Recognizing WSIS Impacts

Unless it acknowledges key characteristics of the Internet, the World Summit on the Information Society will easily undermine it

WTDC Resolution 82

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WTDC RESOLUTION 82 (Dubai, 2014)

Preserving and promoting multilingualism on the Internet for an inclusive information society

The World Telecommunication Development Conference (Dubai, 2014),

  • considering
    • a) the provisions of Resolutions 101 and 102 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses;
    • b) Resolution 133 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on the role of administrations of Member States in the management of internationalized (multilingual) domain names;
    • c) Resolution 154 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on the use of the six official languages of the Union on an equal footing;
    • d) Resolution 69 (Rev. Dubai, 2012) of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), on non-discriminatory access and use of Internet resources;
    • e) that the mission of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU‑D) falls within the more general framework of ITU’s purposes, laid down in Article 1 of the ITU Constitution, and is formulated as follows: “The mission of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU‑D) shall be to foster international cooperation and solidarity in the delivery of technical assistance and in the creation, development and improvement of telecommunication/information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and networks in developing countries. ITU‑D is required to discharge the Union’s dual responsibility as a United Nations specialized agency and executing agency for implementing projects under the United Nations development system or other funding arrangements, so as to facilitate and enhance telecommunication/ICT development by offering, organizing and coordinating technical cooperation and assistance activities”,
  • recalling
    • Resolution 20 (Rev. Hyderabad, 2010) of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), on non-discriminatory access to modern telecommunication/ICT facilities, services and related applications,
  • recognizing
    • a) Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, to the effect that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”, and “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits…”;
    • b) Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, designed to impose specific obligations in regard to protection against sexual, religious, racial or other forms of discrimination, which stipulates that: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language”;
    • c) United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992, adopting the Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, which states that: “States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity”;
    • d) the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Statement of 1997 on universal access to basic communication and information services, which asserts that: “… the information and technology gap and related inequities between industrialized and developing nations are widening: a new type of poverty – information poverty – looms”;
    • e) § 25 of the Millennium Declaration approved by UNGA, which refers to measures aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the United Nations in human rights and public information efforts;
    • f) UNGA Resolution 35/201, approved at the 97th plenary session on 16 December 1980, transmitting the recommendation on promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace;
    • g) the report drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Internet Society in 2012, entitled “The relationship between local content, Internet development and access prices”, which informs us that there is a strong correlation between the development of local network infrastructure and the growth of local content, that local content is growing in volume as a result of investment worldwide, and that its composition is changing and local content is no longer dominated by developed countries, but is more representative of the diversity of multiple cultures, languages and communities existing in the world1,
  • emphasizing
    • a) the role played by ITU in the successful organization of the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and that the Geneva Declaration of Principles and the Geneva Plan of Action, adopted in 2003, and the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, adopted in 2005, have been endorsed by UNGA;
    • b) the WSIS 2003 Declaration of Principles and its commitment to “build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge”;
    • c) that the Internet is a subject of valid international interest and must flow from full multistakeholder cooperation, with a duty to guarantee equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and guarantee stable and secure functioning of the Internet, having due regard to multilingualism, on the basis of the outcomes of the two phases of WSIS;
    • d) that the Geneva Declaration of Principles aimed at “building the information society: a global challenge in the new millennium” establishes, as one of its fundamental principles, under § B8 (Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content), that “the creation, dissemination and preservation of content in diverse languages and formats must be accorded high priority in building an inclusive information society, paying particular attention to the diversity of supply of creative work and due recognition of the rights of authors and artists. It is essential to promote the production of and accessibility to all content – educational, scientific, cultural or recreational – in diverse languages and formats. The development of local content suited to domestic or regional needs will encourage social and economic development and will stimulate participation of all stakeholders, including people living in rural, remote and marginal areas”;
    • e) that the aforementioned Declaration of Principles also asserts that “the preservation of cultural heritage is a crucial component of identity and self-understanding of individuals that links a community to its past. The information society should harness and preserve cultural heritage for the future by all appropriate methods, including digitization”;
    • f) that, similarly, at the WSIS meeting in Geneva, UNESCO introduced its concept of knowledge societies, emphasizing plurality, diversity and inclusion, and highlighting that the use of ICTs has to take into account universally recognized human rights, focusing on four principles: freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, cultural and linguistic diversity and quality education for all;
    • g) that the UNESCO Convention of 2005 on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression stipulates that: “Equitable access to a rich and diversified range of cultural expressions from all over the world and access of cultures to the means of expressions and dissemination constitute important elements for enhancing cultural diversity and encouraging mutual understanding”;
    • h) that UNESCO has provided assistance to Member States in the implementation of the policy guidelines assembled in the recommendations for decision-makers, and carried out various training activities in respect of universal access to information and the promotion and use of multilingualism, in conjunction with the Organization of American States (OAS);
    • i) that the Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources of 2012 recommends that States, within their capacities and authority, inter alia, promote the understanding and use of open educational resources, facilitate enabling environments for use of ICTs, reinforce the development of strategies and policies on open educational resources and encourage the development and adaptation of open educational resources in a variety of languages and cultural contexts,
  • taking into account
    • a) that International Mother Language Day, proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in November 1999, has been observed yearly since 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, and that the 2011 edition focused on the theme “Information and communication technologies for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity”;
