World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024
ITU | UNECE

UN’s WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event strengthens path for digital cooperation

Multi-stakeholder forum reaffirms WSIS role as platform for future of digital technology and sustainable development

High-level participants from over 160 countries reiterated the increasing importance of the framework provided by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) at the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event 2024, the world’s leading multi-stakeholder platform for digital development.

The vision of a strong role for mechanisms related to the WSIS process in international efforts on digital and sustainable development comes in advance of the September UN Summit of the Future and next year’s WSIS+20 Review.

“This year’s WSIS high-level event was an important step in preparing for next year’s WSIS+20 Review process,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “This week has shown, with the AI for Good Global Summit happening in parallel, that we are well on our way towards an information society that works for everyone, especially as technology continues to evolve.”

WSIS set out more than two decades ago to create an evolving multi-stakeholder platform to address issues raised by information and communication technologies (ICTs) at the national, regional, and international levels.

In 2005, when WSIS concluded, there were 972 million people online. Approximately 67 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.4 billion people, are now connected. However, about one-third of global population remains offline.

With less than six years to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and with 2.6 billion people still living without the Internet – the High-Level Event addressed present and future digital realities by reflecting on the impact of the World Summit on Information Society, which took place in two phases in Geneva (2003) and Tunis (2005).

A process for moving forward

Chair’s Summary​ covers the nearly 200 sessions from the week-long event, including fourteen high-level talks and a Ministerial Roundtable, on topics such as cybersecurity and trust, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies, meaningful access to infrastructure as well as content, and the digital divides.

The discussions emphasized the value of reflecting on past achievements to guide future progress. There was broad agreement that effective existing frameworks like the WSIS Forum, Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and NETmundial, should be leveraged and built upon.

“WSIS outcomes remain highly relevant. The WSIS Principles and Action Lines continue to serve as a pertinent framework for discussions on digital policy and governance issues,” said Albert Rösti, WSIS+20 Forum Chair, in the Chair’s Summary. Rösti is also Federal Councillor of Switzerland’s Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy, and Communications.

The WSIS Action Lines are a set of 11 priority areas for UN efforts to connect technology and development that also provide guidance to policymakers and other stakeholders.

The Chair reaffirmed that although much has changed since WSIS was established two decades ago, WSIS outcomes provide a comprehensive roadmap for leveraging information and communication technologies for sustainable development and social inclusion.

A forum that welcomes the world

Participants taking part in the WSIS+20 Forum included representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, the technical community, the UN System and intergovernmental organizations.

The WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event was attended physically and remotely by over 7,000 participants.

The WSIS+20 High-Level Event was co-hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Swiss Confederation, and co-organized with UNESCO, UNDP, and UNCTAD.

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