HAMMAMET, TUNISIA, 24 June (ITU) -- The first preparatory meeting (PrepCom I) of the Tunis Phase opened today in Hammamet in the presence of Sadok Rabah, Minister of Communication Technologies and Transport of Tunisia; Mark Furrer, Swiss Secretary of State for the World Summit on the Information Society representing the Host Country of the first phase; and Yoshio Utsumi, Information and Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General. Some 900 delegates representing governments, international organizations, business and civil society are expected to attend the meeting which will run until 26 June 2004.
The PrepCom also elected its new President, Latvia's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Janis Karklins. A telecommunication engineer by profession, Mr. Karklins moved to diplomacy as Undersecretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before being posted to Geneva as the Ambassador of Latvia.
This meeting is crucial in that it is called to shape the focus and output of the second phase of WSIS while building on the momentum gained in Geneva to create the framework for an equitable and inclusive Information Society.
The session will centre on issues related to the Information Society in the follow-up to the WSIS Plan of Action including financing and Internet governance, explore possible outcomes of the Tunis Phase and agree on the organizational structure of the preparatory process leading up to the Summit in Tunis in November 2005.
Contributions tabled at the meeting indicate that most countries endorse the need for a political statement at the Tunis Summit. However, they also consider that issues on which consensus was reached in Geneva and, in particular, the key principles found in the Declaration of Principles, should not be reopened for discussions. Attention should instead be on how to implement the WSIS Plan of Action including national e-strategies, agreed performance evaluation and benchmarking mechanisms and post-Tunis follow-up mechanisms. Another area that is being stressed is the need to follow-up on the promotion of partnerships between stakeholders with proposed public-private partnership mechanisms. Several proposals are also aimed at engaging more fully civil society, business and the media.
The role of the various stakeholders in the construction of the Information Society and specific proposals on how each can contribute towards the realization of the action lines by the agreed deadline of 2015 is also seen by a number of participants as essential.
In developing the process that will lead to the Tunis Summit, it is proposed to maintain regional and thematic meetings but in smaller numbers and with the more focused aim of developing regional and national plans that emphasize local solutions while reflecting the global agenda. Linkages to the Millennium Development Goals and the practical use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to narrow the digital divide together with mechanisms for sharing best practices and experiences are seen as areas of importance. As in Geneva, several countries support the organization of events alongside the core political Summit in Tunis, structured around the 11 themes of the WSIS Action Plan. Encouraging private sector participation, with a special focus on building partnerships around ICT applications needed to bridge the digital divide is also put forward as an important issue of the second phase.
In Geneva, two important themes were left unfinished. One is the question of financing mechanisms, the other relates to Internet governance. In both cases, working groups have been created to continue the work of the Summit. Representatives of the two working groups will brief this Preparatory Meeting in Hammamet.
For more information, please contact: F. Lambert, Head, Corporate Communication, ITU or S. Acharya, Communication Officer, WSIS Executive Secretariat, from 24 to 26 June, in Hammamet, tel: +216 72 24 18 24 or +216 72 24 18 21, mobile: +216 98 59 92 93 or +216 98 59 92 99, e-mail: email@example.com; after 28 June, in Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 6039, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.