UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release


United Nations Regional Commissions Promote the Information Society –
From Declaration to Implementation

Geneva, 21 May 2007 -- The five United Nations Regional Commissions for Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia played an active role at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva 2003 and in Tunis 2005. The Regional Commissions were promoting national strategies and regional actions in the development of a global Information Society.

As a follow up to the WSIS Summits, and parallel to the 2007 Annual Session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the Regional Commissions are organizing an event entitled: “The Information Society – From Declaration to Implementation” at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 21 May 2007 (see programme).

The keynote speaker at this event will be the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, who will speak on the importance of developing a “European Shared Environmental Information System”.

Participants of the previous meetings agreed that a regional perspective is indispensable to navigate between national particularities and global requirements for the Information Society. The implementation process of the WSIS goals has demonstrated that the UN Regional Commissions are particularly well positioned to contribute to this challenge. The multifaceted nature of the UN Regional Commission’s work agenda contributes to the creation of networks and cooperation among the countless actors. Further strengths, such as presence on the ground, close contact to member countries and a UN-wide perspective, become fundamental to the implementation of the WSIS Plans of Action. While every country around the world has initiated some public policy related to the bridging of the digital divide and the digital opportunity, regional cooperation is one of the major platforms for exchanging experiences and introducing an international perspective for development without straining the developing countries nascent ICT efforts.

Discussions at this event will highlight the role Regional Commissions play in organizing technical assistance, capacity building and training. That role also entails facilitating peer dialogue, exchanging experience, promoting good practices and developing indicators and benchmarks. Foremost will be to ensure strong and continuous regional ICT agendas in developing regions, which are supported by the UN Regional Commissions, such as the African Information Society Initiative (AISI); ESCAP Asia-Pacific Knowledge Economy Initiative; ESCWA Regional Plan of Action for building the Information Society or the Latin American and Caribbean Action Plan eLAC2007.

The deployment of breakthrough wireless solutions and the impact of ICTs on accelerating the development of a knowledge-based economy have been identified as important issues. Experts have noted that t he UN Regional Commissions are contributing to the creation of indispensable ICT statistical information, being an active part of the Global Partnership for Measuring ICT for Development. First studies show the positive contributions ICT make to economic growth in developing countries.

Participants from Arab countries will stress that native language on the Web should be promoted to help increase the usage of the Internet. Monitoring and periodic profiling of ICT developments and trends at national and regional levels also play an important role in accelerating the information society and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

In Africa, a two-part e-Trade roadmap will capture both the content of the project and how policy and program development could be affected.

The ECE secretariat will announce the re-launching of the Convention’s Aarhus Clearinghouse for Environmental Democracy ( http://aarhusclearinghouse.unece.org), a global electronic portal designed to take advantage of the interactive potential of the Internet. The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) will give details of its major progress towards paperless trade through its UN electronic trade documents project, UneDocs.

Latin American and Caribbean policymakers are preparing for the Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in El Salvador, 6-8 November 2007, where the region will evaluate the implementation of eLAC2007 and discuss a new Action Plan with 2010 in mind. As a follow-up to the WSIS, ESCAP Member States have established the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT) in Seoul in 2006. ESCAP also plans to organize a Third Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. A new initiative for ESCAP will be the “Asia-Pacific Knowledge Economy Development”, which aims to assist member States in harnessing the ICT potential for economic growth and poverty reduction through regional strategies and action plans.

A good example of regional and international cooperation is the project on "Knowledge networks through ICT access points for disadvantaged communities", currently being implemented by the five Regional Commissions. Continued cooperation by the Regional Commissions will be instrumental in realizing the WSIS goals and maintaining the momentum of their implementation.


For more information on the work of the United Nations Regional Commissions on the Information Society, please consult the following websites:

Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) http://www.uneca.org

Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) http://www.unece.org

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) http://www.eclac.org/SocInfo

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) http://www.unescap.org

Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) http://www.escwa.org

Ref: ECE/GEN/07/P08