High Level Policy Statement for WSIS Forum 2015
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Madam Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, and respected colleagues, on behalf of the United States of America, thank you for organizing this High Level Track of the 2015 WSIS Forum.
As we continue to take stock of ten years of multistakeholder implementation of WSIS Action Lines, we respectfully ask all stakeholders to renew the focus on our collective responsibility to continue working towards the development of a people centered information society as we transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the evolving Sustainable Development Goals and the Post- 2015 Development Agenda.
At the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development’s 18th Session two weeks ago, we discussed the ten-year review of work done in the implementation of WSIS outcomes. And, we will further discuss that topic at the UN General Assembly this fall.
At the CSTD, it was clear that the majority of participants agreed on the benefits of the Internet and the multistakeholder system that governs it as the best means to continue work to achieve the WSIS vision and we intend to affirm that position in December.
Stakeholders, other than governments alone, manage many of the Internet’s most critical institutions including ICANN, the IETF, and others. Intergovernmental institutions, including UN agencies, are also increasingly incorporating the expertise and participation of nongovernmental stakeholders into those institutions and participating in the inclusive implementation of the WSIS vision.
The fact is that in the global management and governance of the Internet, intergovernmental authority has never been the prevailing power, and it shouldn’t be going forward. The innovation and tranformative effect for human empowerment that the Internet has produced over the last ten years are proof positive that the multistakeholder model, not only should continue, but deserves praise and recognition, reaffirmation, and reinvestment. The progress that we have achieved on these Action Lines to date, we have achieved together.
In addition to the Action Lines, WSIS had two other related outcomes in its Tunis phase: the Internet Governance Forum and Enhanced Cooperation.
The United States is a strong supporter of the IGF, and we believe that it is a hugely valuable forum for timely, candid, and multistakeholder dialogue on the current Internet policy issues of the day. It has matured and improved over the course of its 10 years, and continues to produce valuable output and resources for interested stakeholders around the world.
Enhanced cooperation, as conceived during the Tunis phase of WSIS, was meant to improve and strengthen the cooperation between and within existing institutions and organizations. On this front, even though new challenges continually emerge, enhanced cooperation has been a tremendous and ongoing success in regards to addressing the key issues of concern to governments and all other stakeholders.
What we have found through this process is that the exercise of governmental responsibilities does not mean, by definition, the writing and imposing of rules and regulations. In fact, oftentimes, in order to fulfill its responsibility to empower people and enable them to create and fulfill their own potential, government must do directly the opposite. It must set markets and people free. It must be humble and nimble, open and flexible.
The United States values the Internet’s stakeholders. We praise their achievement. And we intend to work with them to address the challenges the global Internet creates and make possible the continued development of the benefits it generates for people, business, and governments alike.
Take a minute, as many of us did at the 18th session of the CSTD earlier this month, to consider the world the Internet’s stakeholders have created compared to that under examination at the WSIS Summit a decade ago. According to the ITU’s World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database:
- Mobile networks covered 96 percent of the world’s rural population at the end of 2014, up from 34 per cent in 2005. And the wireless networks of today are dramatically more capable of delivering much richer services than those of a decade ago.
- International bandwidth delivered through submarine cables is estimated to have grown by more than 50 percent each year between 2007 and 2014 – making the promise of broadband accessibility a reachable goal in much of the world.
- And the proportion of households, globally, with Internet access at home rose from 32 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in 2014 due to declining costs while still delivering improved performance.
This is a record of global advancement. And leveraging the talents and passion of stakeholders moving forward is how we will address the remaining gaps and tackle new challenges.
We know that there remains a lingering digital divide between and within countries, including between rich and poor, men and women, and urban and rural communities. And we know that ICTs are the key enablers to close the gap to achieve economic growth, gender balance and social inclusion. The United States is prepared to do its part to join with others to increase access to ICTs and broadband connectivity across the world to address evolving SDGs and meet the global challenges of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Our work on the WSIS Action Lines is not done and for that reason we value the collaboration of so many UN agencies -- the ITU, UNESCO, UNDP, UNCTAD and others to achieve our common vision.
We believe that connecting people to the global network and ensuring that they have the skills and freedom to use that connectivity productively is our highest mission. It was addressed as such at the original WSIS meetings in 2003 and 2005, and we cannot afford to lose our focus on its overriding importance as we prepare for the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly in December that will conclude the ten-year review of WSIS implementation.
We also cannot afford to deny that the challenge is disproportionately real for women and disenfranchised communities. Governments will not solve these challenges alone nor will we solve them by centralizing direction or control. We live in an age where the key ingredients for innovation and growth are cooperation and collaboration.
We continue to welcome multistakeholder participation in the important work of actualizing WSIS Action Line goals. We believe that enabling the participation of all voices – whether they be from government, civil society, academia, the technical community, and business – is the best way, the most just and sustainable way, to implement the WSIS vision and we look forward to working with all of you to fulfill that vision.