International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
- Name: International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- Submission Document: Download
Full SubmissionITU inputs for compilation document Executive summary The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is a historic opportunity to move the sustainable development agenda forward. The world has changed in fundamental ways since 1992; new and emerging challenges demand innovative responses, and new opportunities are now available to facilitate the transition towards a sustainable development paradigm.. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can notably assist in the transformation needed to turn this historic opportunity into reality. Drawing lessons from the outcomes of major conferences on sustainable development, ITU would like to advocate for concrete and measurable targets to be defined at the conference, coordination of actions at the local, national and international level as well as the integration of sustainability and development policies, and mainstreaming sustainability as a fundamental element of business as usual practices. Understanding the role ICTs are playing in the transition to the green economy is understanding our modern, fast moving and technology driven world. ICTs are a unique cost-effective, environmentally friendly and inclusive instrument to spur green growth and create jobs, promote social progress and the MDGs, and ensure environmental protection and a sustainable future. Thus, they should be recognized as one of the major cross-cutting drivers of sustainable development, allowing to successfully integrate all its three pillars Taking concrete steps, ITU would like to support the development of an enabling Framework and the creation of a Roadmap as concrete outcomes of the Rio+20 conference. Within the wide range of ?green economy? tools to be included in this framework, ITU advocates that the Rio+20 outcomes recognize ICTs as key vehicles and basic infrastructure driving the transition to green economy and sustainable development patterns, and also include access to ICTs, in particular access to broadband, as sustainable development goals to be endorsed by the conference. Among other issues, particular consideration should be given to ensuring market access and access to affordable, innovative technologies; building regulatory approaches promoting sustainable development, addressing market failures and channeling green investment to climate resilient infrastructure, resource and energy efficient solutions, green standards and green R&D; as well as to facilitating capacity building, transfer of necessary skills and resources, knowledge and information sharing among countries; and to fostering equitable and measurable progress via appropriately crafted indicators and specific goals to be attained. The time is right to make the best use of all the opportunities at our hands to move together the sustainable development agenda forward, with and through ICTs.. 1. A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY ITU believes that the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 1 is a historic opportunity to move the sustainable development agenda forward, and to provide the global community 1 UNCSD 2012 or Rio+20 conference. with a platform that will also allow all stakeholders to renew their commitment to sustainable development principles with a view of bringing together the social, economic and environmental pillars of development through an action-oriented outcome. Rio+20 provides an excellent opportunity for the UN system to work together towards a common goal and ITU stands ready to assist in this effort by offering to mobilize the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector in partnership with a full range of governmental, civil society and private sector stakeholders in order to reset the world on a sustainable development path. The world has changed in fundamental ways since 1992. New and emerging challenges such as new population patterns, food security and climate change demand innovative responses. The opportunity to address these challenges is also now possible through the use of ICTs, such as the Internet, mobile phones or satellites. With ICTs increasingly integrated into every aspect of the modern world, they have become a positive force of transformation and a crucial element of any institutional framework for sustainable development. ICTs can provide access to key public services, such as health, education and government services, with widespread implications on social, environmental and economic progress aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as the United Nations specialised agency for ICTs, is already actively contributing to the Rio+20 process by assisting its Membership to take full advantage of ICTs. Thus, ITU is being part of the collective effort of the international community to lay a firm foundation for a longer-term process of redressing imbalances, bridging the digital divide, and defining a course for measurable progress towards sustainable development goals. ITU strongly believes that the livelihood of our planet and the sustainability of future growth will rely critically on taking advantage of ICTs as drivers and central elements of a greener, fairer and more sustainable economy. ITU?s expectations for the preparatory process and for the outcomes of the conference are to see a reinforced and integrated sustainable development agenda that will explicitly recognize the untapped potential of ICTs, supporting reaching an agreement on a roadmap that will guide stakeholders in the implementation and in mainstreaming sustainable development patterns within organizations. In this effort, ITU can provide a significant input by leveraging the potential of ICTs to assist in the transformation needed to turn this historic opportunity into reality. Through this contribution, ITU is bringing the elements that believes should be channelled to the discussion in the preparatory process, as well as during the conference. 