The week-long meeting was organized around 2 priority themes (Strategic foresight for the post-2015 development agenda and Digital development) and the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels, summarized in the Ten-Year Review Report.
During this week, a resolution on WSIS outcomes was negotiated, to be used as input for the related UN General Assembly process (June-December 2015). This resolution, together with another resolution on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) for development, will be put forward as the CSTD contribution for the ECOSOC High-Level Segment (July 2015) discussion dedicated to ‘Managing the transition from MDGs to the SDGs – what will it take?’
[Update] Highlights from CSTD 18th Session
8 May - Noon plenary:
After negotiations in the working groups during the morning, the plenary reconvened around noon.
WSIS negotiations and the final plenary session
The only remaining agenda item was the draft resolution on WSIS. Due to disagreement among the delegates, the working group finally decided to only add technical amendments and two additional paragraphs, drafted by a small group of delegations (paragraph 59 and 60 of the draft resolution). Other proposals that would substantially alter the text were withdrawn. The working group finally adopted the draft resolution at 6.30pm.
During the subsequent plenary session, Peter Major – who chaired the WSIS working group – concluded that, considering time constraints, the agreed-upon draft was the optimum decision that could be reached at that moment.
The final agenda item was the adoption of the draft report of the 18th session, currently only reflecting what happened between Monday and Wednesday. It will be completed to include the proceedings of the latter half of the week, as well as the items that the Commission agreed upon, including the report on the WSIS review and a reference to the website with a transcript of all statements made by the delegations. The report will be finalized within the coming 2-3 weeks.
Iran, Brazil and Russia stressed that a summary of the substantial discussions held between the delegates was to be included in the report. Subsequently, the draft report was accepted and the rapporteur was trusted with finalizing it.
The chair, Ms. Johnson, closed the session by thanking the delegates and the secretariat for accomplishing all the objectives of the session and for the spirit of compromise. Even though the WSIS draft resolution does not “accurately reflect the richness of the discussion”, we can leave here satisfied.
7 May: 2015 Drafting group work
Day 4 of the CSTD conference was centered on negotiating the draft resolutions on WSIS and STI for development. The negotiations were informal and took place in two separate rooms, one for each topic. At 3.00 pm, a short plenary session was held, in which the two heads of the informal drafting groups briefly explained the progress of the negotiations.
Progress in drafting groups
Mr Peter Major briefed the room on progress in the WSIS drafting group. Despite lengthy discussions, he sensed a good spirit of cooperation among the negotiators. Ms Victoria Romero talked about the negotiations in the STI drafting group and mentioned that they divided the resolution into thematic parts: strategic foresight, the post-2015 development agenda, digital development, and the mandate of the commission.
Then Mr Andrew Reynolds discussed the status of the draft decisions that would be adopted by the conference. He noted that there was no substantial comment on these decisions, which would result in the extension of the mandate on the gender advisory board for a period of 5 years, as well as the extension of decisions 2, 3, and 4, related to the involvement of technical entities and the business sector, for a period of 5 years. Mr Reynolds furthermore stressed the uniqueness and benefits of these mandates, as they facilitate a true multistakeholder approach.
6 May: Science and technology for development; and presentation of the STI Policy Review of Thailand
Science and technology for development
The morning session of Day 3 of the Conference focused on the two priority themes identified by the CSTD: strategic foresight for the post-2015 development agenda and digital development. The topic was addressed by several experts, who all contributed by relating their own expertise to the two topics. The opening statements by Mr. Bitar, Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue, Former Minister of Public Works, Education and Mining of Chile, offered an example of strategic foresight from Chile. He concluded that political commitment to strategic foresight is critical and that administrative capacities should be strengthened. Ms. Malcom, Head of the Directorate of Education and Human Resources, American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Member of the Gender Advisory Board, advocated for the inclusion of a gender dimension in the theme papers, both in their role of targets of the SDGs and of actors in shaping the SDGs, to account for the different ways in which technology might impact women.
The panel discussion can be summarised according to three themes:
1. The African experience and lessons for strategic foresight
Ms. Geci Karuri-Sebina, Chair, South African Node at The Millennium Project, suggested that African experience with strategic foresight should be considered to better understand how foresight could be used, as strategic foresight has to learn and improve. For example, it should be anchored in legitimacy and ownership, it should be relevant and context-specific, it should encompass an institutionalised monitoring and evaluation system, continuous resource support should be ensured, and continues communication and action should be pursued, to achieve an open system that strengthens inclusion and legitimacy.
