Opening Statement at the 2016 WSIS Forum
Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and
U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy
I am honored to be here chairing the 2016 WSIS Forum. This is the first Forum since the international community concluded its ten-year review of WSIS in December 2015, which presents an opportunity for us both to reflect on the past and to look ahead to the future.
It gives me an opportunity to express my appreciation for all the work that all of you have done to make this Forum possible. I know how much work goes into putting together an event like this. The UN staff and those that prepare us to be here are the unsung heroes of this event and for that they deserve our sincere thanks.
When the world came together in 2003 and 2005, delegates were only beginning to understand the potential of ICTs and the Internet. The question they had to grapple with was how to support the organic, bottom-up processes that were driving innovation and growth in this new space as it expanded from a research project to a global network. Fortunately, they chose to invest in, foster, and enrich that process.
Ten years later, in December 2015 in New York, the UNGA recognized and reaffirmed that this was the correct approach. By supporting those multistakeholder processes and structuring international efforts focused on people and development, implementation of WSIS has helped connect and empower more than 3 billion people and promises to do the same for the rest in the years to come.
With the High Level Meeting behind us, the question on everyone’s mind is “where do we go from here?” And since the focus of the WSIS has always been on how we can use ICTs to achieve internationally agreed development goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a natural place to start.
The 2030 Agenda is a milestone international agreement and an effective tool to advance our shared international development priorities. This new agenda and its 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will catalyze action to increase sustainable economic and social development for people all over the world.
The U.S. Government is heeding the SDG call to action at both the national and international levels to increase access to ICTs, as well as the ability to use them as a tool for development. For example, U.S. President Obama unveiled the Connect ALL Initiative in March 2016 to help Americans, at every income level, get online and have the tools to take full advantage of the Internet by connecting 20 million more Americans by 2020.
At the international level, the U.S. Department of State recently launched the Global Connect Initiative, which aims to catalyze multistakeholder efforts to help bring 1.5 billion additional people online by 2020. These initiatives, among many others, add to the collective effort by stakeholders around the world to bring the potential of ICTs to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The WSIS and the Millennium Development Goals had only informal linkages, but it’s clear that the WSIS Framework had a significant impact on progress towards achieving the MDGs. The WSIS+10 High Level Meeting recognized this progress and called for continued, close linkage between the WSIS and the 2030 Agenda.
Although there is no single SDG that specifically focuses on information and communication technologies or increasing Internet access, there is broad acknowledgement that the continued development and deployment of ICTs are critical to realizing the SDGs and also to measuring them.
We believe that continued implementation of the WSIS Action Lines will organically contribute to the 2030 Agenda. We also believe that the WSIS community’s work will foster greater connections among Internet and development stakeholders and allow for a stronger, and more realistic, understanding of ICTs’ potential and the challenges constraining it in difficult development contexts.
ICTs can also play a crucial role in monitoring and measuring progress towards sustainable development, by facilitating data-gathering and analysis of indicators adopted for every Goal and target. UN agencies, including the ones that are co-facilitating this event, have begun work to identify these indicators.
I look forward to continuing this discussion with all of you this week. The WSIS Forum is an annual platform for discussion and sharing of best practices in the implementation of the WSIS outcomes among all stakeholders. I encourage you all to take the opportunity the WSIS Forum presents to meet new people, forge new connections, and foster new dialogue.