[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016]
The Opening Ceremony of the WSIS Forum 2016, which coincided with World Press Freedom Day, focused on the outcomes of the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting (December 2015) and the aim of aligning efforts between the WSIS and sustainable development goals (SDGs) processes.
As stated in the WSIS+10 outcome document, it is necessary to reach ‘close alignment between the World Summit on the Information Society process and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighting the crosscutting contribution of information and communications technology to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and poverty eradication, and noting that access to information and communications technologies has also become a development indicator and aspiration in and of itself.’
The forum therefore opens up a space for key dialogue among various stakeholders, including governments and civil society, to discuss the use of ICTs as enablers and accelerators of the SDGs.
The ceremony started with a video message from UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, who emphasised the benefits of ICTs and their potential to empower people, as well as the necessity to utilise ICTs to reach the 2030 SDGs.
ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao appealed for collaboration among stakeholders, with the aim of strengthening everyone’s engagement and commitment throughout the forum. He emphasised the importance of dialogue among panellists and the audience.
Other speakers emphasised the inclusive approach of the WSIS Forum. As part of the process, projects were being undertaken in developing countries to tackle the needs of citizens. The need to put the citizen’s needs at the centre, while embracing digitalisation, was also reiterated.
Heads of UN agencies discussed the need for cooperation among governments, the business sector, and civil society, and the need for a well-developed digital infrastructure for actors to be able to participate in the global debate on connectivity. The need to empower women in the digital field was also stressed.
Following the appointment of the WSIS Forum 2016 chairman, and the announcement related to the High-level Track Facilitators, the floor was given to panellists to deliver the High-Level Opening Policy Statements. The panellists referred to the importance of trust in securing cyberspace, noting also the importance of a multistakeholder approach in utilising ICTs to reach the goals. The diversity and needs of local communities, especially with regards to the building and shaping of a global, interconnected information society, was also noted.
During the High-Level Strategic Dialogue on WSIS Action Lines and SDGs, panelists were given the opportunity to answer three questions on the link between the WSIS Forum and the 2030 goals, including challenges and opportunities. The dialogue was moderated by of Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda.
The panellists referred to the need for an integrated approach on development issues as a much-needed outcome of the WSIS Forum. The use of ICTs as the engine that helps attain the objectives was reiterated, including the idea that science and society need to work hand-in-hand, rather than science serving society through a top-down approach. ICTs can help bridge not only the digital divide, but also the gender gap especially in the regulatory and policy environment.
At the end of the Opening Ceremony, Mr Houlin Zhao presided over the WSIS Project Prize Ceremony, awarding prizes to 18 winners in recognition of their work in implementing the WSIS outcomes.
by Laetitia Honsberger