Launch of the open consultations process WSIS Forum 2021

9 Sep 2020 15:00h - 16:00h

Event report

The session was dedicated to the initiation of the open consultation process for the WSIS Forum 2021. It also addressed the developments and improvements taking place in the 2020 meeting.

Mr Malcolm Johnson (Deputy Secretary-General, ITU) opened the session with comments on the success of WSIS 2020, despite the challenges of doing it virtually. More than twelve thousand attendees participated in 130 different sessions, including participants from 150 countries and 770 speakers. In 2020, more gender and regional balance occurred than in previous fora. Some 50 percent of the 2020 participants were women. This is a great success, as issues of gender and regional balance had been raised in previous open consultation processes. Moreover, the organisation of regional workshops with the use of the most appropriate language encouraged more participation from different regions. Notably, the number of participants from Latin America has increased. The forum also achieved goals related to the number of youth. The experience of holding all the meetings online has taught stakeholders how to increase the number of remote participants in the next fora. Johnson stressed his wishes to organise the WSIS 2021 physically.

Ms Scarlett Fondeur Gil (Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD) clarified that the geographical representation in 2020 has been wider than in previous, face-to-face versions. She highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic confirmed the value of ICT to maintain the connection of different sectors.

Ms Sasha Rubel (Programme Specialist, Digital Innovation and Transformation, UNESCO) confirmed that the COVID-19 crisis has proved that the UN can react quickly to emerging global problems. In this special case, digital cooperation has been a vital element in mitigating the negative outcomes of the crisis. The collective response, enabled by multilateral institutions, such as the UN, is the only possible solution in face of such challenges. Rubel underlined the UNESCO investment in efforts to bridge the digital divide within countries. In the light of the COVID 19, freedom of expression has been threatened by the lack of infrastructure, digital literacy, linguistic diversity, and local content. A solution to address these aspects is to build a framework that is open to different society sectors.

Ms Minerva Novero-Belec (Policy Specialist, UNDP) reported that the UNDP has provided critical support to countries during the pandemic. It has allocated 200 million dollars to build digital solutions around the world and has elaborated more than 200 practical solutions to help governments.

Ms Gitanjali Sah (Policy and Strategy Adviser, ITU) announced that the WSIS 2021 will take place in Geneva, during May 17-21. Sah believes that it is most likely to be a hybrid event with meetings taking place both virtually and physically. The first virtual meeting with the ITU is booked for November 6, and the second meeting for January 29 (yet to be decided if it will take place virtually or physically). March 8 is the deadline for submissions and the final brief is planned to take place on April 19, in Geneva.

At the WSIS Forum 2021, the High Level Policy Sessions of the High Level Track will take place on May 18-19, 2021. The main task of the HLTF will be to capture the vision held by the leaders of sessions and to identify emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges.

The UN General Assembly has called for a close alignment between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The special tracks emerging for WSIS for 2021 are ICTs and Youth, ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming, ICTs and Extended Reality, ICTs and older persons, ICTs and Sports, and Cybersecurity. The Gold Partner for the next forum will be Qatar.