World leaders met for three days in Geneva this month for the World Summit on the Information Society, set up by the United Nations, to discuss how to bridge the ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor. More than 60 heads of state, officials from 175 countries and another 10,000 representatives from government administrations, media, business and technology met to discuss ways to bring poorer nations into the information age and speed up their economic development by improving access to mobile phone technology and the internet.
Below is the text of the speech given by HE Jean-Pierre Mazery, Chief Delegate of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Summit
Ladies and Gentleman Delegates
First of all I would like to congratulate you, Mr. President, on your successful election. I would also like to thank Switzerland for its hospitality and for the preparations for this summit, the UIT (International Union for Telecommunications) and all those who have worked so hard for the success of this Summit, a Summit that is unique of its kind.
1. The Sovereign Order of Malta has been in existence and working in hospital, medical, and health care sectors for more than nine centuries. The Order has 11,500 members, of whom many are volunteers who take part in interventions, give first aid, and care for the sick and those in need in all parts of the world, whatever their suffering, whatever their origin, race or religion. With complete impartiality, the Order provides care for refugees, for internally displaced persons, and for victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts.
2. The Order of Malta is very encouraged to see that countries, international organisations, representatives from the public sector and those from the private sector, affirm with drive and cohesive determination the construction of a Society of information with a human dimension, open to all who wish to share information and knowledge. The Order is particularly dedicated to the fight against disease and poverty and to the protection of those who are maltreated. In all of these concerns the Order is motivated by its own traditions, and also by the consecrated principles set down in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.
I would also like to emphasise that the Order of Malta is totally in favour of the proposition that the application of Information and Communication Technology (TIC) is vital in the promotion of the development objectives contained in the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations.
3. As strongly as the Order of Malta recognises the importance of Information Technology, in the same way it is also aware of the fact that the application of IT can provide help in terms of information and communication for every type of abuse. Therefore it is essential to apply to the TIC the full respect of the dignity of human beings, the rights of man, of children, and of families. There must also be absolute respect for the fundamental values of freedom of religion, of conscience, and of opinion, as well as respect for the private life of the individual.
4. In a particular way the use of the TIC must recognise the dignity of young children, to protect their rights and safeguard their well-being, to provide education and development. It is imperative to protect young children against any type of exploitation or abuse, above all against child pornography and prostitution, and to protect them from paedophiles and other forms of violence.
5. From the point of view of communication, it is not technology, but human beings and societies applying this technology in its correct cultural and social dimensions that is vital. The services of the new Communication Technology are not in any way a substitution for the central ideals of dignity and the respect of man, ideals that we must make our own, as well as ideals that the Information Society must look to with great care. It is an opportunity therefore for this Information Society to draw valid ethical dimensions from these ideals.
6. It must be understood that the TIC be considered as a means to serve the world at large, and not just a means for the individual or an exclusive way to conquer new markets.
7. The Information Society must therefore be founded on the respect of religions and traditions, and must represent every belief so that it can reflect all cultural and linguistic differences, which is the dialogue between different cultures.
8. The Order of Malta appreciates the vision expressed in the Plan of Action, which specifically refers to the medical field, because this technology is vital for the volunteers, the professionals, and all personnel who work in the humanitarian field, both to ensure proper care and access to this care, and to guarantee their security in the field of operations.
9. In considering the medical and hospital plan, I wish to offer a concrete illustration of our belief in this new technology. The Order of Malta has established a Welcome House which specialises in care for those who suffer serious multiple disabilities and also for those not able to take care of themselves. This House is in Paris and is one of the most modern in Europe. Thanks to its highly sophisticated electronic equipment, those who are no longer able to speak, and those who are paralyzed, can now, from their armchairs, control up to 150 functions: they can open the door or the shutters in their room, communicate with their relatives or neighbours, and of course use the internet. One of these people, seriously handicapped, controls his computer through the opening and the closing of his eyelids. Another is able to use a pc thanks to a miniscule device placed between his eyebrows. We could go on giving examples, and mentioning the far-flung medical operations and the medical data banks. These TIC operations represent an extraordinary hope for the sick and wounded in the world, and most especially for the populations of countries that are developing, isolated, or even abandoned.
10. Contributing to the improvement of the conditions of human beings, appealing to new technologies and to their appropriate use in the spirit of justice and equality, is the starting point for this World Summit, here today in Geneva and tomorrow in Tunisia. The objective is substantial, but it is also unquestionable that the Order of Malta will be first in line to give its contribution to this ambitious programme, for the service of common good, and for a more tolerant world – a world moving more towards harmony and, above all, a world more at peace.