10 December 2003


NEW YORK, 9 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the official welcome ceremony for the World Summit on the Information Society, hosted by Pascal Couchepin, President of Switzerland, in Geneva, 9 December:

It is a truly inspiring to see so many people from around the world gather in one place for this important global event.

I would like to thank Mr. Utsumi of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for all his efforts in working with the Swiss Government and others in bringing this all together.

If there is a single word, one overriding idea, that sums up why we are here, it is connections.

Connections and partnerships among governments, civil society and the private sector.

Connections among issues, such as development, democracy and peace.

Connecting people to the Internet, and to the other information and communication technologies that have such enormous potential to improve lives and advance freedoms.

And perhaps most of all, connecting people to each other, in networks of solidarity and mutual understanding that transcend national and cultural boundaries.

This Summit is an opportunity to highlight all that information technology. can do for education, health, agriculture, and governance.  But it must also be more than that:  it must help us to break down the barriers that, so far, have left too many people untouched by the information revolution.

So let us take advantage of the remarkable human diversity assembled here in Geneva, and learn from each other in the spirit of other landmark conferences and summits.

Let us focus not just on computers, but also on content.  Let us turn these technologies into tools for tackling challenges that have bedeviled humankind for centuries.  And let the legacy of this Summit be an open, inclusive information society that benefits and empowers all people.

There is a direct and urgent connection between those objectives and this Summit.  So let us now get to work with all our creativity and might.

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