WSIS+20 process

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This page keeps track of the process leading to the 20-year review of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in 2025. It also provides background information about WSIS and related activities and processes since 2003.

WSIS at a glance

The idea of a summit on the information society

In 1998, in Minneapolis (USA), the Plenipotentiary Meeting of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) adopted a resolution proposing a world summit on the information society (WSIS). Resolution 73 instructed the ITU Secretary-General to place the question of holding a world summit on the information society on the agenda of the UN Administrative Committee on Coordination; it also instructed the ITU Council to consider and decide on the Union’s contribution to the holding of such a summit. 

This was followed, in 2000, by the ITU Council Resolution 1158, which instructed the ITU Secretary-General to ‘pursue coordination with other international organisations and with partners concerned (member states, sector members, etc.) with a view to holding the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003’. One year later, in 2001, the ITU Council endorsed a proposal by the ITU Secretary-General to hold WSIS in two phases, in Geneva in 2003, and in Tunis in 2005 (Resolution 1179). In the same year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) endorsed the holding of the two phases of WSIS in 2003 and 2005 (Resolution 56/183).

WSIS phases and outcomes documents

WSIS was held under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, with the ITU taking a leading managerial role in the preparatory process in cooperation with other UN and international agencies and the host countries for the two phases (Switzerland and Tunisia). The summit – as well as the preparatory meetings leading to its two phases – were multistakeholder in nature, allowing the participation of non-governmental stakeholders (e.g. non-governmental organisations, civil society, the private sector).

Additional information

Details about the preparatory process and other WSIS-related information are available on this dedicated web space, which is maintained by ITU.

The first WSIS phase, held in Geneva in 2003, concluded with the Geneva Declaration of Principles and the Geneva Plan of Action, identifying specific action lines to advance an inclusive information society and promote the use of knowledge and ICT in support of development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The second phase, held in Tunis in 2005, reaffirmed the commitment to the Declaration of Principles through the Tunis Commitment and designed an implementation mechanism for the action lines in the form of a Tunis Agenda for the Information Society. The report of the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was used as the basis for negotiations during the second phase of the summit.

The 2003-2005 WSIS saw the birth of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF); provided a formal set of framework principles for the multistakeholder approach to internet governance, and introduced the process of enhanced cooperation, which was later entrusted to a Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) operating under the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD).

WSIS documents with a twist 

We have modified the WSIS outcomes adopted in 2003 and 2005 in the following ways:

  • ‘Information and communication technology’ is replaced with ‘digital technology’.
  • ‘E-‘ is replaced with ‘digital’.
  • ‘Information society’ is replaced with ‘digital society’. 

The main goal of these changes is to figure out how relevant WSIS policy documents are to our time, two decades later. These simple changes demonstrate the continued relevance of the WSIS documents for our era and future digital and AI developments.

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WSIS mechanisms, implementation, and follow-up

WSIS outcome documents highlighted a ‘common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’

Various mechanisms and processes were put in place to support and drive the implementation and follow-up of these and other WSIS commitments and actions.

WSIS Action Lines

To put the WSIS commitments into practice, 11 action lines (AL) were agreed upon in 2005, and several UN agencies were appointed as facilitators for their implementation. 

WSIS Action Lines and facilitators
WSIS Action Line             Moderators/Facilitators Co-Facilitators 
С1. The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for developmentUN DESAECOSOC/UN Regional Commissions/ITU
С2. Information and communication infrastructureITUAPC
C3. Access to information and knowledgeUNESCO ITU /FAO/UNIDO
C4. Capacity buildingITU UNESCO/UNDP/UNCTAD/UN DESA/FAO/UNIDO
C5. Building confidence and security in the use of ICTsITU 
C6. Enabling environmentUNDPITU/UN REGIONAL COMMISSIONS/UNCTAD/UN DESA/UNIDO/APC
C7. ICT Applications  
E-governmentUN DESAUNDP/ITU
E-businessUNCTADITC/UPU/ILO
E-learningUNESCOITU/UNIDO
E-healthWHOITU
E-employmentILOITU
E-environmentWMOWHO/UNEP/UN-Habitat/ITU/ICAO
E-agricultureFAOITU
E-scienceUNESCOITU/UNCTAD/WHO
C8. Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content UNESCO 
C9. MediaUNESCO 
C10. Ethical dimensions of the Information SocietyUNESCOECOSOC/WHO/ECPAT Int’l
C11. International and regional cooperationUN DESAUN Regional Commissions/ UNDP/ITU/UNESCO/ECOSOC
Table 1. WSIS Action Lines and related facilitators. Source: WSIS implementation by Action Line, ITU

WSIS Forum & WSIS Action Lines Facilitators Meetings

The Tunis Agenda called on ITU, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Development Pogramme (UNDP) to ‘play leading facilitating roles in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action and organize a meeting of moderators/facilitators of action lines’ (para 109). In February 2006, these three agencies organised the first consultation meeting of all WSIS AL moderators/facilitators, open to all interested stakeholders. Such AL facilitators’ meetings have been held on an annual basis, along with a series of other events related to AL implementation. 

