22 July 2003



NEW YORK, 21 July (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed Nitin Desai as his Special Adviser for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which opens in Geneva on 10 December.

The WSIS is the first Summit to deal with the information society, including critical issues in the use and dissemination of information and communications technology in development programmes and policies.  It will take place in two phases -- first, in Geneva in December, then, in Tunis in November 2005.  It is being held under the patronage of the Secretary-General and has been welcomed by the General Assembly.

“The existing digital divide threatens to exacerbate the gaps between rich and poor, within and among countries”, Mr. Annan said.  He called on “leaders from the developed and developing world, private sector and civil society to use the unique opportunity provided by the Summit to forge an action plan that will put technology at the service of human development”.

Mr. Desai, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, was the Secretary-General of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year.

“We are delighted Mr. Desai has agreed to assist us in the successful completion of WSIS”, said Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  The General Assembly has invited the ITU to take the lead responsibility in the organization of WSIS, with full support from the United Nations family.

A WSIS intersessional meeting, under way in Paris this week, has gathered 700 delegates in preparation for the Summit.  It is an important step toward a meaningful declaration of principles and action plan to bridge the digital divide, and address key policy issues and objectives of the Millennium Development Goals.

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