    • b) that, in the changing telecommunication/ICT environment, a continuing challenge facing the Union is to remain a pre‑eminent intergovernmental organization where Member States, Sector Members and Associates work together to enable the growth and sustained development of telecommunications and information networks and applications, and to facilitate universal access so that people everywhere can participate in, and benefit from, the emerging information society;
    • c) that ITU is deploying maximum efforts, in collaboration and coordination with competent organizations in the field of Internet governance, to bring the greatest possible benefits to the world community;
    • d) that, at the operational level, ITU has been carrying out the tasks assigned under the WSIS outcomes, in its capacity as: lead facilitator (along with UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)) for coordinating the multistakeholder implementation of the Geneva Action Plan; facilitator for Action Lines C2 (Information and communication infrastructure) and C5 (Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs) and, at UNDP’s request, having accepted to play the role of facilitator for Action Line C6 (Enabling environment); co-facilitator for Action Lines C1 (Role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development), C3 (Access to information and knowledge), C4 (Capacity building), C7 (ICT applications: Benefits in all aspects of life) and C11 (International and regional cooperation); and partner in Action Lines C8 (Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content) and C9 (Media);
    • e) the 2012 report by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which makes it clear that content and broadband-enabled services in local languages as well as the capacities of local communities to create and share content are important drivers of the use of broadband infrastructure by local population;
    • f) the 2013 report of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which presents a series of strategies that governments worldwide, in particular the developing countries and other entities interested in education, should adopt in order to derive maximum benefit from the advantages offered by ICTs, including promoting mobility of education and open educational resources, supporting the development of content adapted to local contexts and languages, etc., pointing to the need to create ecosystems of online educational applications and services with local and homegrown content,
  • resolves to instruct the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, in collaboration with the Director of Telecommunication Standardization Bureau
    • to include in the work programmes of relevant ITU‑D study groups necessary actions to preserve and promote multilingualism on the Internet and the provision of a huge range of social services, from health to education, with focus on the development of digital content from popular cultures and minority groups using a range of non-mainstream languages which are currently not covered in the Internet, in order to contribute from ITU‑D’s vantage point, with the Member States, to guaranteeing digital inclusion, building an inclusive and plural information society, and prompting calls for action within the framework of ITU so as to ensure that the importance of preserving linguistic and cultural diversity is recognized, within the framework and available budgetary resources of ITU‑D,
  • further instructs the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau
    • 1 to ensure that, in all ITU‑D programmes, projects and activities, due account is taken of the need to resolve the issues that hamper the preservation and promotion of multilingualism in the digital ecosystem of the Internet and associated services;
    • 2 to consider holding seminars, symposia or forums for policy-makers, telecommunication/ICT regulators, Sector Members and interested stakeholders, at which public policies for protecting linguistic and cultural diversity of communities, peoples and minority groups and persons with specific needs are presented and discussed, so that their voices are heard and their identities, lifestyles, etc., are taken into account;
    • 3 to collaborate with the Radiocommunication Bureau and the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau in regard to their activities to promote awareness and mainstream policies, and in the creation of programmes and projects that help developing countries foster linguistic diversity and multilingualism on the Internet;
    • 4 to provide advice to, evaluate and supervise projects, initiatives and programmes, so as to determine their impact in terms of preserving and promoting linguistic diversity and multilingualism, under Resolution 17 (Rev. Dubai, 2014) of this conference on regional initiatives, where appropriate;
    • 5 to report to the ITU Council on the implementation of this resolution,
  • invites Member States and Sector Members, Academia and Associates, as appropriate
    • 1 to participate actively in all international discussions and initiatives for guaranteeing the preservation and promotion of multiculturalism and multilingualism in the digital ecosystem of the Internet and associated services, with a view to ensuring universal access and bringing multilingual societies to life, and strengthening dialogue between cultures, openness and mutual understanding, tolerance towards others, etc.;
    • 2 to submit contributions within ITU‑D in order to facilitate effective implementation of this resolution;
    • 3 to promote the creation of capacity building to develop local digital content, in rural contexts and within vulnerable groups of the population, in order to preserve multiculturalism and promote their regional, national and local integration;
    • 4 to contribute, with UNESCO, which is the facilitator for implementation of WSIS Action Line C8, focusing on concerns and requests for assistance, in particular from developing countries, to facilitating and fostering affordability of international Internet connectivity, and thereby overcome language barriers and increase use of the Internet;
    • 5 to contribute to the establishment of regional, national and local strategic plans to promote sites which ensure and foster linguistic diversity and multilingualism in the digital ecosystem of the Internet;
    • 6 to contribute to studying appropriate mechanisms for converting digital archives in non-mainstream languages, with a view to fostering socio-economic development and information and knowledge sharing between communities and groups with specific needs, and so that more and new voices can benefit from the potential offered by telecommunications/ICTs;
    • 7 to recommend measures within their competencies for cooperation with academia, civil society and other interested and involved stakeholders, under a multistakeholder approach, with a view to reducing disparity, exclusion and discrimination in terms of opportunities, by exploiting the potential that protecting and safeguarding languages not present in the digital ecosystem of the Internet offers;
    • 8 to promote awareness among equipment manufacturers and designers regarding the advantages of introducing in the regions already identified by UNESCO alternative alphabets for languages not present in the digital ecosystem of the Internet, to be used by people with different native languages, and thus contribute to moving forward towards digital inclusion, respecting their cultural identity,
  • invites the Secretary-General
    • 1 to bring this resolution to the attention of the next plenipotentiary conference, for its consideration, taking into account past accomplishments, by allocating the necessary human resources to make effective contributions to ITU‑D’s activities for institutionalizing the issue of multilingualism within ITU;
    • 2 to bring this resolution to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in an effort to promote increased cooperation and coordination for development policies, programmes and projects in order to make progress in linguistic diversity and the Internet, in line with the principles of equitable access, functional equivalence, affordability and universal design, fully harnessing the available tools, guidelines and standards, for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and digital exclusion.

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