2. ADVANCING THE SUSTAINABILITY AGENDA: LESSONS LEARNED The outcomes from the majors conferences on sustainable development, in particular Agenda 21, have provided a powerful long-term vision for balancing economic and social development with the capacity of resources and ecosystems of our planet. In ITU´s view, the major achievement from these outcomes have been the extensive efforts conducted by governments, international organizations, local authorities, business, citizen groups and individuals to implement sustainable development. Stakeholder mobilization has been the key success for the past two decades of sustainable development agenda, but additional effort and commitment is needed to define a roadmap that will take full advantage of this platform of mobilized actors. In ITU?s view, implementation of a roadmap becomes a key success factor to advance the sustainable development agenda. ITU would like to advocate for the inclusion of the following elements into the outcomes of the conference, based on our experience of promoting development through the use of ICTs: ? Defining concrete and measurable targets could be one of the approaches to define a common set of priorities. Learning from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an agreed international framework of goals can assist governments, international organizations and the private sector to define concrete programs and actions to tackle the most urgent challenges over a defined timeline. Defining clear and transparent measuring, reporting and verification mechanisms to assess progress in achieving these sustainable development goals should be integral part of this framework. ? Promoting coordination of actions at the local, national and international level is another aspect that needs to be revisited in Rio. The international consensus on sustainable development envisaged integrated decision-making at the national and local levels, in the form of national or local Agenda 21 processes and sustainable development strategies. In practice, a number of coordinating and planning mechanisms have been used, often in parallel, and with similar or overlapping tasks, including conventional development planning, poverty reduction strategies, UN development assistance frameworks, national conservation strategies, national environmental action plans among others. These reflect not only the diversity of institutional arrangements but also differences in the understanding of the concept of sustainable development. This proliferation, also present at the international level of UN agencies, programs and processes, undermines the very purpose of these mechanisms. As a result, actions pursued in such fragmented ways have not had the desired impacts. ? Finally, we would like to promote integration of sustainability and development policies. Strategies to promote social and economic development and initiatives to protect environmental resources have traditionally been considered independently, both by the public and private sectors. Sustainability should not be merely an issue of Corporate social responsibility, but a fundamental element of business as usual practices. Similarly, national development strategies and international development programs should integrate environmental resource and energy efficiency criteria as key elements for their design. ITU is leading by example on this aspect, assisting the ICT industry in embracing sustainability practices through the development of green standards, methodologies and guidelines to improve the environmental performance of the ICT sector. 3. ENABLING THE GREEN ECONOMY TRANSITION THROUGH ICTS Despite the inspiring vision provided in the 1992 Earth Summit, the world has not made sufficient progress towards sustainable development. Additional and urgent action is needed at all levels. In order to surpass the existing implementation gaps and give greater impetus to the Rio+20 process, ITU supports the proposed ?green economy? action-oriented approach as an effective pathway towards sustainable development. To this end, it is of high importance to focus on concrete strategies and specific tools and sectors to facilitate and accelerate the transition to a green economy. The role of enabling regulatory frameworks, green or resilient technologies and applications, as well as the active involvement of the private sector, are undeniably crucial to succeed in these efforts. The ICT sector is one of the drivers that can assist in this transition. Understanding the role ICTs are playing in the transition to the green economy and sustainable development pathways is understanding our modern, fast moving and technology driven world. The fast evolution of ICTs and their accelerated adoption over the past decade have put ICTs at the center of today?s Information Society and Digital Economy, with various applications and impact on other economic sectors and areas of activities. This strategic position combined with the dynamic ?greening? and ?equalizing? potential of ICTs renders them key enablers of win-win-win scenarios in the context of sustainable development strategies. Through appropriate actions and policies, they can help induce economic transformation and job creation, achieve social goals such as social justice and poverty reduction and build sustainable, ?smart? societies, in an systematic, integrative and meaningful way. The key role of ICTs has already been acknowledged in different international instruments and outcomes of international summits as well as by other global initiatives. ? Agenda 21: The role of ICTs as a key element of sustainable development was mentioned in Agenda 21. Highlighting the most relevant references, chapter 31 2 