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    17 November 1999
    Secretary-General, in Message to Mobile Information Society Conference,
    Says Telecommunications Must Be Partner in Struggle against Poverty


    NEW YORK, 16 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to the conference on “Towards a Mobile Information Society” being held in New York, delivered on his behalf by his Chef de Cabinet, Iqbal Riza, on 15 November:

     Let me at the outset congratulate the organizers on the timeliness and theme of this conference, and convey my greetings to the people, Government and industry of Finland who have been true pioneers in the field of communications.

     This conference is about a fundamental dimension that most of us have in common.  Whether our jobs be in diplomacy, civil service or communications, we share a mission to bring human beings closer together.  But while our globalizing world has brought unprecedented connections and prosperity to many, we must not forget the millions of people who have been left behind.  We at the United Nations must find new partners in our struggle against poverty. The telecommunications industry is high on our list.  With their power to create new opportunities, telecommunications are a tremendous force for integrating people and nations into the global economy -- the only real hope we have of overcoming poverty.

     You, the entrepreneurs, executives and innovators of the telecommunications industry, have not only made markets function more effectively, you have helped to create an entirely new economy:  the knowledge economy.  Knowledge is the new global asset, the new business capital, the very premise of progress.

     The challenge now is to bridge the information gap.  We must not accept an additional divide between rich and poor; a divide between the information rich and the information poor.  Access is crucial.  The capacity to receive and share information through networks, the freedom to communicate freely across national boundaries -- these must become realities for all people.

     We look to your sector to help make that happen.  Increasingly, entrepreneurs are coming to recognize that their responsibilities and their interests lie not only in how their actions affect their shareholders, but in the way they affect all life on this planet.  Increasingly, the United Nations is seeking to build on this growing sense of corporate citizenship to consolidate our ever-expanding partnership with the private sector.

     And so I hope that our partnership will allow us to work together towards a truly mobile millennium -- one where people can communicate with anyone, anywhere, by affordable means.  On behalf of the United Nations, I wish you a most successful conference.

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