2. The economic impact of digital technology
Mr. Katz, Director of Business Strategy Research, Institute for Tele-Information, Columbia University, presented research done at Columbia University on the transformative economic impact of digitisation. Among other things, his team created an index categorising countries along a number of dimensions of digitisation, including affordability, reliability, accessibility, usage, capacity and human capital. His key findings were that:
Mr. Graham, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor’s, Oxford Internet Institute study at Oxford University also focused on digital development and digital inclusion. Focusing on Africa, it evaluated both the impact of the high-end knowledge economy, such as innovation hubs and start-ups, as well as low-skill work resulting from digitisation and the possible creation of ‘digital sweatshops’. Especially in these low-skill sectors, wages vary over space, whereby East Africa particularly experiences considerable wage depression. Other findings include that, contrary to what is often believed, intermediaries are still prevalent in East Africa to connect the local market to the global resources of the Internet. Furthermore, East Africa needs to address the skills gap: despite the fact that connectivity is rising in this region, an understanding of the need of clients has to be improved in order for it to play a role in the digital market place.
3. The need for education in technology for development
The topic of education was introduced by Michael Heister, Head of Division for Vocational Teaching and Learning, Programmes and Development Programmes, Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Germany ,who built on the German experience in vocational education and training and stressed the way in which it could be an adequate way to respond to development problems. Mr. Bona, Advisor to the Director-General, CERN confirmed this view. Apart from outlining how CERN could cooperate with the United Nations by sharing its knowledge and support on UN action, he emphasised the crucial need for education, as knowledge depends on education to achieve ‘disruptive improvements’, which would provide the most significant jumps in social development. However, he argued that too often, technology transfer is not associated with knowledge transfer, while people that are sufficiently qualified to achieve disruptive improvements can only exist if a society stresses education. The promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education should therefore be present across the SDGs.
Presentation of the STI Policy Review of Thailand
The afternoon session explored the STI Policy Review of Thailand. Ms. Marta Pérez Cuso, the Economic Affairs Officer of the Policy Review Section, presented the findings of the review. Although Thailand has a strong base for an innovation economy, having significant knowledge infrastructure and a good business climate, it needs to be aware of five key challenges:
The main recommendations to Thailand were to:
Thailand’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, responded to these recommendations by outlining the policy plans of the Thai government and highlighting the actions that the government has already taken to improve STI in Thailand.
5 May: Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to WSIS outcomes at the regional and international levels - Substantive session on the ten-year review
The 10-year WSIS Outcomes Implementation Report is a comprehensive assessment of the developments since WSIS, put forward by the CSTD Secretariat after a series of consultations. It was drafted in collaboration with other UN agencies (ITU, UNESCO) and with feedback from different stakeholders, thus reflecting the various inputs received by CSTD, according to the Head of the CSTD Secretariat, Anne Miroux. Rapid and profound changes took place since WSIS (broadband, mobile internet, user-generated content and digital media, datafication/Big data analysis, cloud computing, Internet of Things), and these new challenges add to the existing challenges, thus needing responsive policies for today’s and tomorrows’s needs. Anne Miroux concluded that ‘the WSIS implementation should reach beyond the objectives set at the time of the Summit’.
Key areas of focus in the report and main points:
1. Implementing the WSIS vision
3. Action lines
4. Financial mechanisms
5. Internet governance (IG)
6. Multistakeholder cooperation to achieve WSIS outcomes
Reactions to the report
Strong concerns expressed by:
Highlights from CSTD 18th Session Opening Day
Opening Ceremony, 4 May
Welcoming remarks by: Ms. Omobola Johnson, Chair of the CSTD
Interventions emphasized the following opportunities and positive outcomes:
For Chehadé, ‘on the technical side things are going well’, and the WSIS process has contributed to that by starting initiatives and actions to ensure that the infrastructure is stable and resilient and serves everyone. He stressed that what was left to be completed from the WSIS agenda was ensuring that ICANN is independent from the oversight from any one party and reported that this has been completed with the withdrawal of the US government oversight function over IANA. ‘ICANN has changed from a Western-centric organization, its DNA has changed, ICANN is here to serve the world, not a subset of the population’, he concluded.
Yet, there is more to be done, both in the upcoming months in preparation for the transition to the SDGs and in the long-run:
The Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Commission provides the General Assembly and ECOSOC with high-level advice on relevant science and technology issues. UNCTAD is responsible for the substantive servicing of the Commission. The Commission has forty-three Member States elected by ECOSOC for a term of four years.
Meeting and background information