The United Nations (UN) first brought all stakeholders together in 2003 and 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in order to establish a common goal: bringing the potential of information and communications technologies and all that they enable to the entire world.
Ten years later at the UN General Assembly in New York, during an event called the WSIS+10 High Level Meeting, the international community reconfirmed our commitment to this goal, the principles we support, and actions we would take to further that effort. We recognized that the success of the information society would not be measured by economic outcomes alone, but also by its ability to enable the exercise of human rights.
I am honored to report that the organizers of the first post-High Level Meeting WSIS Forum have invited me to chair the event this year and I have accepted.
Just a year ago, I had the privilege of leading these negotiations for the United States. Concerned parties raised issues ranging from economic development to human rights to security during the months and final days before achieving consensus on our agreed principles. As a result, we had to construct language that we could all support, bridging different philosophies of governance and economics, as well as differing experiences in how people from various nations were reaping the benefits of the digital age or not, over the last ten years. Non-governmental stakeholders were vital to its success. We benefited from their inputs and expertise through written contributions to the process as well as their hard work deploying and developing information and communications technologies over the last decade.
We were also successful in large part thanks to the leadership of the co-facilitators from the United Arab Emirates and Latvia who established a tone and created both a process and a space in which disagreements could be worked out. As part of that consensus opinion, we agreed that the WSIS Forum is a useful platform for discussion and sharing best practices on the implementation of the Information Society outcomes and should continue to be held annually.
Our hope for the Forum is that we continue to listen to each other the way we did at the WSIS+10, deliberate respectfully, and discuss ways to ensure the next decade of WSIS makes as much progress as the first. Instead of a series of high level statements delivered without exchange, we hope this year’s forum will be more dynamic, interactive, and inclusive.
Government and the UN system are only part of the team of actors and stakeholders critical to the construction of a global information society. We as governments should ask and aim to support the efforts of industry, civil society, academia, and technologists in fulfilling their missions and goals for themselves and others. We must stay true to our focus on implementing the action lines assigned to the various UN bodies to facilitate and remember our call to service.
We look forward to a successful Forum.
This blog was originally posted on DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. State Department, under the title ‘The United States Will Chair the WSIS Forum in 2016’.
Daniel Sepulveda (@DSepDC) serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB).