Forty-ninth Executive session of the Trade and Development Board

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					 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development


              Forty-ninth Executive Session
                      8-9 June 2010

   Follow-up to the Millennium Summit and
preparations for the high-level plenary meeting
  of the General Assembly on the Millennium
 Development Goals: New development paths

                        Statement by

                   Talal Abu-Ghazaleh
    Chair, UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN GAID)
      Chair & CEO, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization (TAGorg)
                                          Statement By
                                    Mr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh
                    Chairman of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development
                                  at the 49th Executive Session
                             of the Trade and Development Board
                                       Geneva, 9 June 2010

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, colleagues,

It is my distinct honour to speak here today, addressing such a distinguished audience of
policy makers and development practitioners on a subject of vital and urgent importance:
“identifying elements of new development paths that could help accelerate progress towards
attainment of the Millennium Development Goals”1.

I feel very much at home here in UNCTAD for three reasons. As a representative of the
developing world, I salute UNCTAD, the pre-eminent global institution working today to
promote the interests of the majority of the humankind living in the developing countries.

As a businessman, I am encouraged by UNCTAD’s commendable openness to dialogue and
cooperation with the global business community towards strengthening our common struggle
to advance development, promote trade, create jobs and thus bring well-being to all people
around the globe.

And finally, as the Chairman of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, a multi-
stakeholder initiative launched by the United Nations Secretary-General that brings together
governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations, I sincerely feel
part of one big United Nations family, with a shared paramount goal of prosperity, peace and
dignity for all.

The focus of our discussion today – new development paths to accelerate the attainment of the
MDGs - could not be more important or urgent. Since the year 2000 when the Millennium
Declaration was adopted, we have seen numerous well-intentioned political declarations,
statements of commitments, and initiatives. We should not deny that important progress has
been made in some areas. Yet, we all know that we have a long way to go to achieve the
MDGs – while we have only five years left.

We must graduate, finally, from lamenting the slow rate of progress towards the Goals - to
acting decisively, using innovative approaches and new tools. We must -- and I want to stress
this point – rely primarily on the resources that we actually have: not waiting for promises and
commitments to become reality, but fully utilizing the technological, intellectual, financial
resources that are available to us today.

I submit to you that the most promising route to significantly and quickly strengthen and
accelerate our efforts to foster development and achieve the MDGs is through harnessing the
potential of the information revolution, of the information and communication technologies.

    Provisional agenda and annotations (TD/B/EX(49)/1, para.5.
You have heard such appeals before, but now, with development assistance suffering from the
effects of financial crises, it is more true and urgent than ever.

It is now established beyond any doubt that ICT have an immense potential for boosting
economic and social development and thus helping countries achieve the MDGs. It has been
convincingly demonstrated that the use of ICT as a development tool does bring measurable,
tangible results in fighting against poverty and hunger, promoting gender equity, fighting
disease and in addressing other priority development areas. We in the Global Alliance for ICT
and Development have a slogan: “Development runs faster with ICT”.

A lot has been done over the last decade to bring the wonders of the information revolution to
benefit all of humanity. And yet, can we really say that we have harnessed the potential of
ICT to advance development? It is clear that the answer is “no, far from it”. As a result,
development suffers.

Just think of this: technological solutions now exist for most of the development challenges
and problems: from increasing crop yields to renewable sources of energy to treatment of
most diseases to monitoring climate change. And yet, poverty, hunger, disease, inequity,
pollution persist.

There are of course numerous complex reasons for this predicament. Some are obvious:
inadequacy of resources available for development, lack of capacity. These impediments will
remain with us for the near future.

However, there is also one obstacle to development that I strongly believe we can – we must!
– address and eliminate now. I have in mind the disconnect, the gap between knowledge that
exists and can be potentially applied to fostering development – and knowledge that the
development practitioners can, in real life, actually use.

We need to mobilize all stakeholders in a consistent and coherent work aimed at addressing
this challenge.

As a representative of the global business community, I am proud to present to this
distinguished audience just one recent example of our concrete action. Recently, I have
launched the first fully functional news agency called TAG-IT News Agency that will
specialize in the filed of ICT. It will deliver refined media coverage and in-depth analysis of
latest technological inventions, news, events and cooperation ties.

But the task ahead of us requires joining of efforts of all development constituencies –
governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations. To this end, the
Global Alliance for ICT and Development which I have the honour to chair, has recently
launched a major new initiative: a web-based eMDGs Portal that will present ICT-based tools,
solutions, references, and best practices in using ICT to assist governments and other
development stakeholders in achieving the MDGs. It will be a web-based repository of
knowledge, available free of charge, and presenting knowledge in a comprehensive, user-
friendly and dynamic manner.

It will complement and bring together – not duplicate or compete with – the existing web-
based knowledge repositories. It will be built in a grand collaboration of all relevant
stakeholders – governments, the private sector, international organizations, civil society.
It will provide information about and links to existing ICT-based tools and solutions that are
proven, replicable, scalable and self-sustainable.

I had the honour to present this concept to the United Nations Secretary-General in early
February of this year and I am proud to report that the Secretary-General has strongly
endorsed the proposal and graciously extended his personal patronage to the project. He
agreed to become the Honorary Chair of the Global Alliance.

We have launched a process of consultation and collaboration to seek feedback, comments,
criticism and suggestions to develop the eMDGs Portal from its current prototype form to a
fully operational tool. The Portal will be presented to Member States in the framework of the
High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly in September, and will become fully
operational in the spring of next year.

On behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of the Global Alliance for ICT
and Development, I invite you all to join us in this initiative that promises to provide a much-
needed boost to the global effort to reach the MDGs.

With the strong support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with UNCTAD as a
major pillar of this grand collaboration, with a strong commitment to development that you
have demonstrated, I am positive that we shall make a real difference in speeding up and
strengthening the global effort to reach the MDGs within the agreed timeframe, in
contributing tangibly towards bringing dignity, prosperity and peace to all.

I thank you for your kind attention and look forward to our productive collaboration.

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