In 2009, these activities were brought together under the umbrella of a new WSIS Forum, also held annually and co-organised by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, and UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In 2015, during the WSIS+10 review process, the UNGA recognised that the WSIS Forum ‘has been a platform for discussion and sharing of best practices in the implementation of the World Summit outcomes by all stakeholders, and it should continue to be held annually’ (para 69, WSIS+10 outcome document).

UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS)

The Tunis Agenda called for establishing a UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) ‘consisting of the relevant UN bodies and organizations, with the mandate to facilitate the implementation of WSIS outcomes’ (para 103).

Since 2006, UNGIS ‘serves as an inter-agency mechanism to coordinate substantive policy issues facing the UN system’s implementation’ of WSIS outcomes. The leadership of UNGIS for the period 2023-2024 is ensured by ITU and UNDP as co-chairs, and UNCTAD, UNESCO and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) as vice-chairs. 

UNGIS objective and activities

As explained on the dedicated website, UNGIS has as its objective to ‘develop extensive collaboration and partnerships among the CEB members in order to contribute to the achievement of the WSIS objectives, to help to maintain ICT-related issues as well as science and technology at the top of the UN Agenda and finally to mainstream ICT for Development issues in the mandate of the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) members’. In achieving this objective, the group:

  • ‘Contributes towards WSIS implementation, primarily at the international level, by mainstreaming the Information Society Agenda into the activities and programmes of CEB members;
  • Coordinates with the mechanisms for national and regional implementation established in the Tunis Agenda, as well as the multi-stakeholder implementation process;
  • Strengthens the role of the UN System in facilitating access of developing countries to new and emerging technologies, promoting transfer of technology, and mainstreaming science, technology and innovation policies, including ICTs, into national development policies or poverty reduction strategies in accordance with the priorities of countries;
  • Facilitates synergies between organizations belonging to the UN system in order to maximize joint efforts, avoid duplication and enhance effectiveness in achieving the WSIS outcomes; and
  • Promotes public awareness about how the UN system is implementing WSIS and is facilitating better access for developing countries to new and emerging technologies.’

Internet governance and Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

During the WSIS preparatory phases, a controversy emerged over internet governance (IG). Questions were raised as to whether IG relates only to the management of technical internet resources or should encompass broader economic, societal, and other issues emerging from the use and evolution of the internet. There were also debates on whether governments should have a stronger role in managing critical internet resources (e.g. the domain name system and internet protocol addresses), for instance, through a transfer of responsibilities from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to ITU. 

A Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) was created to look into these issues. Building on the group’s report, the Tunis Agenda adopted a working definition for internet governance (IG):

  • ‘the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet’ (para 34).

The Agenda also requested that the UN Secretary-General to convene a new forum for multistakeholder policy dialogue – the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – to, among other functions, discuss public policy issues related to key elements of IG in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the internet (para 72).

Full mandate of the IGF (para 72, Tunis Agenda)

a. Discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet.

b. Facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body.

c. Interface with appropriate intergovernmental organizations and other institutions on matters under their purview.

d. Facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and in this regard make full use of the expertise of the academic, scientific and technical communities.

e. Advise all stakeholders in proposing ways and means to accelerate the availability and affordability of the Internet in the developing world.

f. Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries.

g. Identify emerging issues, bring them to the attention of the relevant bodies and the general public, and, where appropriate, make recommendations.

h. Contribute to capacity building for Internet governance in developing countries, drawing fully on local sources of knowledge and expertise.

i. Promote and assess, on an ongoing basis, the embodiment of WSIS principles in Internet governance processes.

j. Discuss, inter alia, issues relating to critical Internet resources.

k. Help to find solutions to the issues arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, of particular concern to everyday users.

l. Publish its proceedings.

IGF mandate renewals

The Tunis Agenda requested the UN Secretary-General to examine the desirability of the continuation of the Forum within five years of its creation, and to make recommendations to the UN Membership in this regard (para 76).

In line with this provision, the IGF mandate was renewed for an additional 5 years in 2010, through UNGA resolution 65/141 on information and communications technologies for development. 

The resolution also noted the need to improve the Forum and invited the Chair of the CSTD to establish a working group to make recommendations on improvements to the IGF. The group presented its report in March 2012. 

The 2010 UNGA resolution further established that a decision on the continuation of the IGF was to be made by member states in the context of the 10-year review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, in 2015. 

