Press Releases

    28 February 2005

    Tunis “Summit of Solutions” Takes Shape as Second Preparatory Meeting Agrees on Financial Mechanisms, Outlines Way Forward

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 25 February (ITU) -- The second Preparatory Meeting (PrepCom 2) of the Tunis phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) finished its work with agreement on what substantive issues need to be negotiated for the output of the Tunis phase of WSIS.  PrepCom-2 also agreed on the financial mechanisms -- a critical component of the Tunis output to support ICT development and the WSIS goals outlined in the Plan of Action adopted by 175 countries at Geneva Phase of the Summit.

    Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, reminded the more than 1,700 delegates in attendance that they must set “ambitious but achievable goals”.  He was pleased to report at the closing session “that with your endorsement of the necessary financial mechanisms and support for a Digital Solidarity Fund, we have made significant progress in our shared objective of connecting all communities to the Information Society by 2015”.

    Financing Mechanisms Outlined

    The work of PrepCom-2 focused much of its efforts on the issue of Financial Mechanisms based on a thorough review of the adequacy of existing financial mechanisms to meet the challenges of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development carried out by a task force established by the UN Secretary-General.

    The PrepCom agreed that, although there are many different funding mechanisms for ICTs development there remains a mismatch between needs and available funding.  It acknowledged the growing importance of private sector investment in infrastructure and outlined a number of areas where the current approaches to ICT development have devoted insufficient attention.  PrepCom proposed that financial resources be focused on these areas:

    -- ICT capacity-building programmes, materials, tools, educational funding and specialized training initiatives;

    -- Communications access and connectivity for ICT services in locations presenting unique technological and market challenges;

    -- Regional backbone infrastructure, Network Access Points and regional networks and projects, to link networks across borders in economically-disadvantaged regions;

    -- Broadband capacity to facilitate the delivery of a broader range of services and applications and to foster Internet access at affordable prices;

    -- Coordinated assistance for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to lower transaction costs associated with the delivery of international donor support;

    -- ICT applications and content aimed at integrating ICTs into the implementation of poverty eradication strategies, particularly in health, education, agriculture and the environment;

    -- Funding of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs);

    -- Local development and manufacturing of ICT in developing countries;

    -- Activities on ICT-related regulatory and legal reform and related capacity-building;

    -- Local government and community-owned initiatives that deliver ICT services to communities in the areas of education, health, livelihood support, etc.

    The PrepCom stressed the importance of multi-stakeholder and cross-sectional coordination between government and business.  In order to do this it recommended improvements and innovations in existing financial mechanisms that included:

    -- Enhancing regional cooperation and creating multi-stakeholder partnerships; especially for trans-national infrastructure backbones;

    -- Coordinating programmes among governments and major financial players;

    -- Creating policy and regulatory incentives and more open access policies;

    -- Enabling policies designed to reduce risks and financial burdens for, and provide incentives to, ICT investors, start-up firms, and domestic financial resources in less attractive rural and low-income market segments;

    -- Helping to accelerate the development of domestic financial instruments including by supporting local microfinance instruments, ICT small business incubators, public credit instruments, digital solidarity and other innovations;

    -- Building human resource and institutional capacity (knowledge) at every level for achieving Information Society objectives, especially in the public sector.

    “We’ve made considerable progress in this area and have taken a clear political decision on financing mechanisms, which includes support for the Digital Solidarity Fund”, said Mr. Janis Karklins, President of the PrepCom.

    Digital Solidarity Fund Goes Global

    PrepCom-2 recognized that financing ICT development is a huge undertaking that requires multiple mutually supportive solutions.  It is in this context that agreement on the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) was brokered.  The DSF represents an innovative financial mechanism of a voluntary nature open to interested stakeholders to be financed by voluntary contributions.  Its aim is to transform the digital divide into digital opportunities by addressing specific and urgent needs at the local level and by seeking new voluntary sources of “solidarity” finance.  The DSF will complement existing mechanisms for funding the Information Society which should continue to be fully utilized to fund the growth of ICT infrastructure and services.

    The Fund is managed by a foundation with headquarters in Geneva who decides on the criteria for contributions and on the use of the funds.  Currently, 60 per cent of the resources of the Fund are earmarked for LDCs, 30 per cent for developing countries and 10 per cent for developed and transition economies.

    In addition to cash and in-kind contributions made by private companies, citizens and any other institutions, voluntary contributions can take the form of a 1 per cent  contribution on public ICT procurement contracts, either through a clause in public bids for ICT hardware, software and services for digital solidarity which stipulates that the winning bidder must make a contribution of at least one 1 per cent of the amount of the transaction to the Digital Solidarity Fund; or through the donation by public authorities of an amount of at least 1 per cent of their budgets earmarked for the purchase of ICT materials and services directly to the Digital Solidarity Fund.  This 1 per cent contribution gives the right to use the “Digital Solidarity” brand.

