It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Geneva, after several weeks away in Dubai – first at the Global Standards Symposium and the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, WTSA-12, and then at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12, which finished last Friday.
I would like to congratulate Malcolm and his staff for the success of the two standards events, which together set the stage for the next four-year workplan of the Standardization Sector.
I would also like to congratulate and thank all staff – both those who accompanied us to Dubai and those who stayed here in Geneva, as well as our staff from the regional offices – for the huge efforts they put in during WCIT-12.
At the Opening Ceremony of WCIT-12, on 3 December, Ban Ki-moon asked governments, industry and civil society to rise to the occasion, and reminded us that there was no place in the 21st century for a digital divide.
For my part, I said that this was a historic occasion, and indeed a historic opportunity: a historic opportunity to bring connectivity to the two thirds of the world’s people who are still offline.
And I am very pleased that the conference did so much in this regard, and set us on the path towards bringing the remaining four and a half billion people online.
WCIT-12 brought the developing world into the ITRs, and the new treaty text reflects many developing-country concerns.
And it is a richer and more powerful treaty for doing so.
WCIT-12 was all about connectivity and spreading the benefits of ICTs to all the world’s people – and the conference made a huge step forward in bringing global public attention to the different perspectives that govern modern global communications.
So let me highlight some of our achievements:
- The ITRs have been brought into the 21st century.
- In particular we addressed 21st century issues that were not even on the horizon back in 1988 – such as roaming – and we clearly recognized the realities of the new global international telecommunications landscape.
- We included new provisions on environmental issues, energy efficiency and e-waste.
- And we made initial steps towards the establishment of a global harmonized national number for access to emergency service.
- The need to do much more for the under-served was also clearly recognized – with a new Resolution on prioritizing fibre-optic cable access to landlocked developing countries and small island developing states.
- I am also very encouraged by the new article on accessibility. There are at least 650 million people worldwide suffering from some sort of disability, and each and every one of them has just as much right as you and I do to have access to the full benefits of ICTs.
- Our membership made a bold step forward in terms of the conference itself in granting greatly-increased access to participants, including media and the public.
- And I am very pleased that the documents and proceedings of this conference were made as widely available as possible – with live webcasts of the main sessions, and archives and transcripts available to all, including the daily media briefings.
- And I am pleased that we were able to actively and positively engage with civil society, both before and during the conference.
In spite of what you may have heard or seen in the media and elsewhere, WCIT-12 was not about Internet control or Internet governance.
Let me repeat that: this conference was not about Internet control or Internet governance.
And indeed there are no treaty provisions on the Internet.
If the word ‘Internet’ was used frequently in Dubai, it was simply a reflection of the reality of the modern world.
Telecommunications networks are not just used for making voice calls.
So the two worlds are interlinked.
I demonstrated that by inviting the new President and CEO of ICANN, Fadi Chehadé, to speak at the WCIT-12 Opening Ceremony, and I also invited Steve Crocker, the Chairman of ICANN’s Board.
And I look forward to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead, and all that can be achieved by ITU and ICANN together, in a positive spirit of collaboration.
So let me repeat once more: the ITU has no wish or desire to play a role in critical Internet resources such as domain names – and the work of ICANN and ITU can be, and should be, fully complementary.
There were differences of opinion about the way ahead at WCIT-12, but there were not differences of opinion about our common goal – our common goal to bring the benefits of communications:
- To the 700 million people who still don’t have mobile phone network coverage;
- And even more importantly to the 4.5 billion people who are not yet online.
A clear majority of Member States has already signed the new treaty – and these countries represent not just most of the world’s people, but the great majority of the world’s unconnected people.
This is an extraordinary achievement.
As you will know, not every Member State signed the treaty in Dubai, and some expressed their need to go to their capitals and constituencies before they can accede to the new ITRs.
But we remain hopeful and confident that they will come soon and join the majority by acceding to the treaty, when the time is right, and help usher in a new world – a new world where opportunities for investment in new infrastructure abound, and where consumers can take advantages of new benefits such as reduced roaming charges.
Global communications remain a global issue, and I am confident that our Member States will continue to work together for the common good.
Throughout WCIT-12 our membership was supported by an extraordinary organizational and logistics operation, and by months of planning and meticulous implementation.
Let me highlight this with a few dramatic numbers that can go some way towards describing WCIT-12:
- We received a total of 1,275 proposals from Member States;
- The conference welcomed almost 1,600 delegates from 151 Member States, including almost 70 Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors – as well as the private sector and civil society;
- ITU’s website received over 13 million page visits over the past month – with traffic peaking at 150 Gigabytes of information downloaded on the opening day of the conference, Monday 3 December;
- From a communications perspective we actively engaged with key communities through social media, with around twelve million impressions a day on Twitter alone, supplemented with daily live social media blogging;
- Taking into account the six working languages of the Union, we benefitted from 600 hours of interpretation and translated almost 700,000 words;
- And we used less paper than ever before – managing the work almost entirely paperless throughout the whole conference, and saving literally millions of pages of paper.
In closing, I would like to thank my fellow elected officials for the support they provided during WCIT, and for demonstrating the power of working as one.
Thank you Houlin, Malcolm, François and Brahima.
Thank you also to the army of translators, interpreters, précis writers and support staff on whom we depended so absolutely.
And last but not least, let me single out three key ITU staff who will be retiring in the coming weeks, and thank them individually:
- Firstly, Idrissa Samaké – who has been responsible for the Conferences and Publications Department, which provides so many of the vital services we depend on every day, from logistics and reproduction to interpretation and translation;
- Secondly, Richard Hill – who deferred his retirement in order to ensure the successful conclusion of WCIT-12. No single ITU official has put in as much time and effort in this process as Richard – and we owe him a very special debt of gratitude;
- And thirdly, Elaine Baron – Head of the Governing Bodies Secretariat, who has always put in extraordinary work behind the scenes, not just in organizing everything with military precision – Swiss watch precision – but also in never failing to introduce new efficiencies and innovations.
- Thank you, Idrissa, Richard and Elaine. ITU will always be open for you; come back and see us any time!
WCIT-12 marks the beginning of an important new dialogue – a new dialogue that will bring fresh conversations into the converged world we live in.
We have been united for nearly 150 years in this great Union of ours – and I know that this conference will not divide us.
This is a tremendous start – and WCIT is the beginning of something new.
Thank you – and may I wish you all a very well-deserved end-of-year break with your families and loved ones.
I look forward to seeing you all freshly-invigorated in the New Year!