In 2015, the UNGA renewed the IGF mandate for a further 10 years, through the WSIS+10 outcome document (para 63). It is worth noting that the document does not include any specific provision that a decision on the IGF mandate should be made during the WSIS+20 High-level meeting to be held by UNGA in 2025.

IGF activities

The IGF has held annual meetings since 2006, and is now seen as a year-long process which, in addition to the annual meetings, also encompasses intersessional activities in the form of dynamic coalitions, best practice forums, and policy networks. The IGF has also inspired and supported the launch of national and regional IGF initiatives; over 100 such initiatives are currently in place.

The role of ECOSOC and CSTD

The Tunis Agenda requested the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to oversee the system-wide follow-up of the Geneva and Tunis outcomes of WSIS (para 105). 

In 2006, ECOSOC decided that CSTD is to ‘effectively assist the Council as the focal point in the system-wide follow-up, in particular the review and assessment of progress made in implementing WSIS outcomes’. CSTD is therefore entrusted with reviewing and assessing progress made in implementing the outcomes of the Summit and advising ECOSOC on this matter. More specifically, CSTD is mandated to:

  • Review and assess progress at the international and regional levels in the implementation of action lines, recommendations and commitments contained in the outcome documents of the Summit;
  • Share best and effective practices and lessons learned and identify obstacles and constraints encountered, actions and initiatives to overcome them and important measures for further implementation of the Summit outcomes;
  • Promote dialogue and foster partnerships, in coordination with other appropriate United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies, to contribute to the attainment of the Summit objectives and the implementation of its outcomes and to use information and communication technologies for development and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, with the participation of Governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations and other international organizations in accordance with their different roles and responsibilities.(ECOSOC Resolution 2006/46, para 6)

ECOSOC also requested the Secretary-General (SG) to inform CSTD on the implementation of WSIS outcomes. In line with this request, annual reports on WSIS outcomes are prepared by the secretariat of UNCTAD, based on information provided by entities in the UN systems, international organisations, and other stakeholders. These reports are presented to the CSTD and ECOSOC as SG reports; they can be consulted here

At its annual sessions, CSTD agrees on and submits resolutions on WSIS implementation to ECOSOC; the most recent such resolution was adopted by ECOSOC in June 2023. These then serve as input into the annual UNGA resolutions on ICT for sustainable development (see, for instance,  Resolution 78/132 from December 2023).

Enhanced cooperation

The Tunis Agenda introduced the concept of ‘enhanced cooperation’, aimed to enable governments to carry out their roles and responsibilities in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, and called for the launch of a ‘process towards enhanced cooperation’ (para 69–71).

The process of enhanced cooperation

Paragraph 69 of the Tunis Agenda recognises the ‘need for enhanced cooperation in the future, to enable governments, on an equal footing, to carry out their roles and responsibilities, in international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet, but not in the day-to-day technical and operational matters, that do not impact on international public policy issues’.

Paragraph 71 further notes that ‘the process towards enhanced cooperation, to be started by the UN Secretary-General, involving all relevant organizations by the end of the first quarter of 2006, will involve all stakeholders in their respective roles, will proceed as quickly as possible consistent with legal process, and will be responsive to innovation. Relevant organizations should commence a process towards enhanced cooperation involving all stakeholders, proceeding as quickly as possible and responsive to innovation. The same relevant organizations shall be requested to provide annual performance reports.’

In line with these provisions, discussions on the implementation of the enhanced cooperation processes were held in various settings (e.g. UNGA meetings, ITU, CSTD), but without significant progress. The WSIS+10 outcome document notes (para 64–65) that, although various initiatives have been implemented and some progress has been made in relation to the process towards enhanced cooperation, there were divergent views held by member states regarding this process. Calling for continued dialogue and work on this matter, the GA requested the Chair of the CSTD to establish a working group to develop recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation (para 65). 

The requested group – Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation – held five meetings between 2016 and 2018, but, due to the ‘complexity and political sensitivity of the topic’, it did not manage to agree on a set of recommendations.

WSIS+10 review process

The Tunis Agenda called for a ten-year review of WSIS (para 111), and the UN General Assembly decided, through Resolution 60/252, to conduct an overall review of the implementation of the Summit outcomes in 2015. 

The process culminated with an intergovernmental meeting at the UN in New York on 15–16 December 2015, which decided – among other aspects – on the renewal mandate of the Internet Governance Forum, and the next steps in the enhanced cooperation process (the Working Group n Enhanced Cooperation presented above).

For details, consult the WSIS+10 Outcome Document, endorsed through UNGA Resolution 70/125.

Additional information

The Geneva Internet Platform followed the WSIS+10 process carefully and documented it.

