Beirut, 23 March 2017 (Communication and Information Unit) – During the annual World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) which ends today in Switzerland, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) emphasized the role of new technologies to accelerate progress and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Arab region.
“Digital technologies are growing fast in the Arab region, contributing to development processes in all sectors and improving quality of life,” said ESCWA Executive Secretary Mohamed Ali Alhakim at a High-Level Strategic Dialogue Session on Multi-Stakeholder Partnership.
“The WSIS process can help garner these advancements and accelerate progress,” he added, stressing the importance of the Forum for building strategic partnerships with other entities working on the 2030 Agenda, and the crucial impact this can have on the Arab region’s digital community.
WSIS is the world’s largest gathering of the “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Development” community. In 2018, focus was placed on “Leveraging ICTs to Build Information and Knowledge Societies for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Mr. Alhakim especially highlighted links between innovation, youth, and gender equality: “We are determined to help member States in preparing national plans to achieve the SDGs, and to address all the ways that digital technologies can support younger generations to reach their full potential,” he said.
The delegation of ESCWA representatives at the Forum was also comprised of the Director of the Technology for Development Division, Haidar Fraihat, and the Chief of the ICT Policies Section, Ayman El Sherbini.
Speaking at an event on global and local women entrepreneurs and their journey to success, Mr. Fraihat reiterated the importance of ICTs to promote gender equality and highlighted the commitment of ESCWA in supporting women's empowerment in the Arab region.
On the sidelines of dozens of events, Mr. Alhakim met with members of the UN Group on Information Society (UNGIS), which includes the International Technology Union (ITU), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), to agree on an action plan to link the WSIS community with the 2030 Agenda.
In a bilateral meeting with the Secretary-General of ITU, Houlin Zhao, Mr. Alhakim shared an advance copy of the ESCWA report on Perspectives of Digital Economy in the Arab region, which provides recommendations for harnessing new technologies to produce economic growth and opportunities, and reduce inequalities.
The delegation also discussed joint cooperation with the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), Michael Møller, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, and the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Olga Algayerova.
“ESCWA is determined to support joint efforts by all regional UN bodies to link digital technologies that support the 2030 Agenda in the Arab region,” Mr. El Sherbini underscored during Arab inter-regional consultations organized by ESCWA.
Since the inception of the WSIS process, ESCWA has played a leading role in organizing regional meetings, profiling the information society in a series of biennial reports, and creating a regional plan of action for building the information society.
ESCWA also launched initiatives such as the “Arab dialogue on Internet governance” as well as the Arab Internet Governance Forum (IGF). These activities contribute to shaping the future of the Arab region, raise awareness about the digital technologies, and stimulate launching national IGF in several Arab countries.
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