Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, president of the Tunisian Republic and chair of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-II), Tunis, November 17, 2005 – 2005/11/17
“As attached as we are to building an information society that guarantees individuals the right to information and ensures the free and unobstructed flow of data, we firmly believe in the importance of defining universal ethical standards (…). It is our collective moral responsibility to preserve cultural specificities and guarantee their free expression,” noted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia, in his opening address at the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-II) in Tunis, November 16–18, 2005. President Ben Ali, who was also the chair of WSIS-II, further declared that he “firmly believes that the Tunis Summit will be a critical step towards the identification of appropriate solutions to problems in the information and communications sector, due to the cooperative efforts of all the participants and their commitment to achieving results to meet the challenges marking our era.”
Pointing to the need to reach an agreement on ensuring the Internet serves the interests of humanity as a whole, Ben Ali noted the pressing need to define a clear vision of a balanced knowledge society, one that provides all peoples access to communication technologies. He added that the effects of the digital divide are not merely economic and social, but also include others that are much more dangerous for the future of humanity, such as cultural diversity, the very cornerstone of the heritage of humanity and a true reflection of its wealth, vibrancy, and lastingness.
The opening ceremony was attended by government heads of state, as well as heads of delegations and representatives of international organizations, the private sector, and civil society. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Tunis Summit attracted 17,500 delegates from 176 states, including 5,600 government representatives, 1,340 from international organizations, 5,640 from NGOs, 3,670 from the private sector, and a thousand journalists.