WSIS, Agenda 2030, and digital cooperation

Since the adoption of WSIS outcomes documents in 2003 and 2005, several other processes and initiatives have been launched that are of relevance as we move into the WSIS+20 process. Below is a short overview: 

  • 2015: Adoption of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development
    • The UNGA recommended that the outcome of the WSIS+20 high-level meeting in 2025 be an input into the review process for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (para 71 of the WSIS+10 outcome document). 
  • 2018: The UN Secretary-General creates a High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.
  • 2019: The Panel publishes its Age of digital interdependence report.
  • 2020: The UN Secretary-General issues a Roadmap for digital cooperation.
  • 2021: Establishment of Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology (OSET).
  • 2021: The UN Secretary-General issues Our Common Agenda report.
    • The report includes a call for a Global Digital Compact to ‘outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all’ and be adopted at the Summit of the Future in 2024. 

Also relevant are the annual resolutions adopted by the UNGA on ICT for sustainable development (the most recent being Resolution 78/132 from December 2023) and on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development (the most recent being Resolution 78/160 from December 2023).

Towards WSIS+20

UNGA High-level meeting, 2025

The WSIS+10 Outcome Document requested the UNGA to hold a high-level meeting on the overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes in 2025, ‘involving the input and participation of all stakeholders, including in the preparatory process, to take stock of progress on the outcomes of the World Summit and identify both areas of continued focus and challenges’ (para 71). It was also recommended that the outcome of the high-level meeting be an input into the review process for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is expected that co-facilitators for the UNGA resolution of the overall WSIS+20 review will be appointed by the President of the GA in July/August 2024.

WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event

On 27-31 May 2024, the annual WSIS Forum will take the form of a WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event, aimed to serve as a ‘a platform to review the progress, achievements, challenges, and opportunities of the WSIS follow-up process’. The event will take place in Geneva and is co-organised by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, and UNCTAD, and co-hosted by ITU and the Swiss Confederation.

CTSD and ECOSOC activities

An important role in the lead-up to the high-level meeting is played by CSTD. ECOSOC, through its resolution 2023/3, requested CSTD:

  • ‘to collect input from member states, all facilitators and other stakeholders and 
  • to organise, during its twenty-seventh session, in 2024, and its twenty-eighth session, in 2025, substantive discussions on the progress made in the implementation of the World Summit during the past 20 years, and 
  • to report thereon, through the Economic and Social Council, to the General Assembly.’ (para 104 of the resolution)

In response to this request, the CSTD is conducting or planning to conduct a series of activities, as outlined below (based on an April 2024 Informal Note by CSTD).

Past activities

  • Discussions on WSIS review at the CSTD intersessional meeting held in November 2023, in Lisbon. 
  • Consultation sessions held by CSTD during the IGF 2023 meeting and the UNCTAD eWeek 2023 meeting.
  • Online questionnaire by CSTD inviting stakeholders to share experiences, views and priorities related to the 20-year review of WSIS implementation (open by 31 March 2024).
  • Preliminary discussions on WSIS+20 review during the 27th session of CTSD, April 2024. 

Upcoming activities

  • May-December 2024: Consultations, literature review and other research
    • Regional multistakeholder consultations are planned as follows:
      • Africa, with UNEC: to be scheduled
      • Western Asia, with ESCWA: UAE, May 2024
      • Europe, with EuroDIG: Lithuania, 17 June 2024
      • Asia-Pacific, with ESCAP: during Asia-Pacific Digital Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan, 3-5 September 2024
      • Latin America & the Caribbean, with ECLAC: during eLac ministerial conference in Chile, 16-18 November 2024
  • October 2024: Progress report to the intersessional meeting of CSTD
  • October 2024 – February 2025: Drafting of report on the process of the implementation of WSIS outcomes 20 years after their adoption
  • April 2025: Discussion of report at the 28th session of CSTD
  • May 2025: Final revision of report and submission to ECOSOC
  • September – November 2025: Presentation by CSTD during General Assembly meeting

Summit of the Future and Global Digital Compact

The Global Digital Compact and the Pact for the Future – to be adopted at the Summit for the Future on 22–23 September 2024 – are also expected to inform the WSIS+20 review process. The Zero Draft of the GDC notes the following: 

‘60. We look forward to the WSIS+20 Review in 2025 to identify how WSIS processes can support practical implementation, including by adapting WSIS action lines to reflect Compact commitments and actions. We invite the WSIS+20 Review to consider how youth perspectives can be incorporated in this effort.’

Additional information

Read more about the GDC process, including our analysis of the Zero Draft.

IGF 2024

A key outcome of WSIS itself, the IGF – with its 14th annual meeting scheduled for 15–19 December 2024 – is likely to feature multiple discussions and consultations related to the WSIS+20 process. 

Other activities

Various other activities and events – organised by UN agencies or other actors – are also meant to support or contribute to the overall WSIS+20 process. Below is an non-exhaustive list: 

Additional documents and information