Press Releases

    SG/SM/9220
                                                                                                                            PI/1565
                                                                                                                            26 March 2004

    Internet Governance Issues Are Numerous and Complex, Secretary-General Says at Opening of Global Forum

    NEW YORK, 26 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening session of the Global Forum on Internet Governance:

    It gives me great pleasure to address this Global Forum on Internet Governance, organized by the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force. This is a timely initiative, and it is very encouraging to see here today some of the key founders and leaders of the Internet community, along with government officials and representatives of the private sector and civil society. There is much for us to discuss. Even more importantly, there is much that we can do together as partners.

    In only a few years, the Internet has revolutionized trade, health, education and, indeed, the very fabric of human communication and exchange.  Moreover, its potential is far greater than what we have seen in the relatively short time since its creation.  In managing, promoting and protecting its presence in our lives, we need to be no less creative than those who invented it.  Clearly, there is a need for governance, but that does not necessarily mean that it has to be done in the traditional way, for something that is so very different.

    The issues are numerous and complex. Even the definition of what we mean by Internet governance is a subject of debate.  But the world has a common interest in ensuring the security and dependability of this new medium.  Equally important, we need to develop inclusive and participatory models of governance.  The medium must be made accessible and responsive to the needs of all the world’s people.  At present, its reach is highly uneven, and the vast majority of people have yet to benefit from it, or even to be touched by it at all.

    As we all know, Internet governance was one of the most controversial issues at last December’s Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. I am glad that the keenly felt differences over the subject did not get in the way of overall progress. The Summit was able to produce results in our broader effort to put information and communication technologies at the service of development. Nonetheless, on Internet governance the differences were such that the Summit asked me to set up a working group.

    But before I do so, we need to consult a broad cross-section of the communities involved.  So I am glad that the ICT Task Force has decided to organize its Global Forum on this subject.  Your views, and those emerging from other consultations, will help to frame the issues, find areas of complementarity and convergence among stakeholders, and identify issues for future consultations.  Once these consultations have taken place, I will be in a position to establish the working group, which, I can assure you, will be open, transparent and inclusive of all stakeholders. To support the working group and to help me, I will be setting up a small secretariat in the near future.

    These same principles of openness and inclusiveness will also apply to the task force on funding that the Summit asked me to create. This task force, which I plan to establish shortly, will review the adequacy of current funding approaches and consider new funding mechanisms that might strengthen our efforts to bridge the digital divide.

    Important as it is to address the issues of governance and funding, let us not forget the larger task:  implementing the Plan of Action in its entirety.  Indeed, the Summit set very specific targets for access to information and communication technologies -- in villages, schools, libraries, hospitals and clinics, government offices, and elsewhere -- and this, too, will require us to muster all our creativity.  Let me assure you of the United Nations’ commitment to this effort.

    In your talks over the next two days, I urge you to keep in mind the paramount goal of helping people everywhere build free and decent lives.  That is the real backbone of your deliberations.  Whatever you do must contribute to the cause of human development.

    I wish you every success.

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