16 September 2003


40 Heads of State and Government to Participate in December Summit

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

GENEVA, 15 September -- The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on the Information Society opened today in Geneva with commitments from more than 40 heads of State and government to attend the first phase of the Summit to be held in Geneva from 10-12 December.  The second phase will be held in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005.

Welcoming this commitment, Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said the Summit would be successful if it raised awareness among political leaders of the implications of the information society, get their firm commitment to tackle the injustice of the digital divide, and develop new legal and policy frameworks appropriate to cyberspace.  “The importance of communications and access to networks is no longer just a technical matter, but a fundamental policy goal for every nation and a key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals”, Mr. Utsumi said.

Adama Samassékou, President of the Preparatory Committee, recalled the broad values underlining the entire process -- values of inclusion of all actors in the process, of partnerships to be built, and of development characterized by solidarity in which all actors are engaged to reduce the world’s crying inequalities.  The outcome should be a reduction of the digital divide, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity.

The meeting, he said, should lead to a Declaration expressing a strong consensus on the principles, and to an Action Plan reflecting the actions to be taken most urgently in the period between Geneva and Tunis.  If Rio had been the Earth Summit, this should be the Solidarity Summit -- not solidarity in the material sense, but in the African sense, as an attitude of listening to each other, of being open to each other’s reasons, an idea of solidarity not to be mixed with the idea of funding.

Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss Federal Councillor and head of the Federal Communications Department, said the drafts of the Summit’s outcome documents -- the Declaration of Principles and Action Plan -- still needed clarification of many details and lacked concrete proposals.  The drafts included some good starting points -- on using the Internet for AIDS prevention, on providing people  in rural areas with access to universities, and on detecting imminent natural disasters.  But it was necessary to clarify how to realize and finance such projects.

The Summit’s focal point would be the question of access to information, Mr. Leunenberger said.  The industrialized North and the private sector often saw that question as a development policy problem not directly relevant to them.  “This is wrong, firstly, because the current crisis in the communications industry is a clear indication of how important it is for this sector to find new markets and, secondly, because fair trade in the world is a prerequisite in the long term for the well-being of the North, too.  But fair trade worldwide cannot be envisaged without access to the information society for everyone in the world.”

The Preparatory Committee meeting, which runs from 15 to 26 September, will continue work on a draft Declaration of Principles and Action Plan aimed at harnessing the power of ICTs as a tool for development, and creating an information society that benefits people of all regions in the world.  The draft Declaration and Action Plan will be submitted for the approval of heads of State attending the Summit.

Issues under discussion during the preparatory process and at the Summit include:  security, privacy, “spam”, universal and affordable access to ICTs, open source software, as well as ICT applications for health, learning, business, employment, environment and government.  The need to ensure cultural and linguistic diversity in cyberspace, as well as freedom of expression, will also be addressed.

Global targets for the Action Plan to be considered during the third preparatory meeting include:

  • Connecting all villages by 2010, with a community access point by 2015.
  • Connecting all universities by 2005, secondary schools by 2010 and primary schools by 2015.
  • Connecting all hospitals by 2005, and health centres by 2010.
  • Providing access to all of the world's population to domestic radio services by 2010 and domestic TV services by 2015.
  • Putting in place the required technical conditions by 2010 to permit all world languages to be present and used on the Internet.

The draft Declaration of Principles and Action Plan are available at




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