28 September 2006

Translate Vision of Global Information Society into Reality, Urges Secretary-General in Remarks to Meeting of New Global Alliance

NEW YORK, 27 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks to the second meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) in New York today:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to UN Headquarters.  Let me thank you all for your great generosity in giving your time and creative energies to this initiative.  I would like to thank Dr. Craig Barrett in particular for taking on a new role as Chairman of the Global Alliance even while continuing to serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Intel.

Today's meeting is an opportunity to build on the momentum generated by the launch of the Alliance in Kuala Lumpur in June, which I understand went very well.  Let me take this occasion to thank Minister Jarjis [Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation] for the hospitality and arrangements provided by the Malaysian Government, and for the personal leadership shown by Prime Minister Badawi in hosting that inaugural event.

Your challenge now is to chart the strategic course for this new Global Alliance, and to define how it will carry out the important role that it has set for itself.

The timing is auspicious.  The role of information and communication technologies in advancing development is much more widely recognized now than when ECOSOC began exploring the issue in 2000.

Later that year, world leaders agreed, in the Millennium Declaration, to ensure that the benefits of ICT are available to all.  That commitment to ICT for development underpinned the work of the ICT Task Force, which I established in late 2001.  In the course of its four-year mandate, the Task Force proved itself to be a very useful forum.  It brought together diverse members -- Governments, policymakers, UN organizations, business leaders, civil society -- as equal partners in building strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  And it contributed to the success of the World Summit on the Information Society.

We must translate the vision of a truly global information society into reality.  Towards this end, as you know, I have convened the Internet Governance Forum, which will focus on what needs to be done to ensure greater participation of all stakeholders in matters of public policy that may arise in the management of the Internet.

Another important direction of our work towards an open and prosperous information society is, of course, the use of ICT as a tool for advancing development.  The ICT Task Force has also helped in this effort.  When I called on Silicon Valley to devote more of its energies to meeting the needs of the poor, the Task Force helped the industry respond quickly and creatively.  One of the Task Force's successful spin-offs, the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative, continues to create new opportunities for learning and development.

Now, the new Global Alliance for ICT and Development will build on these achievements.  The Alliance's design draws on lessons learned from the ICT Task Force, the World Summit on the Information Society and other multi-stakeholder processes.  But while the Task Force was limited in size, with fixed membership, the Alliance will be bigger and, most important, will have the flexibility to encourage additional organizations and individuals to participate.  The idea is to develop a decentralized "network of networks" on a global scale, so that the Alliance can draw in the relevant stakeholders, particularly as new issues emerge.

The success of the Alliance will hinge on several key factors.

First, and this is your focus at this meeting, you will have to formulate clear and attainable objectives.  The Alliance's Strategy Council has identified four priority areas:  health; education; poverty reduction through enterprise creation; and citizens' participation in governance.  I am pleased to note how well these complement the United Nations development agenda.  I also commend your recognition that the special challenges facing women, youth and marginalized groups cut across these areas, and therefore must be mainstreamed.  Indigenous peoples, for example, see in these technologies a way to preserve and propagate their customs and traditions.

Second, the Alliance will have to work with a much broader group of participants.

Third, the Alliance must continue to operate as it has begun:  with transparency and accountability; and always with the interests of the poor and marginalized foremost in mind.

All of this, in turn, will require strong leadership from the Chair and from the members of the Steering Committee, as well as sustained backing on the part of your organizations.  I know I can count on you for this.  And I want you to know that you can count on my full support.

The Alliance has great potential to promote development while empowering millions of people throughout the world.  I look forward to working with you to realize our shared vision.

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