defines the scientific and technological community as one of the nine major groups for achieving sustainable development, while chapter 33 3 highlights the use of environmentally sound technologies to protect the environment and use natural resources in a more sustainable manner. On a different angle, chapter 40 4 encourages stakeholders to support mechanisms to provide local communities with the information and know-how they need to manage their environment and resources sustainably. ? WSIS: The role of ICTs as drivers of the MDGs, has been widely discussed at the international level. The major international conference in which this issue was discussed was the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in two phases in 2003 and 2005. The WSIS outcomes provide an overall strategic framework for the deployment and use of ICTs as an enabler for development, which falls in line with internationally-agreed development goals in general and with environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources in particular, as mentioned in both the Rio Principles and in Agenda 21. ? BBCom: More recently, in 2010, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development 5 , a multistakeholder group of high-level officials, published the report ?A 2010 imperative: the future built on broadband? 6 , which highlighted that broadband networks are an essential and uniquely powerful tool for achieving the MDGs and lifting people out of poverty worldwide and laying the foundations to assist several sectors to become more sustainable. This report, produced with support from ITU and UNESCO, was noted by the 65 th session of the UN General Assembly (resolution 65/141) 7 . ? LDC IV: In 2011, the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs adopted the Istanbul Programme of Action for the decade 2011-2020. The Programme of Action calls for significant increase in access to telecommunication services and strives to provide 100 per cent access to the Internet by 2020. Countries are also encouraged to develop modern ICT infrastructure and Internet access, including expansion into rural and remote areas, including through mobile broadband and satellite connections; to build and expand broadband connectivity, e-networking and e-connectivity in relevant areas, including education, banking, health and governance. For the first time, ICT infrastructure has been recognized as basic infrastructure. Despite these considerable efforts to capture the transformational potential of ICTs, they do not fully and adequately reflect the great opportunities opened up by ICTs in supporting and accelerating the move towards a more sustainable and fairer development paradigm. ICTs are a unique cost-effective, environmentally friendly and inclusive instrument to spur green growth and create jobs, promote social progress and the MDGs, and ensure environmental protection and a sustainable future. Thus, they should be recognized as one of the major cross-cutting drivers of sustainable development as they help reinforce, converge and integrate all three pillars of sustainable development and they also support and facilitate attainment of its fundamental underlying principles of efficiency, effectiveness and equity. ICTs, in particular modern broadband networks, are deeply transforming several sectors of our economy, such as transportation, energy, manufacturing or entertainment, promoting resource efficiency and behavioral change. The ICT and the ICT-enabled services sectors shaping technology and innovation have great ?greening? potential in promoting dematerialization and energy efficiency. But they also assist 2 Scientific and technological community 3 Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology, Cooperation and Capacity-Building 4 Information for Decision-Making 5 Further information at http://www.broadbandcommission.org/ 6 Full report available at http://www.broadbandcommission.org/report1/report1.pdf 7 Information and communication technologies for development in bridging the development and digital divide by contributing towards poverty abatement and economic convergence between developed and developing countries. For instance, ICTs bring access to basic public services, such as health, education or access to government information, to populations that have never before had access to water or electricity. With more than 71% of the world population connected to ICTs 8 (more than 5 billion inhabitants), ICTs can be considered the most inclusive basic infrastructure. Having said that, we take this opportunity to systematically illustrate the main areas of ICT applications that have an impact in the context of sustainable development, allowing us also to highlight the potential for major co-benefits emanating from ICTs. ? MONITORING, MEASURING, ACCOUNTING: ICTs are key for successful measurement and compliance frameworks. ICT applications and methodologies are developed to facilitate environmental performance and impact assessment. Through ICT-enabled lifecycle metrics, valuation of ecosystem services accounting becomes a tangible target, allowing for better resources and waste management. Indicators for progress, both in terms of growth and in terms of prosperity, are much easier to assess via the use of ICT. The same is the case for reporting and ensuring implementation of the established frameworks. Further than that, monitoring systems and information-based tools such as ?fame and shame? schemes substantially promote public awareness, transparency and accountability of business practices, organization operations and government actions. In such way, they help achieve effective oversight and foster a sense of environmental and social responsibility. ? POLICY/TECHNICAL RECOMMENDATIONS ? REGULATIONS & STANDARDS: Policy guidelines and technical standards linked to ICTs are powerful tools fostering and sustaining ecoinnovation, efficiency