• English

New York, 6 July 2000

Statement delivered by Ms. Danuta Hübner, Executive Secretary of the UNECE during the High-Level Segment of Economic and Social Council

Let me start with a general observation. For somebody coming from Europe, information technology is – in addition to everything that has been said so far about its role – an excellent mechanism to enhance regional cooperation and integration, for which we care so much in Europe.

My intention is to present briefly what the ECE has done to harness information and communication technology for European development and cooperation in addition to what has been presented in my written statement.

We have embarked on this process years ago. Maybe it was easier in our region where we have countries most advanced in both development and ICT.

In the process of preparing for this High Level Segment we have identified four major areas on which governments, business community and international organizations should focus to make sure that ICT contributes to economic and social development in Europe. These are the following areas:

mass education

telecommunication networks and infrastructure

regulatory framework

enterprise development

In the two latter policy areas ECE has accumulated particularly strong expertise and experience over the last years.

Two weeks ago ECE, in cooperation with the European Messaging Association held a two-day "Forum on e-commerce for transition economies in the digital age", attended by more than 400 top decision-makers from the region – government officials, international business leaders, international organizations, researchers. Its objective was to promote the development of internet and electronic commerce in countries with economies in transition, to review the internet infrastructure and prospects for new business services, to consider the potential of electronic commerce for small and medium size enterprises and to identify need for capacity building in transition economies.

The meeting has proved to be an excellent forum providing a mechanism to enhance the partnerships we need for ICT development – between public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.

Forum presented to the 4th Committee on Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development recommendations which were approved by member states. CTIED reviewed its program of work and established within a new working party a team of specialist on internet enterprise development that would exploit the business potential of new technologies in the ECE region. ECE member states decided that next year Forum will focus on the role of electronic services in stimulating innovation, investment and enterprise development. Forum led therefore to the establishment of a new instrument with a clear follow up strategy, based on networking and partnership of all stakeholders.

Another ECE instrument for ICT development is the UN/CEFACT (the UN Center for the Facilitation of Procedures and Practices for Administration, Commerce and Transport), established in 1996 and expanding increasingly beyond the region. Its name has been recently adjusted by member states as the UN Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business. The results of the Center’s work are encapsulated in recommendations for best practices and in standards for process related information. The change of the name is to more properly reflect the already existing, within CEFACT, twin emphasis on trade facilitation and electronic business. The six working groups of CEFACT gather more than 1000 experts from both governments and industries. They meet regularly to develop rules for electronic business. Let me just give you one example of its recommendation No 31 adopted in March 2000 which is the first legal framework for internet.

Yet another instrument was established when CEFACT and OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) decided earlier this year to join forces to initiate a world wide project to standardize extensible markup language (eXML) business specifications, particularly important for small business. This is yet another example of international partnership of ECE for ICT development.

One of the best known instrument developed by ECE is EDIFACT dealing with the standardization of electronic messages, now being used by more than half a million firms, administrations and organizations with the envisaged expansion to 3 million users by 2003. It is estimated that only for French fast moving industries EDIFACT triggered reduction of cost amounts to 4 bln USD. When EDIFACT met in Paris last March, 230 electronic experts from 158 organizations and firms from entire world took part.

In the ECE, we believe that for ICT development we must cooperate internationally. Let me give you an example of such a cooperation. ECE, ITU and two other leading international standard setting organizations – International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have signed MoU on electronic business with a view to minimize the risk of divergent and competing approaches to standardization in the field of electronic business. MoU has established a mechanism to produce mutually supportive standards, providing a vital framework for e-commerce. It is an excellent practical example of partnership, based on a review of activities in the area of standardization and on a coordinated program. This MoU is open to all those organizations whose core mission involves standard setting.

In ECE we also believe that for ICT development we must cooperate with other regional commissions. We do it in the area of capacity building. An example can be training organized by ECE for experts from ECA region. New project for countries of the Mediterranean region has been developed together with ECA and ECSWA in the area of capacity building and SMEs electronic business.

In ECE we also believe that on ICT development we must work with all those who understand and share concerns and interest in harnessing ICT for development. That is why all ECE activities in the area of ICT involve national administrations, private sector, research institutes, international organizations and non governmental organizations.

We also highly appreciate our close work with all those having ICT component in their work programs: UNCTAD, WTO, ITC, UNCITL, ITU, WIPO, OECD, EC. I want to thank all those who work with us, thus making our efforts more efficient and effective.