The week-long meeting was organized around 2 priority themes (Strategic foresight for the post-2015 development agenda and Digital development) and the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels, summarized in the Ten-Year Review Report.
During this week, a resolution on WSIS outcomes was negotiated, to be used as input for the related UN General Assembly process (June-December 2015). This resolution, together with another resolution on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) for development, will be put forward as the CSTD contribution for the ECOSOC High-Level Segment (July 2015) discussion dedicated to ‘Managing the transition from MDGs to the SDGs – what will it take?’
[Update] Highlights from CSTD 18th Session
8 May - Noon plenary:
After negotiations in the working groups during the morning, the plenary reconvened around noon.
- The draft resolution of STI for development was adopted without objections. The resolution includes the priority issues of digital development and technical foresight. The draft resolution will be sent to ECOSOC for its final adoption.
- All four draft decisions were adopted without objection. These decisions concern gender dimensions and engagement with civil society, business and technical sectors.
- Peter Major was elected as chair of the 19th CSTD session.
- The provisional agenda and documentation of the 19th session was adopted without objections.
- In light of time constraints, the secretary explained that the budgetary implications of the draft resolutions and decisions decided on during the session would be reviewed by the budgetary committee in New York on the way to the ECOSOC forum in July.
WSIS negotiations and the final plenary session
The only remaining agenda item was the draft resolution on WSIS. Due to disagreement among the delegates, the working group finally decided to only add technical amendments and two additional paragraphs, drafted by a small group of delegations (paragraph 59 and 60 of the draft resolution). Other proposals that would substantially alter the text were withdrawn. The working group finally adopted the draft resolution at 6.30pm.
During the subsequent plenary session, Peter Major – who chaired the WSIS working group – concluded that, considering time constraints, the agreed-upon draft was the optimum decision that could be reached at that moment.
The final agenda item was the adoption of the draft report of the 18th session, currently only reflecting what happened between Monday and Wednesday. It will be completed to include the proceedings of the latter half of the week, as well as the items that the Commission agreed upon, including the report on the WSIS review and a reference to the website with a transcript of all statements made by the delegations. The report will be finalized within the coming 2-3 weeks.
Iran, Brazil and Russia stressed that a summary of the substantial discussions held between the delegates was to be included in the report. Subsequently, the draft report was accepted and the rapporteur was trusted with finalizing it.
The chair, Ms. Johnson, closed the session by thanking the delegates and the secretariat for accomplishing all the objectives of the session and for the spirit of compromise. Even though the WSIS draft resolution does not “accurately reflect the richness of the discussion”, we can leave here satisfied.
7 May: 2015 Drafting group work
Day 4 of the CSTD conference was centered on negotiating the draft resolutions on WSIS and STI for development. The negotiations were informal and took place in two separate rooms, one for each topic. At 3.00 pm, a short plenary session was held, in which the two heads of the informal drafting groups briefly explained the progress of the negotiations.
Progress in drafting groups
Mr Peter Major briefed the room on progress in the WSIS drafting group. Despite lengthy discussions, he sensed a good spirit of cooperation among the negotiators. Ms Victoria Romero talked about the negotiations in the STI drafting group and mentioned that they divided the resolution into thematic parts: strategic foresight, the post-2015 development agenda, digital development, and the mandate of the commission.
Then Mr Andrew Reynolds discussed the status of the draft decisions that would be adopted by the conference. He noted that there was no substantial comment on these decisions, which would result in the extension of the mandate on the gender advisory board for a period of 5 years, as well as the extension of decisions 2, 3, and 4, related to the involvement of technical entities and the business sector, for a period of 5 years. Mr Reynolds furthermore stressed the uniqueness and benefits of these mandates, as they facilitate a true multistakeholder approach.
6 May: Science and technology for development; and presentation of the STI Policy Review of Thailand
Science and technology for development
The morning session of Day 3 of the Conference focused on the two priority themes identified by the CSTD: strategic foresight for the post-2015 development agenda and digital development. The topic was addressed by several experts, who all contributed by relating their own expertise to the two topics. The opening statements by Mr. Bitar, Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue, Former Minister of Public Works, Education and Mining of Chile, offered an example of strategic foresight from Chile. He concluded that political commitment to strategic foresight is critical and that administrative capacities should be strengthened. Ms. Malcom, Head of the Directorate of Education and Human Resources, American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Member of the Gender Advisory Board, advocated for the inclusion of a gender dimension in the theme papers, both in their role of targets of the SDGs and of actors in shaping the SDGs, to account for the different ways in which technology might impact women.