    The DSF was proposed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal at WSIS Geneva and will be inaugurated in Geneva by President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union on 14 March 2005.

    Working Group on Internet Governance

    PrepCom-2 considered the interim report tabled by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) set up to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of the Internet.  Based on extensive fact-finding conducted in an open, transparent and inclusive manner, WGIG reported that it had agreed on its key areas of work covering the following issues:

    -- Issues relating to infrastructure and the management of critical Internet resources, including administration of the domain name system and IP addresses, administration of the root server system, technical standards, peering and interconnection, telecommunications infrastructure including innovative and converged technologies, as well as the need for a multilingual addressing system;

    -- Issues relating to the use of the Internet, including “spam”, network security, and cybercrime;

    -- Issues which are relevant to the Internet, but with impact much wider than the Internet, where there are existing organizations responsible for these issues, such as IPR or international trade; and

    -- Issues relating to developmental aspects of Internet governance, in particular capacity-building in developing countries.

    At the same time, WGIG was working to develop a working definition of Internet governance, identify relevant public policy issues that need to be considered and develop a common understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different actors.  Work carried out so far, focused on issues such as the administration of Internet names and addresses, root servers, spam and cybersecurity but the Group also moved closer to a common understanding of a working definition.

    PrepCom-2 recognized that the issue of Internet governance involved a host of issues that went beyond assigning IP addresses and domain names and consensus on the need to improve the current Internet international coordination arrangements emerged.  At the same time, delegates agreed that the process should not undermine the stability and reliability of the Internet.  “While the technical issues should be left to engineers, those public policy issues must be addressed by governments”, said the President of PrepCom.

    Two more meetings preceded by open consultations will be held in April and June 2005.  The Group is expected to finalize its report mid-July with comments to be submitted by mid-August.  Based on the final report of WGIG and the compilation of comments, the President of PrepCom together with government representatives will prepare a document that will serve as a basis for negotiation for PrepCom-3.

    Innovative Format for Tunis Summit

    The PrepCom accepted a format for the Tunis Summit that combines high-level multi-stakeholder round tables and panel discussions.  The objective of the format is to create a high-profile, media-friendly platform for dynamic debate and discussion, while respecting UN Summit protocol.  The round tables will be organized to provide heads of State or government the opportunity to engage in an interactive discussion on the future of the Information Society with leaders from business and civil society organizations.  The panels will feature leading experts in the ICT field and will encourage audience participation.

    The Way Ahead

    While agreement on the financial mechanisms has been reached and the text will go directly to PrepCom-3, other elements, both political and operational, remain to be negotiated.  The chapter containing the political component of the Tunis document, as it stands at the conclusion of PrepCom-2, together with a compilation of all written comments and proposals made during PrepCom-2, will be transmitted directly to PrepCom-3.  The chapters on the implementation and follow-up mechanisms for the WSIS Action Plan and post-Summit phase will be reviewed by the Group of Friends of the Chair.  The revised text together with a compilation of all written comments and proposals made during PrepCom-2 will be transmitted to PrepCom-3.  All stakeholders are invited to continue to make contributions on those two chapters.

    Concerning the work on Internet governance, PrepCom-2 decided to invite all governments and other stakeholders to submit written comments and proposals following the availability of the WGIG final report in mid-July.  A compilation of these contributions received by mid-August will be forwarded to PrepCom-3 together with the report of WGIG.

    The next meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-3) will be held in Geneva 19—30 September 2005.

    PrepCom-2 Participants

    1,718 participants, of which:

    -- 926 delegates represented 149 governments and the European Community;

    -- 565 participants represented 208 non-governmental organizations or Civil society entities;

    -- 150 participants from 53 entities representing international organizations;

    -- 61 participants from 30 entities representing business entities;

    -- 16 participants representing six entities with standing invitation from the United Nations General Assembly;

    About WSIS

    The World Summit on the Information Society provides a unique opportunity for all key stakeholders to develop a common vision and understanding and to address the wide range of issues related to the Information Society.  Envisaged in two phases, the Geneva Summit, held in December 2003, laid the foundations of an inclusive and equitable Information Society with agreement by 175 States on a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action.  The Tunis Phase of WSIS will be held 16-18 November 2005 to consolidate the achievements of Geneva, implement the Action Plan and look ahead to building an inclusive, development-oriented Information Society.

    The WSIS aims to bring together heads of State and government, Executive Heads of United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society entities, industry leaders and media in a truly multi-stakeholder process to promote access of all to information, knowledge and communication technologies for development.

    The Summit will take place under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, with the International Telecommunication Union taking the lead role in its preparation.

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