Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao
ITU Council 2015 : State of the Union Address
12 May 2015, Geneva, Switzerland
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to formally welcome you to the 2015 session of ITU Council.
Let me offer a very warm welcome to our councillors, and especially to our new Council Members, which include Pakistan, Uganda and Tanzania, who have returned to Council after an absence; and Azerbaijan and Lithuania, who are joining Council for the first time.
Let me also welcome the Ministers and Ambassadors who are joining us here, as well as Areewan Haorangsi, the new Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity, following her election last November.
Resumé of activities since Council 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
The main event for ITU since last year's session of Council was of course the 19th Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-14. The Conference went very well indeed, and we enormously appreciated the hard work that Member States put in – with no amendments to the Constitution and Convention for the first time since 1992, and no need for a vote.
I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Korean administration and the Korean people for their wonderful efforts, and to thank the Chairman of PP-14, Wonki Min, for his excellent leadership.
PP-14 was a great example of the new spirit of multi-stakeholderism and consensus that has developed at ITU over the past two years – starting with WTPF-13, and working onwards through the WSIS Forums, as well as WTDC-14 and PP-14. Let us continue with these positive developments.
ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)
Since we last met at Council 2014, ITU-R has continued work in the final phases of its preparations for RA-15 and WRC-15 which will underpin further growth in the mobile, satellite and broadcasting industries.
In March, CPM15-2, held here in Geneva, was the best-attended CPM ever, with 1,368 participants from 106 ITU Member States. The meeting made an important contribution to the future success of WRC-15 with the adoption of its Report. For the first time in recent history, during the CPM, candidates for the Chairs of both WRC-15 and RA-15 were tentatively and unanimously agreed!
ITU-R has also achieved considerable progress in resolving recurring cases of harmful interference in the UHF band and coordinating frequencies to facilitate the transition to digital television broadcasting.
Through its seminars, insightful workshops, and successful free online access policy, ITU-R has continued to work closely with national administrations, influential policy-makers and leading industry executives in outreach and technical capacity-building.
Under the aegis of ITU-R, radio-interface specifications for IMT-Advanced and satellite IMT-Advanced have been approved, paving the way for the mobile and satellite industries to roll out future generations of services for 4G, and towards 5G.
ITU Standardization Sector (ITU-T)
In ITU-T, new Recommendations on G.fast (ITU-T G.9700 and G.9701) have been approved, creating a broadband standard that can deliver 1 Gbps over traditional copper telephone lines.
ITU-T has also established a new Focus Group to identify the network standardization requirements for the '5G' development of IMT for 2020 and beyond. ITU-T standardization activity will prioritize the alignment of its IMT-2020 deliverables with those of ITU-R.
Other recent key achievements in ITU-T include:
- The launch of the 'ICT product conformity database';
- Further work on IoT and Smart Sustainable Cities; Disaster Relief Systems, Network Resilience and Recovery; Digital Financial Services; and Aviation Applications of Cloud Computing for Flight Data Monitoring;
- And further work on bridging the standardization gap by stimulating effective participation in ITU-T Study Groups and increasing the number of quality contributions from the regions.
ITU Development Sector (ITU-D)
- The successful Global Symposium for Regulators, GSR-14, in Bahrain;
- The annual World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium, WTIS-14, in Georgia, and the launch of the
'Measuring the Information Society Report 2014' report;
- Ongoing cybersecurity work – including national cybersecurity assessments, training cybersecurity professionals, and facilitating computer incident response teams.
- Scaling up the Be He@lthy, Be Mobile initiative, in collaboration with WHO, and developing a mobile app for the fight against contagious diseases;
- Providing concentrated assistance to LDCs, SIDS and LLDCs;
- Providing emergency telecommunications in countries affected by natural disasters – most recently in Nepal;
- Implementing a new Centres of Excellence strategy;
- The signing of over 70 partnership agreements, worth some 14 million dollars;
- By the end of 2014, 64 projects were under implementation in all regions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the General Secretariat, our work has included welcoming over 7,000 delegates to Geneva, with state-of-the-art facilities and innovative working methods which provided for over 3,000 remote participants, paperless meetings, and captioning.
By the end of 2014, sales of ITU publications generated revenues of CHF 19.8 million, exceeding our targets by 25%.
The ITU External Auditor presented the audited financial statements for 2014 at the final meeting of the 2014 session of Council in Busan. Several internal audits were conducted during the year.
The Independent Management Advisory Committee, IMAC, presented annual follow-up reports on its recommendations to the Council Working Group on Financial and Human Resources. The selection process for the new IMAC team next year was initiated in January.
