European countries adopt declaration 'towards an information society' at UN-backed meeting

European countries adopt declaration 'towards an information society' at UN-backed meeting

Concluding a three-day UN-backed meeting in Bucharest aimed at preparing for the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society, European countries today adopted a declaration containing a set of principles and a strategy for action on the issue.

"Full exploitation of the new opportunities provided by information and communication technologies (ICTs) and of their combination with traditional media, as well as an adequate response to the challenge of the digital divide, should be important parts in any strategy, national and international, aimed at achieving the development goals set by the Millennium Declaration," the text states, referring to the landmark targets set by world leaders meeting at the UN in 2000.

The Bucharest Declaration contains seven principles on: securing access to information and knowledge; promoting universal access at affordable cost; promoting linguistic diversity and cultural identity; developing human capacity through education and training; setting up an enabling environment, including legal, regulatory and policy frameworks; building confidence and security in the use of ICTs; and addressing global issues.

Addressing participants, Paolo Garonna, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), pledged to contribute to utilizing ICT to help governments developing national strategies in the field.

If these strategies are to work, he added, they must involve business, civil society and non-governmental organizations in an "inclusive consultation process."

"The countries in this region have developed a leadership role in technological development and, after the fall of the Berlin wall, have now a common understanding of the importance of the rights and freedoms of 'open societies' and functioning market economies," he said. "Therefore they have a tremendous responsibility in championing together the principles of the Information Society in the global context as we prepare for the World Summit."

In addition to backing the Bucharest Conference, the ECE organized three main events: a Round Table on "Building a Gender Sensitive Information Society," a discussion panel on "Open Standards Development" and a meeting on "E-policy and E-regulation."

The World Summit on the Information Society will be held in two phases, first in 2003 in Geneva and then in 2005 in Tunis.