Before I commence, I would like us all to stand for a moment in silence to commemorate Mr Kisrawi, and the numerous victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be with you here this morning.
2010 was a very busy and important year for the Union – and 2011 promises to be no different.
Indeed, the most important task immediately facing us is to implement the resolutions agreed by our Member States at PP-10 in Guadalajara, and in particular Resolution 171 on Preparations for the 2012 WCIT.
Your group has already been working hard at this since January 2010, and will continue to work until June 2012. I am pleased to see that 17 contributions have been submitted to the present meeting, some of them very detailed, others focusing on broad principles.
I see your preparatory work, and the 2012 conference itself, as key opportunities to increase the already excellent collaboration between countries, so that all the countries in the world, working together, can reach new levels of economic and social development by means of efficient telecommunication services.
Indeed, this is the very purpose of the Union, as stated in the Preamble of our Constitution, and the WCIT will provide a great opportunity to help us to achieve that goal.
It is now agreed by all that the current International Telecommunications Regulations, the ITRs, which were adopted in 1988, and which have served us well, need to be revised to reflect the significant changes that have taken place over the past 24 years.
In particular this includes the liberalization and privatization of much of the telecommunications sector, and also the increasing convergence of technologies and services, which sometimes blur the traditional distinctions between telecommunications and computer technology.
As a result, WCIT will surely be the most significant conference convened by ITU for many years. It should bring some clarity to the international regulatory framework, which dates back to the founding of the Union in 1865, and which has regularly been updated through the predecessors of the current ITRs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I know that many issues will be considered by the preparatory process, and by the conference itself, and that it is risky to mention some and not others, but let me just pick up on a few that have come to my attention.
I will be travelling to Nouméa, New Caledonia, next week, for the General Assembly of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association, and I know that one of the key issues for them is that of the continuing misappropriation and misuse of telephone numbers.
In some cases, this prevents access to telecommunications services, something that we surely do not want. Indeed, increased access to communications and information, and the right to such access, are also topics that I understand will be discussed by WCIT.
In order to increase access, I also believe that we need to address quality of service and security issues; issues which are already addressed in the ITRs, but which perhaps need to be revisited in light of the technological and structural changes I referred to earlier.
Taxation of international telecommunications services and international mobile roaming, accounting, and costing, are also issues that have drawn many contributions: the current provisions are simply not adapted to current conditions, and many suggestions have been made to modernize them.
I know that some countries are wary of excessive regulation. I understand their concerns, but I think of the financial and banking sectors, which have suffered a catastrophe because of inadequate regulation and regulatory supervision – in particular at the international level. That entire sector is now busily working on new regulations to avoid a future catastrophe.
We, the telecommunications sector, have the opportunity to agree a framework that will avoid any catastrophe. It is perhaps not a coincidence that no catastrophe has ever slowed the growth of the telecommunications sector. Indeed it may well be because of the continual evolution of the ITU’s basic instruments, and of the predecessors of the current ITRs.
By pursuing that evolution, we can help to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of a sector that is a significant contributor to the gross national product of most countries, and, more importantly, to the well-being of all world’s people.
We have a preparatory process and a conference ahead of us, the convening of which has been the subject of debate since 1998.
Now that we finally have this conference next year, let us make sure we take this opportunity to make the ITRs relevant, and valuable to the full membership, so that they address and alleviate the many concerns that are out there, and help to secure a better world.
I am sure that, by working together, we will make this world a better place.
A world where most of the world’s people have affordable access to the Internet.
A world where the social and economic benefits of ICTs have reached all the peoples of the planet, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.
And a world where social and economic justice prevails.