Welcoming the Commission to its first meeting at UNESCO Headquarters, the Director-General highlighted the importance of the focus of the Panel’s meeting on the ways to promote “the building of a people-centred, development-oriented and inclusive information society, with a view to enhancing digital opportunities for all people”.
Throughout the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) process, UNESCO advocated that “the information society should be viewed from a social and human perspective, not just in terms of technology and connectivity”, said Mr Matsuura. “ We have argued that new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are not an end in themselves, but a tool for improving the human condition – a lever of development and democracy. […] From UNESCO’s point of view,” Mr Matsuura added, “one of the Summit’s most important achievements is to show that the information revolution is embedded in larger social processes – in science, in education, and in culture.”
Referring to the lead roles entrusted to UNESCO and CSTD in the follow-up to WSIS, the Director-General explained that the current challenge is to ensure that “the new, more integrated, more holistic vision of the information society” that emerged from WSIS is “acted upon and translated into reality”.
In the context of the imminent release of the report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence (HLP), Mr Matsuura felt that a major element in the WSIS follow-up would lie in achieving complementarity of action among the many stakeholders of the information society. “The challenge is to build greater synergy and coherence among agencies, while still drawing on the full range of expertise across the UN”.
Referring to the good relations between UNESCO and UNCTAD, Mr Matsuura noted that the shared determination “to mobilize advances in science for the benefit of humankind has created a solid foundation for partnership.” He highlighted three areas in particular for future collaboration: creation of scientific research networks and centres of excellence; policy advice, and reinforced collaboration in Africa.
“The effective cooperation in these areas will impact strongly on the WSIS follow-up. Our commitment to creating digital opportunities for all is integrally related to our success in strengthening scientific capacity, in particular in the developing world. We must therefore make sure that our work in ICTs is fully integrated with our work in more traditional fields of science and technology”, Mr Matsuura noted in conclusion.
In their ensuing bilateral meeting, Mr Matsuura and Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, expressed their support for the underlying message of the HLP report, pointing to the need to discuss future UNESCO/UNCTAD cooperation within a framework of enhanced UN system-wide coherence.
In this regard, the Director-General underscored the importance of building on best practices and drawing on the main strength of the UN system – its rich and diverse sectoral expertise-, suggesting that in the future UNESCO and UNCTAD also include UNIDO in their collaborative projects on science and technology.