Beirut, 6 February 2003 (United Nations Information Service)--The
Western Asia Preparatory Conference for the World Summit on the
Information Society (WSIS) concluded today at the United Nations
House in Beirut by announcing two main documents: the Declaration
of Principles and the "Beirut Initiative" in presence of Lebanese
Minister of Telecommunications Jean-Louis Kordahi and the
Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for
Western Asia (ESCWA), Ms. Mervat Tallawy. Organized by ESCWA under
the auspices of the President of Lebanon, the Conference
represented an important opportunity to Arab states to start
bridging the knowledge gap they are facing.
Speakers at the closing session were: Minister Kordahi and
Abdulilah Dewachi, Regional Advisor of Communications and Computer
Networking at ESCWA who was also responsible for authoring the
Kordahi said that the effort invested in the three-day meeting was
aimed at taking clear stances in preparation for the Council of
Arab telecommunications ministers to be convened in Cairo in June
2003 and for the first phase of the Information Summit to be held
in Geneva in December 2003. He added that all drafts, remarks and
deliberations would be taken into consideration and would be
available for future reference on the ESCWA Web site.
The outcome of the Conference will be submitted to an Arab team
that is due to meet at ESCWA on 7 and 8 February in order to
prepare for the Cairo meeting. The team will consider the
possibility of proposing the "Beirut Initiative" for endorsement
in Cairo. The Cairo meeting is intended to present a final
document, which will include the joint stance of the thirteen
ESCWA Member States and the other Arab countries, to the
Dewachi, then, briefed the audience about the two documents. He
highlighted the priorities as they were adopted by the Conference
including the formulation of a practical Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) policy through the removal of
socio-economic barriers between privileged and unprivileged
segments of society; through narrowing the IC divide; and ensuring
homogeneous availability of ICT for all.
Priorities also included pursuing of e-government, e-business and
intra-regional trade through electronic networks, e-learning,
e-education and improving Arabic e-content.
"The Declaration should assist governments and enterprises in
their endeavor to formulate policies and take necessary actions to
ensure the pro-active inclusion of the region in the information
age," Dewachi noted.
Then, an abridged version of the "Beirut Initiative" was read. It
said its final form would constitute a comprehensive Action Plan
indicating how Arab countries in the region might approach the
transition into the information society, both individually and
collectively. It also stated that new technologies possessed
enormous potential for accelerating growth and enhancing social
development. Therefore, the "Beirut Initiative" promotes
socio-economic and innovation policies conducive to the creation
and upgrading of effective physical ICT infrastructure.
Finally, the floor was opened for debate. Several heads of
delegations and experts shared their remarks and concerns with the
audience and re-phrased parts of the two documents.