The panel discussion can be summarised according to three themes:
1. The African experience and lessons for strategic foresight
Ms. Geci Karuri-Sebina, Chair, South African Node at The Millennium Project, suggested that African experience with strategic foresight should be considered to better understand how foresight could be used, as strategic foresight has to learn and improve. For example, it should be anchored in legitimacy and ownership, it should be relevant and context-specific, it should encompass an institutionalised monitoring and evaluation system, continuous resource support should be ensured, and continues communication and action should be pursued, to achieve an open system that strengthens inclusion and legitimacy.
2. The economic impact of digital technology
Mr. Katz, Director of Business Strategy Research, Institute for Tele-Information, Columbia University, presented research done at Columbia University on the transformative economic impact of digitisation. Among other things, his team created an index categorising countries along a number of dimensions of digitisation, including affordability, reliability, accessibility, usage, capacity and human capital. His key findings were that:
- the developing world is currently located in transitional, emerging and limited stages of digitization.
- the economic impact of digitisation is much higher than expected due to cumulative effects and the accumulation of intangible capital.
- the economic impact indicates a return to scale: it increases with the level of digitisation development.
- the economic growth and job creation varies with the level of technology development of a country, as job development does not happen uniformly.
Mr. Graham, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor’s, Oxford Internet Institute study at Oxford University also focused on digital development and digital inclusion. Focusing on Africa, it evaluated both the impact of the high-end knowledge economy, such as innovation hubs and start-ups, as well as low-skill work resulting from digitisation and the possible creation of ‘digital sweatshops’. Especially in these low-skill sectors, wages vary over space, whereby East Africa particularly experiences considerable wage depression. Other findings include that, contrary to what is often believed, intermediaries are still prevalent in East Africa to connect the local market to the global resources of the Internet. Furthermore, East Africa needs to address the skills gap: despite the fact that connectivity is rising in this region, an understanding of the need of clients has to be improved in order for it to play a role in the digital market place.
3. The need for education in technology for development
The topic of education was introduced by Michael Heister, Head of Division for Vocational Teaching and Learning, Programmes and Development Programmes, Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Germany ,who built on the German experience in vocational education and training and stressed the way in which it could be an adequate way to respond to development problems. Mr. Bona, Advisor to the Director-General, CERN confirmed this view. Apart from outlining how CERN could cooperate with the United Nations by sharing its knowledge and support on UN action, he emphasised the crucial need for education, as knowledge depends on education to achieve ‘disruptive improvements’, which would provide the most significant jumps in social development. However, he argued that too often, technology transfer is not associated with knowledge transfer, while people that are sufficiently qualified to achieve disruptive improvements can only exist if a society stresses education. The promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education should therefore be present across the SDGs.
- Kenya confirmed the need to apply science and technology to achieve sustainable development. However, universal strategies should be sufficiently flexible to account for different national contexts and needs, taking homegrown interests into consideration.
- India suggested that international cooperation in emerging foresight technologies should be improved, and that the CSTD could engage in translating foresight into technology development and employment. International cooperation was also stressed by the permanent representation of the EU.
- Hungary stressed the need for confidence between science and society, and the effective exchange of information. It also agreed with the report that ICT is not sufficiently embedded in the post-2015 agenda.
- Thailand noted that foresight often answered the ‘what’ question, rather than the ‘how’, and recommended to extend foresight scenarios to realistic implementation. It also emphasised the need for proper representation of marginalized groups in foresight exercises.
- Austria stressed the importance of the open access to research data and wishes to see foresight as a process.
- The US argued that technology is not sufficient for development and better prepare the 21st century workforce. UNSCTD could play a key role in foresight and horizon scanning.
