The Pan European Regional Ministerial Conference in preparation of the World Summit on the Information Society
Bucharest, Palace of Parliament, 7-9 November 2002
Closing statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
On behalf of the UNECE, I congratulate the Romanian Government on the successful organization of this conference and would like to express my thanks and appreciation for hosting the Pan European Regional Ministerial Conference in preparation of the WSIS in Bucharest. We benefited from the skilful organization of the high-level policy discussions, interactive dialogue among governments, business sector and civil society, debates on e-government, e-learning, e-inclusion, on an environment conducive to investments in the Information Society (IS), on Youth as a part of IS, on building a gender-sensitive IS, the role of mass media in promoting IS, etc. But we also enjoyed traditional Romanian hospitality and friendship. I would like to thank particularly the two key personalities who made this Conference happen: the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mr. Dan Nica, and the Ambassador to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Secretary General of the Conference, Mrs. Anda Filip. Their extraordinary involvement in the preparation of the Conference is - I am sure - also a guarantee for the follow-up to it which will ensure the real success of the Conference.
I also congratulate the Governments' representatives on the success of adopting the Declaration of the Fundamental Principles defining the main directions for strategies for developing an information society. It is primarily a responsibility of Governments to develop e-strategies and to implement them. However, the preparation and far more efficient implementation of the national e-strategies require the close cooperation of all stakeholders - Governments, private sector and civil society. As expressed in the Preamble of the Bucharest Declaration "their contribution is vital in the efforts to bring full benefits of the IS to all". As the importance of civil society in developing IS is so far not sufficiently understood I would like to underline its indispensable role in ensuring that some fundamental principles are put into practice, like securing access to information and knowledge, promoting diversity and cultural identity, building IS at community level, developing human capacity through education, training and skills, etc.
Our target is to develop an information society that would be more democratic, more accountable and more inclusive. The information and communication technologies have paved the way for the rise of the knowledge-based economy that has become an engine of economic growth in the developed-market economies. The emerging knowledge-based economy in the transition or former transition economies could be a driving force for more rapid economic and social developments that would accelerate the catching-up process. A major task for Governments, business and NGOs is emerging: to prevent a digital divide. Commitments based on shared responsibilities to work in partnership for the implementation of the Bucharest Declaration are of key importance. Nevertheless, the key objectives are not commitments but actions that would mainstream ICT into work aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The implementation of the Bucharest Declaration would promote the reduction of development disparities among economies, promote prosperity within the States by giving new opportunities to the younger generation and women and to underdeveloped - often rural - areas. The IS conferences are not considered to be "development conferences" but by their implications they are "development conferences".
One of the Bucharest Principles recognizes the role of international policy dialogue on IS that should promote the exchange of experience, including best practices, development and application of norms and standards, the transfer of know-how, etc. The international policy dialogue on IS started prior to this Conference: the Bishkek Conference on IS in September 2002 set up a new Bishkek-Moscow negotiation framework on the basis of which the dialogue continued further in Moscow on 21-28 October. Another example of the initiative set up by the group of countries is the newly agreed Regional Action Plan to reduce the Digital Divide between SEE and the rest of Europe, which was on the Stability Pact e-SEE Agenda for the Development of IS in Belgrade few days ago. The role of the UNECE is to promote these initiatives and to ensure that sub-regional cooperation extends to regional cooperation. The UNECE has actively supported this week's Conference and will continue to support follow-up actions as well as the intergovernmental preparatory process for the Summit. We would like to extend our activities in the development of gender and youth sensitive IS society. We will continue to work on the country assessment reports that measure the development of a knowledge-based economy in the UNECE member States. Nine of the reports have already been completed and are available on our website. I would particularly welcome more attention to this project from the more advanced members of the UNECE. The UNECE work in the e-applications in e-business, e-government, e-regulation and e-policies and e-standardization will continue. I would also like to inform you about two forthcoming events: UNECE will organize, in cooperation with the Italian Government, the International Seminar on E-Government in Italy, in December 2002, which will discuss how to make government less expensive and more efficient, and the 2nd UNECE Workshop on E-Regulation in February 2003 to which you are invited.
Before I conclude I would like to underline that the Bucharest Conference is a major contribution to the WSIS 2003 in Geneva on the road to a more prosperous, democratic and just world. We all have to work to make it happen.