High-Level Segment (HLS) of Council 2008

Geneva, 12-13 November 2008


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ITU Secretary-General's Declaration on Cybersecurity and Climate Change


Photo: ITU Secretary-General adressing HLS-08 participantsCybersecurity is one of the most important challenges of our time. The rapid growth of ICT networks has enabled opportunists to exploit online vulnerabilities and attack countries’ critical infrastructure. Spam is a constant and growing problem that threatens to stretch the capacity of the Internet to transport data to the fullest, while phishing and malware affect computer systems around the globe. The costs associated with cyberthreats and cyber-attacks are real and significant – not only in terms of lost revenue, breaches of sensitive data, cyber-attacks and network outages but also in terms of lives ruined by identity theft, debts run up on plundered credit cards or the online exploitation of children. Our very trust in the online world is at stake — jeopardizing the future of the information society, which is in danger from these growing cyberthreats.

ITU has taken a leading role in promoting cybersecurity and trying to combat the growing tidal wave of cyberthreats. On the occasion of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2007, ITU launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda. A High-Level Experts Group (HLEG) has spent the last year reviewing the issues and developing proposals for long-term strategies to promote cybersecurity, an achievement honoured with the award of the ITU Silver Medal to the Chair of the HLEG, Chief Judge Stein Schjolberg.

The GCA is now moving into its operational phase and ITU is undertaking a vital partnership in conjunction with IMPACT — the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber-Threats — hosted by the Government of Malaysia, which will put a global early warning system at the disposal of all Member States. The Child Online Protection (COP) initiative is a vitally important project that will protect one of the most vulnerable groups online by providing valuable guidance on safe online behaviour, in conjunction with other UN agencies and partners. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday welcomed ITU’s COP initiative and urged all States to support it. ITU Member States stand united in their determination to combat the growing menace of cybercrime and the risks posed by new and emerging cyberthreats.

Climate change is another profound challenge that is at work, transforming the face of the world. Whatever the underlying cause, at current rates of extinction, scientists predict that two-thirds of all bird, mammal, butterfly, and plant species will be extinct by the end of this century. Not only the species, but the very survival of the world we live in and the planet itself, is now in jeopardy. Climate change is a global challenge that the world simply cannot afford to lose — not just for our sake, but for the sake of our children.

ITU is mainstreaming this major issue into its regular work programme. ITU is undertaking important work on how ICTs can help prevent and avert climate change. There is a strong role for ITU in standards for energy efficiency of the ICT equipment on which our digital economy depends. ITU has always taken the lead in setting high standards for telecommunications and ICTs, and this is another key area in which ITU can make a real difference.

The Resolution passed recently at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) in Johannesburg encourages ITU Member States to work towards reductions in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions arising from the use of ICTs, in line with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. ITU aims to achieve climate neutrality for its operations within three years, and ITU is at the forefront of this progress compared with many other international organizations.

In the global effort to combat climate change, ITU is continuing to help developing countries to mitigate the effects of climate change, including the use of emergency telecommunications and alerting systems for disaster relief. ITU, in collaboration with its membership, is identifying the necessary radio-frequency spectrum for climate monitoring and disaster prediction, detection and relief, including a promising cooperation with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the field of remote-sensing applications.

ITU will continue to join efforts in the context of the UN system, in order to "deliver as one" with a principal focus on ICTs and climate change. In 2000, UN Members adopted the Millennium Declaration as a renewed commitment to human development, including the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, climate change impacts will tend to offset progress being made to meet the MDGs by 2015, so it is crucial to empower developing countries by facilitating their access to the ICTs needed for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

It is widely acknowledged that the issue of climate change is rapidly emerging as a global concern, which needs a global response. The High-Level Segment underlined that Member States are committed to combating climate change: ITU remains committed to combating climate change. ITU’s work is in line with the needs and priorities of our Member States in the vital importance of taking action to combat climate change.

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré
ITU Secretary-General