UNESCO has released comments on a working document laying the ground for the United Nation’s General Assembly WSIS+10 Review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes. The Organization welcomes in its comments the emphasis on a “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented” Information Aociety. The commentary also lists areas for possible improvement and proposes amendments, including a vision of building inclusive Knowledge Societies.
UNESCO has facilitated much of the implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and has substantially contributed to the ongoing WSIS+10 Review Process. It submitted a 45 page contribution to the process that culminated in the working document (called “non-paper”).
Over 50 responses from UN Member States, the private sector, the technical community, civil society and intergovernmental organizations were received for improving this working document. Based on all the feedback, the co-facilitators of the WSIS+10 Review process, Latvia and United Arab Emirates, will produce a Zero-Draft Paper. This will be released beginning of October.
UNESCO supports the process and the emphasis put on “a people-centred, inclusive and development orientated” Information Society. This aligns with UNESCO’s view that WSIS is about societies in which information, knowledge and technologies are catalyzers for sustainable development.
In its submission, UNESCO also highlighted areas that could be enhanced. First, the working document focuses on technology issues at the expense of parts of the enabling environment, despite their equal importance. Some areas, which are tremendously important for building inclusive knowledge societies, are not sufficiently well integrated; others are not even mentioned once. This includes education, freedom of expression, cultural diversity, ICT applications and the crucial role of sciences in the process leading to inclusive Knowledge Societies. UNESCO proposed that there should be a more prominent recognition of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and a reference to the safety of journalists.
Second, noting further that the working document lacks an explicit mention of Knowledge Societies, UNESCO pointed out that Knowledge Societies are now part of the adopted SDGs (para 15). The Organization therefore suggests remedying this issue as a way to raise awareness that knowledge divides are equal to digital divides in the challenge that they present to development.
Third, UNESCO suggested that at a WSIS+10 Review, an explicit reference to the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines would be appropriate. This should be a recognition of all stakeholders work and goes beyond the Action Line UNESCO facilitates, including the Action Lines on “Access to Information and Knowledge” (C3), on “E-learning” (C7), on “E-science” (C7), on “Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content” (C8), on “Media” (C9) and on the “Ethical dimensions of the Information Society” (C10).
These are the next steps in the UNGA WSIS+10 Review Process:
The Zero-Draft Paper will be published beginning of October. It will be then discussed in meetings at the UN in New York from 19-22 October. A final version setting out the future of WSIS will be decided at a UNGA High-Level Meeting on 15-16 December 2015.