12 December 2003


Conference Video-links Students from Turkey, Uganda

With Counterparts from United Nations Geneva International School

GENEVA, 11 December -- At the World Summit on the Information Society this afternoon, students from schools in Turkey and Uganda participated in an interactive discussion, via video-conference, along with those from the United Nations International School (UNIS) in Geneva, to discuss, among other things, the disadvantages of the digital divide, the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower women and girls, the role the Internet can play in education, and the role of the mass media in promoting human rights.

The discussion, moderated by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, posed questions and comments to the President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, who gave their perspectives on how their own work had been affected by new emerging trends in communications and technology.

Mr. Tharoor noted that the “World Summit Event for Schools” had been a three-month-long endeavour organized by the United Nations Cyberschoolbus and European Schoolnet. It was organized in conjunction with the World Summit on the Information Society to encourage students to reflect upon the impact of information and communications technologies on human rights, and, in particular, the right to give and receive an education, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ms. Bellamy highlighted UNICEF’s “Voices for Youth” programme, which was one way in which her agency was promoting distance-learning to benefit those who lived in remote areas and far away from schools.  This interactive Web site, she said, allows young people to share experiences from great distances.  She emphasized the importance of education and that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified international convention, stated that children have the right to receive information from a source of their choosing.  Ms. Bellamy added that “parents, governments and young people themselves have a responsibility to educate.  With every right, there is a responsibility”.

President Iliescu noted the advances in technology as a means of educating and providing “international solidarity”.  He said “with new technology there are new possibilities”.  It was up to local and national governments, as well as the international community, to find ways of providing access to such technology. Answering a student’s question, he said “the Internet is a tool which can be used in improving people’s lives”.

Representing UNIS students in the audience, Allegra Richards expressed her colleagues’ desires that young people would be able to channel their ideas through the use of ICTs and that the Summit would yield “new actions and plans” that would benefit young people everywhere.

Mr. Tharoor noted how important it was for the leaders of today to listen to the concerns of young people and it was in that spirit that the WSIS was being held. “One aim of WSIS”, he said, “was to encourage young people to ask questions.”

* *** *