The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) held a World Summit on the Information Society from 10 to 12 December 2003. The purpose of this Summit was to develop a vision and an understanding common at all levels of the problematic relating to the evolution of the information society and to adopt a Declaration and an Action Plan with jointly agreed development measures. The second phase of the World Summit was held in November 2005 in Tunis.
The idea for this Summit took shape during the ITU Conference of Plenipotentiaries which, in Minneapolis in 1998, adopted Resolution 73 calling for the holding of a world summit on the information society. In 1999, The Council of the ITU adopted another resolution deciding on the preparation for this Summit, after the Administrative Coordination Committee (ACC) had expressed unreserved support for the event during its session held in April 1999 in Geneva. Although it is true that the ITU played a leading role in the preparation and organisation of the first phase of this Summit, it was not acting alone, since the WSIS was held under the patronage of the Secretary-General of the UNO, Kofi Annan.
Why a Summit?
The world today is undergoing a genuine metamorphosis in which the information society of the 21st century is replacing the industrial society of the 20th century with which we are familiar.
The rapid convergence between telecommunications, the audio-visual sector, multimedia and the new information and communication technologies (NICT) is creating new products and new services as well as new management techniques, new markets - in short, and in the short term, a complete transformation of all aspects of our lives.
The speed at which this new society is evolving with its new, hitherto unknown information and communication technologies constitutes a considerable challenge for all countries.
The Summit's aim is to offer a global understanding of the situation and the challenges to come, and the proposed topics correspond to the essential problems which will be posed by the information society.
A high-level Summit organisation committee (HLSOC) was set up to coordinate the activities of the UN sector and supervise the work of the Executive Secretariat. It consists of a representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, various UN special agencies, the Executive Director of UNITAR; the Executive Secretariat of the UN Regional Economic Commission; and the President of the World Bank. The chairman of the HLSOC is the Secretary-General of the ITU.
The World Summit on the Information Society Executive Secretariat (WSIS-ES) was set up to support the preparatory work for the Summit; it is based at the ITU headquarters in Geneva. It is staffed by personnel from the member states, UN special agencies, the private sector, NGOs and civil society.
For the first phase, Switzerland, as the host country, set up its own Executive Secretariat, in which expert civil servants prepared the Geneva phase of the Summit. A professional conference organiser was entrusted with the logistical tasks. For the second phase, the host country Tunisia has established a similar structure.
A new kind of world summit
The World Summit assumes a new form. The incorporation of civil society and the private sector in Geneva was more pronounced than at any previous summit. In addition to the opportunity for policy discussions, more than 280 events were held. These Summit Events were coordinated and organised by Switzerland and achieved more than a one-way transfer of information: they served as meeting places and gave all the participants an opportunity to exchange experiences in an informal setting. It was possible to present practical ideas and solutions and set up partnership projects. A classic "win-win" situation for all stakeholders.
Sequence of events
The first phase of the World Summit was held in Geneva in December 2003 at the invitation of the Swiss government. The participants adopted a Declaration of Principles and an Action Plan. The second phase of the World Summit has taken place in November 2005 in Tunis, at the invitation of the Tunisian government.
Last modification 13.06.2007