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As the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) moved into its third day today in Geneva, United Nations officials continued to stress the need for global cooperation in spreading the potential power of information and communications technologies (ICT) in development activities as well as taking into account the needs of those in poorer countries.Speaking during the Summit’s morning session, Imelda Henkin, Deputy Executive Director for Management of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said the agency believes that technology has a vital part to play in creating a new form of empowerment if it can be used to benefit the poorest by fostering knowledge generation and sharing at all levels of society.UNFPA also recognizes that it is equally important for countries and communities to be able to capture, synthesize and apply knowledge that is vital for their own development, Ms. Henkin said. Respect for cultural differences and experiences should be at the heart of the Summit and that capturing, synthesizing and sharing these experiences could pave the way for the development process as a basis for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).In his statement, Michel Jarraud, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), noted that ICTs have played a key role in meteorology since the 19th century with the advent of the telegraph. The information society, therefore, needs to further the capabilities of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in producing and delivering information, warnings and comprehensive and effective services to population in support of safety of life and property and the general welfare of the people in a wide range of weather-sensitive economic sectors.He re-emphasized that the availability of information technology has a key role to play in enabling and fostering access to weather, water and climate information and services, and that it should help to pave the way for sustainable development in developing and least developed countries, enabling populations and various economic sectors to benefit from comprehensive and effective information and warnings in support of safety of life and property and of economic and social development.For his part, the Executive Director of the UN Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), Amir A. Dossal, said finding solutions to complex problems – like polio, HIV/AIDS, access to safe drinking water, environmentally sustainable growth, refugee crises, and the digital divide – were too vast and too complex to be confronted by sovereign States or the United Nations alone.Numerous innovations were coming from developing countries, which need to find their way to other countries, so that they may benefit with what works and what does not, Mr. Dossal said. More importantly, they were contributing to national efforts to meet the MDGs, which have now been placed at the heart of the global agenda. “Working together, engaging with all actors of civil society is not only the best chance; it may also be the only chance we have to meet these global targets,” he said.In yesterday afternoon’s session, Juan Somavía, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the true measure of any technology was whether or not it improved lives. People were concerned about their families’ welfare, they wished to live in dignity and hope, and information and communication technologies were a channel to these aspirations.The promise was far from fulfilled, however, as the Summit needed to consider three issues: policies, with the right investment and employment policies designed to promote a fair society; the digitally excluded were often the socially excluded, and this should be remedied in a socially-conscious and respectful manner; and, protection of the workers in the information society, Mr. Somavía said.Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the global ICT revolution could accelerate broad-based growth and sustainable development. ICT development in Asia and the Pacific was moving at a rapid pace, but not all countries and regions had benefited in the move towards the new global economy.Mr. Kim said the new information society provided an opportunity to catch up for these countries, and to bridge the digital divide, alleviate poverty, manage social integration and promote emerging social issues. The regional exchange of experiences and best practices, the regional networking of initiatives and pursuance of a common vision played a decisive role in the creation of the information society.For her part, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mervat Tallawy, said the new revolution of the information and knowledge society was most unconventional, since it was one where distances were becoming shorter, with great incentives for productivity and employment. However, challenges remained, with the digital divide between countries and societies which would continue to grow if every opportunity was not explored to remedy the situation.It was imperative to use the regional dimensions and regional integration to make the most of the revolution, and it was important within this dimension to unite national needs and international demands, Ms. Tallawy stressed. For the Western Asia area, this would prove to be a challenge, although ESCWA had undertaken many initiatives with the aim of removing difficulties and eliminating gaps in the region, and it was hoping that these steps would limit the digital divide and enhance cooperation with countries of the North, as well as help to create the information society in which peace would prevail.The Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, said respect for the dignity of human beings should be well represented through the development of ICTs. He reaffirmed the adoption of a common vision together with the information technology, which had an impact on freedom of expression. Governments should prevent the dissemination of hate speeches and other racist propaganda through the information media.The enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, health, to adequate housing and food, required more efforts, Mr. Ramcharan said. People should have equal participation in information technology, and they should be able to freely enjoy their rights. He pleaded for democracy to be strengthened while appealing for ICTs to work for the protection of human rights in general.


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