and access and shifting to new technologies, goods and services. Being a key component of both country strategies and sector-specific operational policies, ICTs are uniquely positioned to help realize successful ?bottom up? approaches in achieving sustainable development. In this capacity and in particular when coordinated at international level, ICT regulation and standards can also help leverage and mobilize government and business action. ICTs enable low carbon solutions, efficient energy and transport systems, ?smart? grids and Next Generation Networks shaping the way for green economy outcomes. ? CAPACITY BUILDING, ACCESS TO/TRANFER OF TECHNOLOGY: As several countries and people still lack the necessary skills and financial resources to tap the full potential of ICTs, developing capacities and ensuring access to new markets and technologies is crucial in addressing these shortages. To this end, providing technical assistance and ICT training, sharing knowledge on successful practices and technological innovation, facilitating affordable and equitable access to ICT infrastructure and services are challenges that need to be considered and addressed, possibly with the involvement of all relevant factors such as the international community, countries, the private sector and local communities. In this framework, ICTs are both a means and a goal in the sense that they facilitate development of effective capacity building and technology transfer strategies while their positive impact has a return on the ICT sector itself. Through this cycle mechanism, the focus is to be put on building the right enabling conditions to ensure long-term resilience and empowerment of countries and people lagging behind. Targeted investments in productive infrastructure and key sectors, including the ICT sector, can greatly accelerate the transition to greener and fairer economic models. ? INDUSTRY ENGAGEMENT: Ensuring focused and meaningful engagement of the industry and ICT sector is particularly strategic when striving to achieve green economy and sustainable development pathways. Besides and beyond governments and international organizations, people from the industry are the ones to drive investment in alternative technologies, innovation, and green R&D. They are the ones to lead in designing and managing dynamic, ?smart?, cost-effective 8 Data taken from ?Measuring the information society 2011?. 2011, ITU. http://www.itu.int/ITUD/ict/publications/idi/2011/index.html technological applications, goods and services. They are the ones to support and strengthen a sense of corporate social and environmental responsibility. At the end, their active involvement substantially determines potential success of sustainable development frameworks. Thus, targeting and engaging the private sector remains at the epicenter of sustainable development strategies as critical to support sectoral greening and shift production patterns and business practices, suggested by regulatory or voluntary standardization schemes. ? COMMUNICATION DYNAMICS: In our modern interconnected global community, ICTs serve as a multi-media window to the world fulfilling and reinforcing the human need to communicate beyond frontiers and in novel, life-changing ways. The success of mobile telephony and social media are two prominent examples of the communication dynamic paving the way for a more personalized and inter-networked digital future. Based on their unique pervasive nature, ICTs are powerful tools to raise awareness and leverage individual mobilization. They are key for mainstreaming sustainable development and responsible life patterns and shift individual behavior through creation and marketing of appropriate models for such behavior. They also enable constructive interaction, access to ideas and personal expression at a wider scale in our global cyber-village. Through these participatory exchanges, the Internet and social media in particular ? via the recent example of the Arab Spring ? have demonstrated new paths in the fight of people for freedom as well as in the exercise of the fundamental right of the freedom of expression. In that sense, ICTs are catalysts for social transformation and self-fulfillment, as well as a test of all Member States commitment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees freedom to hold and express opinions across all frontiers and all media. ? SOCIAL DIMENSION DYNAMICS: Above all, ICTs are a platform for development promoting social progress and overall human well-being. Broadband and mobile applications, for instance, promise to transform the provision of healthcare and education in developed and developing countries alike. As a general matter, ICTs can greatly facilitate access to basic services such health and education or online government services. They also facilitate access to public information enabling control by people and participation in decision-making processes. This secures and strengthens democratization of governance mechanisms. On the other hand, enhanced connectivity and ICT applications support social integration and inclusion and wide-spread enjoyment of human rights as they illustrate new, non-traditional ways of participating in the social and economic life, empowering people and securing their livelihoods. This is particularly the case for poor or marginalized people and people living in rural areas. 