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New York, 11 March 2003 -- The Bureau of the Commission on the Status of Women finished the second reading of the draft of the agreed conclusions on the theme media and information and communication technologies (ICT) today.

The Commission recalled and reiterated the strategic objectives and actions of the Beijing Platform for Action (the outcome document of the Fourth World Conference on Women) on the potential of the media and of ICT to contribute to the advancement of empowerment of women. It also recalled the provision in the UN Millennium Declaration that there is a need to ensure that the benefits of new ICTs are available to all.

One of the points the Bureau agreed on in today's session is the need to focus on the gender dimensions of ICT to prevent and combat the adverse impact of the digital revolution on gender inequality and the perpetuation of existing inequalities and discrimination. On this point, the delegation of the European Union (EU) proposed the clause "including the widespread abuse and sexual exploitation of women both through of the traditional media and through new technologies." However, government delegates to this 47th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women deferred the discussion of the EU proposal pending other suggestions.

The other point agreed upon is the need to integrate gender perspectives in the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). However, the delegates failed to come to an agreement on the call for the inclusion of at least 30 percent women in national delegations, civil society organisations and the business community. The representative from the U.S. government objected to the 30 percent quota in the composition of the delegations saying that this number is arbitrary. The Chairperson of the discussion, a delegate from Belgium, reminded the U.S. representative that this proposal came from the UN Expert Group Meeting on women and ICT held in November 2002 as part of the preparations for the 47th CSW session.

The government delegates likewise agreed on the provision of management, negotiation, and leadership training for women, as well as mentoring systems and other support strategies and programmes to enhance women's capabilities and potential for advancement in the media and ICT sectors. The other point of agreement was the need to: compile statistics (disaggregated by sex and age) on ICT use; develop gender-specific indicators on ICT use and needs; and collect gender-specific data on employment and education patterns in media and ICT professions. Similarly, the delegates agreed on the need to enable women to have equal access to ICT-based economic activities such as small business and home-based employment.

The following action points, which are regarded as the more contentious ones, are expected to be discussed on 13 and 14 March, the last two days of the session:

  • Ensure that policy and legislation empowers regulatory bodies to establish appropriate mechanisms to enhance full participation of women in ownership, control, and management of ICT and media;
  • Use and establish legal and regulatory means and provide financial and other support that enable public and community media to work in support of gender equality;
  • Encourage South-South co-operation to facilitate transfer and exchange of low-cost technologies and appropriate content between developing countries;
  • Strengthen and encourage the use of existing information and communication technologies such as radio, TV, as well as telecommunications and print, in parallel to enhancing the use of the new technologies for gender equality and the economic and political and social empowerment of women as leaders, participants and consumers; and
  • Enhance international co-operation to create an enabling environment to reduce the digital information divide between developed and developing countries and promote, develop and enhance women's access to ICT and the internet infrastructure.

In relation to the last point, the Canadian delegation proposed this formulation: "facilitate access to and transfer of knowledge and technology on concessional, preferential, and favourable terms to the developing countries, as mutually agreed, taking into account the need to protect intellectual property rights and the special needs of developing countries."

Other than the proposal from Canada, the current draft of the agreed conclusions does not discuss the issue of Intellectual Property Rights, a hotly debated issue in the WSIS process. In addition, there is no mention of open source and network security in the draft.

-- Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

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