ITU also continued to make significant progress during the year in terms of efficiency, productivity, and cost reductions, in particular through the implementation of PP-14 Decision 5, Annex 2.
The first four months of 2015 have demonstrated the good work of the new management team. We are very grateful for the continuous and active support we have been given by membership – through the work of the Council Working Groups, early in the year, as well as through the successful meetings of TDAG and RAG, and at International Girls in ICT Day.
I am confident that we shall enjoy your continued support during this session of Council, where the main challenge we face is the approval of the budget for the 2016-2017 biennium. In this regard I am very pleased to see that after much hard work we now have a balanced budget proposal for you – without the need for any withdrawal from the reserve account.
Please be assured that ITU management will not stop here. We will continue our efforts in this direction, and any proposals from you, our membership, at any time, will be most welcome.
Preview of the months ahead…
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me briefly outline the main ITU events between now and the end of the year – and let me warmly encourage your active participation. We count on you, the membership, to contribute enthusiastically to the debates and discussions, and we are very grateful for your support.
17 May / ITU 150
The first event is this Sunday, when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the First International Telegraph Convention, which brought ITU into existence in 1865.
There have already been a number of celebrations around the world – and I was honoured to attend special events recently:
- On 27 April, in Paris, in the same room where the founding members signed the First International Telegraph Convention in 1865;
- On 5 May, in Madrid, where the King of Spain honoured us with his participation, in the same place where the ITU membership changed our name from the International Telegraph Union to the International Telecommunication Union, in 1932;
- And on 7 May, in St Petersburg, where Professor Popov demonstrated the first radio device 120 years ago, on 7 May 1895, and where a special ITU 150 postage stamp, celebrating our anniversary, was cancelled.
Here in Geneva, we will be celebrating at the CICG from 1.30pm, with awards and member recognition ceremonies; videos of global celebrations; and other activities during the afternoon. In the evening, our host country, Switzerland, will put on a special gala dinner on a boat on Lake Geneva to celebrate the 150th anniversary.
Let me warmly encourage you to join us, and let me thank you in advance for your support.
2015 WSIS Forum
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the week after Council, from 25 to 29 May, we will be holding the 2015 WSIS Forum. On 29 May, as part of the WSIS Forum, consultations on 'WSIS beyond 2015'.
WSIS remains a very important tool in building and shaping the digital economy, and we need to work together with the UN General Assembly later in the year to ensure that WSIS is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Two weeks after the WSIS Forum, from 9 to 11 June, the 15th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) will take place in Libreville, Gabon.
ITU Telecom World 2015
After the summer, Budapest, Hungary, will host ITU Telecom World 2015, from 12 to 15 October.
ITU Telecom is a very important platform for ITU, as it provides a unique opportunity for creative brainstorming between policy makers, the ICT industry, and other stakeholders.
We can no longer rely on the old model of ITU Telecom, however, so we will be transforming the event this year to reflect the new reality of the ICT ecosystem – in particular recognizing the growing importance of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises, SMEs, in global ICT development and their huge potential for innovation and as drivers of national and international economic development.
I am therefore inviting all ITU Member States to showcase their initiatives aimed at promoting ICT SMEs in Budapest in October. I count on your support and look forward to seeing you and many of your SMEs in Budapest.
RA-15 & WRC-15
At the end of October we will be holding the 2015 Radiocommunication Assembly, RA-15, from 26 to 30 October, here in Geneva.
This will be followed form 2 to 27 November by ITU's biggest event of 2015 – the World Radiocommunication Conference, WRC-15.
Spectrum is a vital issue affecting each and every one of us, and we are expecting a very exciting WRC this year.
After WRC-15, Hiroshima, Japan, will be hosting the 13th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium, WTIS-15, from 30 November to 2 December. This will be the last major event forming part of the ITU 150 celebrations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me conclude this State of the Union address by assuring you of our willingness and ability to address the challenges ahead, and to work hard in fulfilling the tasks set for us by PP-14.
I would like to assure you that we will always be mindful of the challenges, and our mandate to connect people, to connect the world, and in particular to connect those not yet connected, and to facilitate the ICT/telecommunications industry and markets with innovations and sustainable new technologies.
I will continue working closely with the elected officials and the ITU staff to best serve the Union. We will continue to improve our efficiency, without sacrificing quality. Results-based focus, transparency and accountability will remain our guiding principles.
The work we do here at ITU can and should make each and every one of us proud to be part of this great Union – and I thank you for your support in this, our 150th anniversary year, as we embark with enthusiasm and vigour on the next 150 years of the Union's history.
Thank you for your attention.