U.S. Policy Statement for 1st UNGA Preparatory Meeting on the Ten-year Review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

Remarks
Ambassador Daniel A. Sepulveda
Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
United Nations General Assembly
New York City
July 1, 2015


Madam and Mister co-facilitator, excellencies, and respected colleagues, the United States of America is honored to participate in the first preparatory meeting of the UN General Assembly ten-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society.

We thank the permanent representatives from the Missions of Latvia and the United Arab Emirates for stepping forward to ably lead these important discussions. We especially thank the co-facilitators for focusing our discussions today on the three issues we all agreed last year should be the subject of the WSIS+10 review:

• Taking stock of the progress made in the implementation of WSIS outcomes;

• Addressing potential ICT gaps and areas for continued focus; and

• Addressing challenges, including bridging the digital divide, and harnessing ICTs for development.

Wisely, the President of the General Assembly has asked the multistakeholder community to address these same issues tomorrow. Their viewpoints are as valuable as ours and we look forward to participating in those discussions as well.

As we take stock of the implementation of WSIS, let us recognize progress, salute the stakeholders that have enabled it, and reaffirm our commitment to preserving and building on that progress. Take a minute to consider the world we live in today compared to where we were a decade ago:

• Mobile phone subscriptions have increased from 40% of the world’s population during the time of WSIS to over 96% today. That includes over 4 billion new subscriptions in developing countries alone.

• During that same time, the number of people using the Internet increased from around1 billion to over 3 billion people.

• Mobile broadband subscriptions, for which statistics were not even kept in 2005, have increased in developing countries from around 42 million subscriptions in 2007 to over 2.3 billion subscriptions today.

• At the time of WSIS, top-level domains were limited to a small subset of characters. Today, Internet domain names are available in a multitude of scripts including Cyrillic, Chinese, and Arabic, which better reflects the world’s diversity of languages and people.

• In many places, mobile communications are leapfrogging wired broadband development as the main conduit of information because people are demanding the ability to move themselves, ideas, and information seamlessly, without being tethered.

This is remarkable and unprecedented growth. It is a record of global achievement.

Our specific task during this preparatory process is to chart a course towards a consensus outcome at the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly in December. But our primary objective throughout the review process, has been to ensure that WSIS continues to facilitate the development and deployment of ICTs as tools for achieving our shared economic and social development goals for the people we serve.

So how do we use this final stage of the ten-year review to accomplish that task?

First, let’s identify what has worked and build on it.

It is clear that a major contribution to the rapid growth of ICTs over the past ten years has been private sector innovation, investment, and build-out of ICTs and telecommunication networks. Other stakeholders, including the technical community, academia, and civil society, have also driven innovation and adoption, as well as held public and private sector leaders to high standards of scrutiny, challenging us all to perform better.

It is this community that operates, interconnects, uses, and builds on the ICT platforms. They are the subject matter experts, and they are the ones driving the evolution and growth of the Information Society.

We, as governments, can and should enable the deployment and use of ICT products and services by creating an environment that rewards investment, sparks innovation, and facilitates the free flow of information. It is in this manner that we will make our greatest contribution to the future success of the Information Society. Governments will not capitalize on the opportunities of the digital world or solve the challenges it presents by acting alone, nor will we solve them by centralizing regulation or control over other stakeholders. We live in an age where the key ingredients for innovation and growth are cooperation and collaboration, flexibility and ingenuity. And we need the community’s multistakeholder support because they bear the largest share of the burden toward implementing solutions.

In order to ensure that WSIS continues to serve as a constructive and positive platform to facilitate ICTs for development and help us achieve the post-2015 development agenda, we should remain true to the principles set forth during the original World Summit a decade ago.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch on this task. Over the past few years, these principles have been reaffirmed by other WSIS review events. Throughout these intensive efforts and negotiations, we have benefitted from a spirit of mutual respect and a common mission to support the global public interest. And the WSIS outcome documents have provided a common vision and set of principles to guide our work. As we continue our efforts towards a consensus outcome document this December, we must follow that formula again.

We must ensure the WSIS+10 outcome document reaffirms the principles agreed at the World Summit and focuses on a review of our collective efforts to achieve the WSIS outcomes of building a people-centered, development-oriented Information Society. It should welcome continued practical implementation measures. It should welcome continued efforts to connect people to the Internet and ensure that they have the skills and freedom to use that connectivity productively. It should support efforts to use ICTs to achieve the SDGs. And it should once again reinforce the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, which continues to serve us well.

Further, we believe the Action Lines are broad enough to address a range of new and emerging technologies and to guide us towards the fulfillment of a new and ambitious post-2015 development agenda. We agree with those who have called for a concise and focused outcome document that addresses all the Action Lines in a holistic manner.

The WSIS outcomes clearly recognize the role of the multistakeholder community, and the Internet as one of the most powerful tools we have to enable other development goals. The United States believes that connecting people to the Internet and ensuring that they have the skills and freedom to use that connectivity productively is one of the primary missions of WSIS.

In that regard, two important elements came out of the Tunis phase of WSIS in order to facilitate discussion of Internet issues. The first is the Internet Governance Forum. The United States is a staunch supporter of the IGF and strong proponent for the continuation of its mandate. We believe that it is a critical forum for candid, multistakeholder dialogue on crosscutting Internet policy issues. It has matured and improved over the course of its ten years, and continues to produce valuable contributions to the sustainability and development of the Internet for interested stakeholders around the world. We must ensure that the IGF remains an inclusive, respected, and neutral convener of the international multistakeholder community for sharing ideas and engaging in dialogue.

The second issue out of Tunis was the process towards enhanced cooperation, which we recognize has different interpretations. The United States believes enhanced cooperation was meant to improve and strengthen the cooperation between and within existing institutions and organizations, and in forums like the IGF. On this front, we believe enhanced cooperation has been a tremendous and ongoing success for the key issues of concern to governments and all stakeholders. We believe we should recommit ourselves to such multistakeholder cooperation, and look for even more ways to work together to achieve it.

In closing, I would like to once again thank all the participants for attending this session. ICTs and the Internet are among the most powerful tools the world has seen to bring economic and social development to all people in every corner of the world, and to do so they must remain dynamic and open. We look forward to the opportunity to work together with each and every one of you to ensure that WSIS continues to facilitate that goal.