Presentation of the STI Policy Review of Thailand
The afternoon session explored the STI Policy Review of Thailand. Ms. Marta Pérez Cuso, the Economic Affairs Officer of the Policy Review Section, presented the findings of the review. Although Thailand has a strong base for an innovation economy, having significant knowledge infrastructure and a good business climate, it needs to be aware of five key challenges:
- There is no shared perception of urgency to innovate and develop domestic technological capabilities.
- The STI institutions and system governance are inadequate and there is a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities, oversight and accountability.
- The linkages with broader sectors are weak.
- There is a supply-side view of innovation and R&D dominance. The impact of innovation incentives is still limited.
The main recommendations to Thailand were to:
- enhance STI governance and management.
- stimulate innovation efforts.
- upgrade the education system so that education and training provide the skills for an innovation-based economy.
Thailand’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, responded to these recommendations by outlining the policy plans of the Thai government and highlighting the actions that the government has already taken to improve STI in Thailand.
- The US offered further recommendations to Thailand, mostly focusing on the importance of public, private and research sectors to ensure the smooth transition of ideas from the lab to the market.
- Finland shared its own experience with elements creating innovation-led growth, including partnerships with the private sector, most significantly through the public innovation funding agency, as well as the role of education to create an educated population.
- Singapore encouraged wider international collaboration, congratulating Thailand with its proactive role in ASEAN, and Germany, China, Japan, Cameroon, Austria and the Philippines talked about their productive bilateral partnerships with Thailand.
- Morocco stressed that rather than bilateral partnerships, multilateral initiatives need to be discussed. It also talked about the long-term aspect entailed innovation and the need to make it more concrete to make it attractive.
- Kenya requested its own STI review.
5 May: Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels - Substantive session on the ten-year review
The 10-year WSIS Outcomes Implementation Report is a comprehensive assessment of the developments since WSIS, put forward by the CSTD Secretariat after a series of consultations. It was drafted in collaboration with other UN agencies (ITU, UNESCO) and with feedback from different stakeholders, thus reflecting the various inputs received by CSTD, according to the Head of the CSTD Secretariat, Anne Miroux. Rapid and profound changes took place since WSIS (broadband, mobile internet, user-generated content and digital media, datafication/Big data analysis, cloud computing, Internet of Things), and these new challenges add to the existing challenges, thus needing responsive policies for today’s and tomorrows’s needs. Anne Miroux concluded that ‘the WSIS implementation should reach beyond the objectives set at the time of the Summit’.
Key areas of focus in the report and main points:
1. Implementing the WSIS vision
- Much achieved, more work still to be done, in particular for digital divide(s)
- The ultimate goal (people-centered) remains valid
- Need to mainstream ICTs in the post-2015 development agenda
- Significant progress made on the 10 targets, most of them concerned with access and connectivity
- There is a growing gap in the quality of connectivity and ability to use ICTs
- Difficult to obtain reliable and relevant data, no benchmarks or indicators included
- Call for flexibility and combining short-term with long-term targets and strategies in view of the unpredictability of technological changes
3. Action lines
- Useful as a platform for sharing experiences and discussing the subject, useful resources for all stakeholders
- Limitations: did not take into account issues of current concern; did not attract extensive participation from the wider communities
4. Financial mechanisms
- Investment driven by the private sector, government work focused primarily on policy reform; official development assistance was difficult to assess
- Need to pay renewed attention to the financial issue, in the context of new aspects of infrastructure growing in importance and new requirements stemming from increasing volumes of data traffic
5. Internet governance (IG)
- IG is a key issue of the information society agenda, including both technical and policy aspects
- Tunis agenda does not include universally-accepted definitions of what IG is, it adopted a working definition
- Renewed efforts should be made to resolve differences, enabling all stakeholders to play their roles in accordance with the WSIS outcome, yet the IG discussions should not sidetrack from the other WSIS priorities
- WSIS points of action
(a) Enhanced cooperation: 2006-2011 – informal consultations on how to operationalise enhanced cooperation – no consensus reached; May 2013-May 2014: CSTD working group on EC, including a mapping exercise of international public policy issues pertaining to the internet.
(b) Internet Governance Forum (IGF): The IGF represents an important part of the international discourse on the internet and it fostered greater understanding of different views on IG and cooperation. Further Improvements to the IGF can be made on: inclusiveness, more substantive outcomes, and effectiveness.
