Indigenous Peoples All But Forgotten During World Telecommunication and Information Society Day*

New York, NY (UCTP News) - At an event organized by the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) entitled “Tale of Two Worlds: Keeping Pace with a Moving Target” representatives of governments and UN agencies, along with civil society and industry executives met to share diverse perspectives on the occasion of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2007.

The event included not only a message from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon but also a message from Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and opening remarks by Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary General, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The opening remarks, welcoming statements and keynote addresses were followed by two sessions, one focusing on “Visions of a Connected Future” and the other on “Universal Access.”

Indigenous Peoples were brought to the forefront of the session in comments made by Roberto Múcaro Borrero (Taino) who was representing the International Indigenous ICT Task Force (IITF). Borrero informed the panel that the IITF was an indigenous initiative with a mandate to follow-up on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). He also noted that while indigenous peoples were a “major group” represented throughout the WSIS processes they were relatively “invisible” from all official follow-up mechanisms.

Offering a recent example, Borrero pointed out the lack of indigenous presence in the GAID publication “Foundations of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development.” He also stated that “transparency, inclusion, and genuine partnerships” were essential to follow-up initiatives. He then asked the panel, which included Mr. Sarbuland Khan, the Executive Coordinator of GAID, “How can we be speaking about the future when we cannot even communicate in the present?”

Borrero then noted the willingness of the IITF to share information such as the May 21 launching of a new international indigenous portal developed by Indigenous Peoples at the sixth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues but consistent outreach to GAID and the ITU yielded no response.

In direct response to Borrero’s comments, Mr. Sarbuland Khan, assured him and all those gathered that GAID was indeed interested in working with Indigenous Peoples and particularly the IITF. He stressed the networking potential being developed by GAID and hoped that the IITF would be come a part of the GAID “family.”

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is observed annually on 17 May and marks the anniversary of the signature of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union. World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated since 1969.

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