4. TAKING CONCRETE STEPS ITU, as already suggested throughout this contribution, would like to support the development of an enabling Framework and the creation of a Roadmap as concrete outcomes of the Rio+20 conference. This conceptual and action-oriented framework could help in clarifying the specifics and designing the way towards sustainable, ?smart? and inclusive societies. Within the wide range of ?green economy? tools to be included in this framework, we advocate that there is due reference to ICTs reflecting their strong cross-cutting potential and impact as described above. Among other issues, particular consideration should be given to ensuring market access and access to affordable, innovative technologies; building regulatory approaches promoting sustainable development, addressing market failures and channeling green investment to climate resilient infrastructure, resource and energy efficient solutions, green standards and green research and development (R&D); as well as to facilitating capacity building, transfer of necessary skills and resources, knowledge and information sharing among countries; and finally to fostering equitable and measurable progress via appropriately crafted indicators and specific goals to be attained. As previously highlighted, the active engagement of all stakeholders is critical for the success of any sustainable development efforts. Key players that need to be specifically and particularly targeted in this regard are governments and the industry. We underline the need for enhanced collaboration among agencies and Ministries inside countries and for policy-makers to develop cross-sectoral policies when designing their national ICT strategies or green growth and sustainable development strategies. We also stress the fundamental importance of the private sector in driving innovative and responsible business models and securing implementation on the ground of the above strategies and policies. The Global Partnership for Development, linked to MDG 8, is an interesting example to refer to under which the international community and the private sector have developed successful collaborative initiatives in order to make new technologies available to developing countries, for example in the areas of climate change and disaster relief. In the context of the Roadmap and enabling Framework to be developed and in line with our previous arguments, we also advocate for the inclusion in the text of two specific sustainable developments goals relating to ICTs: ? ICTs as key vehicles and basic infrastructure driving the transition to green economy and sustainable development patterns: Reflect the new role of ICTs as major drivers of the transition to a greener and fairer economy and for the achievement of the MDGs, moving beyond considering ICTs merely as tools and giving ICTs the status of basic infrastructure, similar to energy or water. Operating as a basic infrastructure, ICTs can bring together the social, economic and environmental pillars of development, and provide developing countries with a unique opportunity to leapfrog towards sustainable practices, avoiding mistakes made by developed countries during their industrialization. ? Access to ICTs and to broadband: Include access to ICTs, in particular to broadband, as one of the sustainable development goals to be endorsed by the conference. By promoting targets of ICT adoption and connectivity, the conference would be setting up a goal that directly impacts on the access to several other basic public services, that fosters economic empowerment and safeguards access to the fruits of a fully interconnected Information Society, thus meaningful participation in a sustainable, digital future. With regards to the IFSD, we are in favor of reinforcing existing coordination mechanisms, especially at the international level. ITU would like to advocate for strengthening processes and mechanisms rather than introducing new ones, for optimizing resources rather than multiplying overlapping mandates, and for promoting collaboration across the board rather than competing on limited resources. From this perspective and as co-facilitators of the WSIS implementation, ITU commits to bring to the Rio+20 process the findings from the WSIS process, offering the WSIS platform as the mechanism to leverage and implement actions defined for the ICT sector in the outcomes of the conference. 5. CALL FOR ACTION The time is right to make the best use of all the opportunities at our hands to move together the sustainable development agenda forward. ITU is convinced that in every field of human endeavour, and in every crisis we face, ICTs are always part of the solution. ITU commits to leverage the transformational power of ICTs to build a better future for all and address the emerging global challenges of the 21st Century. Together with and through ICTs, we can move to a post carbon world with access for all! Further information ? ITU (www.itu.int) ? ITU profile at the UNCSD 2012 website (link) ? ITU activities on climate change and environmental protection (www.itu.int/climate) ? World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process (www.wsis.org) ? Broadband Commission for Digital Development (http://www.broadbandcommission.org/) References listed in this contribution ? ?A 2010 leadership imperative: the future built on broadband? (2010) Broadband Commission, ITU, UNESCO. http://www.broadbandcommission.org/report1/report1.pdf ? ?Broadband, a platform for progress?. (2011) Broadband Commission, ITU, UNESCO http://www.broadbandcommission.org/report2/full-report.pdf ? ?Measuring the information society 2011?. (2011) ITU. http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/idi/2011/index.html Relevant ITU resolutions ? Resolution 139 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): Telecommunications/information and communication technologies to bridge the digital divide and build an inclusive information society. ? Resolution 140 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010): ITU's role in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. ? Resolution 172 (Guadalajara, 2010): Overall review of implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. ? Resolution 182 (Guadalajara, 2010): The role of telecommunications/information and communication technologies in regard to climate change and the protection of the environment.