6. Multistakeholder cooperation to achieve WSIS outcomes
- Has been the hallmark of WSIS implementation
- Concerns expressed by some on inclusiveness, representativeness, responsibilities of governments, efficiency, etc.
- Need to consider further multistakeholder modalities and to overcome the resource issue
Reactions to the report
- Endorsement and support for submitting as input to UNGA WSIS process: Brazil, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, US, Japan, Australia, Latvia, South Africa
- Support for extending and strengthening the IGF mandate beyond 2015 (generally for a 10-year mandate): Brazil, UK, India, Canada, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, US, Japan, Australia, Latvia, China
Strong concerns expressed by:
- Saudi Arabia: the report does not reflect genuine progress (more emphasis on positive rather than negative aspects) and the best way to take stock of the progress made is to present all annual WSIS implementation resolutions to the UNGA
- Iran: the report needs to recommend tangible steps to overcome challenges of information society
- Brazil: IGF should become a permanent body, a proposal also endorsed by APC
- Russia: outcome reviews should be made every 5 years, a closer reflection of the pace of technological development
- Switzerland: important to keep the coordinating role of the CSTD
Highlights from CSTD 18th Session Opening Day
Opening Ceremony, 4 May
Welcoming remarks by: Ms. Omobola Johnson, Chair of the CSTD
Interventions emphasized the following opportunities and positive outcomes:
- the key significance of this year in the UN system as decisions are made on sustainable development goals (SDGs) and beyond; it is also the 10-year anniversary of the WSIS process and the 150th anniversary of the ITU;
- science, technology and innovation are central to the implementation the post-2015 development agenda, which has at its core policy integration, coordination and inclusion;
- the need for strengthening partnership between private and public post-2015 and expressed support for the transition to SGDs and STI as a pillar for their implementation;
- great progress made in the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), which now play a catalytic role in development and empowerment across the globe, and a need to continue working with a people-centered approach in mind, in the spirit of the WSIS agenda;
- commitment to the multistakeholder model of governance, in particular as stressed by the ITU’s Secretary General, Houlin Zao and ICANN’s President and CEO, Fadi Chehadé. The later also advocated for a polycentric approach to the governance of the Internet, understood as technical infrastructure plus social and industrial components;
For Chehadé, ‘on the technical side things are going well’, and the WSIS process has contributed to that by starting initiatives and actions to ensure that the infrastructure is stable and resilient and serves everyone. He stressed that what was left to be completed from the WSIS agenda was ensuring that ICANN is independent from the oversight from any one party and reported that this has been completed with the withdrawal of the US government oversight function over IANA. ‘ICANN has changed from a Western-centric organization, its DNA has changed, ICANN is here to serve the world, not a subset of the population’, he concluded.
Yet, there is more to be done, both in the upcoming months in preparation for the transition to the SDGs and in the long-run:
- The majority of interventions stressed capacity building as a priority for digital development;
- Prof. Robin Mansell: ICTs always bring about adjustments – of governance, social practices, legislative measures, and policymakers and practitioners need to reflect uncertainty and risk in their decision-making processes; the list of priorities for post-2015 development agenda is long, but it does not indicate the highest priority; ICTs are enablers, but not solutions in themselves;
- UNESCO’s Indrajit Banerjee: there is a need to be explicit about how ICTs can contribute concretely to the SDGs;
- ICANN’s Fadi Chehadé: How to build a polycentric distributive model of governance for the Internet beyond its infrastructure is still unclear; Internet integrity, not just security, should be aspired to.
The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Commission provides the General Assembly and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues. UNCTAD is responsible for the substantive servicing of the Commission. The Commission has forty-three Member States elected by ECOSOC for a term of four years.
Meeting and background information
- Agenda for the 18th meeting
- 10-Year Country, WSIS Action Line Facilitator's and Other WSIS Stakeholders' Reports on the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes
- Inter-sessional Panel of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development Report: The mapping of international Internet public policy issues
- Report from the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, seventeenth session
- CSTD 2014-2015 inter-sessional panel
- More information about the CSTD