) or Multi-Sector Partnership (MSP), by 2005 as a showcase for future action. The viability of establishing multi-stakeholder portals for indigenous peoples at the national level should also be explored. By 2005, relevant international organizations and financial institutions should develop their own strategies for the use of ICTs for sustainable development. In the context of national e-strategies, the Plan calls on governments to address the special requirements of older people, persons with disabilities, children, especially marginalized children and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
The Plan of Action recommends that governments develop domestic policies to ensure that ICTs are fully integrated in education and training at all levels and that they work on removing the gender barriers to ICT education and training and promoting equal training opportunities in ICT-related fields for women and girls. Furthermore, it recommends that distance learning, training and other forms of education and training be developed as part of capacity-building programmes and that special attention be given to developing countries and especially least developed countries. With regard to building confidence and security in the use of ICTs, governments, in cooperation with the private sector, should prevent, detect and respond to cyber-crime and misuse of ICTs.
The Plan of Action calls on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to set up a working group on Internet governance to investigate and make proposals for action on the governance of the Internet by 2005. This group should include the participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, as well as relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums. The group should: develop a working definition of Internet governance; identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance; develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, existing intergovernmental and international organizations and other forums, as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries; and prepare a report on the results of this activity to be presented for consideration and appropriate action for the second phase of WSIS in Tunis in 2005.
On the issue of health, the Plan of Action calls on governments to facilitate access to the world’s medical knowledge for strengthening public health research and prevention programmes including information on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. It also calls for the strengthening and expanding of ICT-based initiatives for providing medical and humanitarian assistance in disasters and emergencies. On employment, it encourages the development of best practices for e-workers and e-employers built, at the national level, on principles of fairness and gender equality, respecting all relevant international norms. Governments are also encouraged to create policies that support the respect, preservation, promotion and enhancement of cultural and linguistic diversity and cultural heritage within the Information Society. Furthermore, the Plan of Action encourages the media to continue to play an important role in the Information Society and encourages the development of domestic legislation that guarantees the independence and plurality of the media.
According to the Plan of Action, the Digital Solidarity Agenda aims at putting in place the conditions for mobilizing human, financial and technological resources for inclusion of all men and women in the emerging Information Society. While all existing financial mechanisms should be fully exploited, a thorough review of their adequacy in meeting the challenges of ICT for development should be completed by the end of December 2004. This review shall be conducted by a Task Force under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General and submitted for consideration to the second phase of this summit. Based on the conclusion of the review, improvements and innovations of financing mechanisms will be considered including the effectiveness, the feasibility and the creation of a voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund, as mentioned in the Declaration of Principles.
A preparatory meeting will be held in the first half of 2004 to review those issues of the Information Society which should form the focus of the Tunis phase of the WSIS and to agree on the structure of the preparatory process for the second phase. In line with the decision of the Summit concerning its Tunis phase, the second phase of the WSIS should consider: elaboration of final appropriate documents based on the outcome of the Geneva phase of the WSIS with a view to consolidating the process of building a global Information Society, and reducing the digital divide and transforming it into digital opportunities; and a follow-up and implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action at national, regional and international levels, including the United Nations system, as part of an integrated and coordinated approach, calling upon the participation of all relevant stakeholders. This should take place through partnerships among stakeholders.
YOSHIO UTSUMI, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Secretary-General of the World Summit on the Information Society, said it was strange that an event that had taken five years to prepare could be over so quickly. However, this was not the end, rather the end of the beginning. The international community had plotted a course that would take it to Tunis in 2005 and had agreed on a common set of policy principles. Furthermore, a set of actions had been agreed upon. The Summit was in fact a process, not a product. In the preparatory process, the ITU had been given the mandate to play a leading role. He thanked the host country, Switzerland, and the city of Geneva for holding the event. In addition, he thanked countries and organizations that had donated time, staff and contributed with finances for the Summit and the preparatory process. Saying that the regional meetings had played a significant role in the preparatory process, he thanked those Governments that had served as hosts.
Without teamwork, nothing was possible, Mr. Utsumi said, highlighting the important contributions of several staff members. Finally, he thanked heads of State and government, ministers, heads of delegations, representatives of international organizations, the private sector and civil society, for making this event so memorable. The biggest innovation was still to come, with the Tunis phase to be held in November 2005. The wisdom of this decision was now becoming clear. There was still some unfinished business to attend to and the next phase provided an important time plan.
HABIB BEN YAHIA, Foreign Minister of Tunis, as the host of the second phase of the Summit, expressed deep satisfaction at the results achieved during the first phase. He said the documents adopted today constituted a basis for the future vision of the information society. Tunis supported a balanced and transparent information society, including equitable distribution of information and communication technologies. The document emanating from the Summit reflected a major achievement, which would help further cooperation and understanding. It was also a commitment to international research in the field of information technology. The second Summit that would be held in Tunis would be a challenge for the country; however, the Government would do all it could for the success of the Summit. Tunis would rely on the assistance and cooperation of all countries. The Government would spare no effort so that the second phase of the Summit would be a historical success.
PASCAL COUCHEPIN, President of the Swiss Confederation, said the time had come to draw the line under the first stage of the Summit. A new subject had been brought to the attention of the world, and it had been made clear that it was urgent to discuss it at the highest of levels. The events over the last three days had allowed the Summit to highlight the information society, and everybody had expressed desires and preoccupations constructively. It was hoped a new political dialogue, that of digital solidarity, would now be launched. For the first time, States had invited civil society to take part in the discussion. The information society was born outside governments, and it was due to the work of private persons that the Internet had been born.
This new form of international dialogue needed further work, Mr. Couchepin said. States were not yet ready to abandon their prerogatives and civil society needed to learn about compromise in national discussions. Several suggestions by civil society were nevertheless included in the documents adopted today. The changes in society were new, and were difficult to place, and negotiations had proved very challenging, although it was clear that consensus had been tried, with fruitful results.
The Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action of Geneva were good documents. A solid compromise had been found. The Plan of Action translated the Declaration into concrete plans. In Tunis 2005, there would be a first evaluation of the policies adopted today through the Plan of Action.
Mr. Couchepin then thanked attendees, saying that rich and stimulating days had been lived, and the Summit could be closed with a feeling of satisfaction and pride. The success of the Summit gave a feeling of confidence. The first founding stone of an information society that was based on equity and justice had been laid, and it was hoped that it would have a fruitful continuation.
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