Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General
Opening of World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 3 December 2012
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the official opening of the World Conference on International Telecommunications, WCIT-12.
We are very grateful to be here in Dubai, and I would like to thank the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates for the tremendous facilities and the efficient staff and support they have provided.
Dubai is one of the most modern cities in the world; a city which has grown to become a wonderful symbol of Emirati culture and progress – and a city which can rightly claim to be one of the greatest symbols of human achievement in the modern world.
And let me congratulate the UAE on the 41st anniversary yesterday of its foundation on 2 December 1971.
Let me also thank Fadi Chehadé, the President and CEO of ICANN and Steve Crocker, ICANN’s Chairman, for accepting our invitation to come to WCIT. This is a great opportunity for our two communities to reach out to one another.
I would also like to welcome Senator Stephen Conroy of Australia – who I am singling out not just because of Australia’s tremendous achievements in broadband, or because of his great work on the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, but also because the Conference that originally discussed the ITRs took place in Melbourne, Australia, in 1988, and which set the stage for the information society.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This event, WCIT-12, will bring to a close a most important year for ITU.
A year which has proved that consensus is the very foundation of harmony.
It was a year which started with the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva; an event which achieved consensus on a whole range of issues vital to the continued advancement of the global ICT sector.
And it was a year which just last week culminated in the wrapping up of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly, here in this very room; an event which also successfully demonstrated the true might and power of consensus.
WCIT-12, starting today, will fulfil the promise not just of this year, but of the entire century and a half of consensus-building which makes ITU’s history so unique.
We are here to explore the best ways to ensure that all the world’s people can benefit from affordable, equitable access to ICTs.
I will take more time this afternoon to discuss this in more detail, but let me just list a few of the most important subjects for discussion where there is great promise of being able to achieve compromise text based on Member State proposals.
These topics include:
- Broadband investment – to ensure that there is sufficient infrastructure to handle massively increasing demand for bandwidth;
- Energy efficiency;
- Unsolicited content, or spam;
- Number misuse;
- Reducing taxation – we cannot have heavy taxation for something which underpins all other areas of economic activity;
- Price transparency (non-discriminatory pricing);
- The fostering of competitive and liberalized telecommunications markets;
- And freedom of expression – nothing can stop freedom of expression, and certainly not this conference.
What you will notice, in this list, is that I have not mentioned ‘controlling the Internet’.
And indeed we have heard this morning from ICANN’s Fadi Chehadé.
I am very pleased to see that all stakeholders are well represented here, with national delegations comprising representatives from government, industry and civil society, as well as technical and legal experts, and others – making this a fully-inclusive conference.
This is a historic occasion – and it is a historic opportunity.
As the great Mahatma Gandhi so famously said: “The future depends on what you do today.”
Gandhi also said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
In our debates and deliberations here in Dubai, let us remember the opening words of the Charter of the United Nations:
"We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind ... and for these ends, to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors and to unite our strength to maintain peace and security.”
And we heard this morning from Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations, whose mission is to ensure peace and security.
Like Ban Ki-moon, we share our desire for:
- Security for our society;
- Peace for all peoples of the world;
- And prosperity for our children and future generations.
Everyone here has a vital role to play.
The Member State delegations include representatives of all stakeholders.
There are some very large delegations here, and some very small ones.
To those smaller delegations, let me remind you of the old African proverb: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you have never spent a night with a mosquito.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is the most important two weeks in the history of ICTs.
And it is time for us to work together.
Over the past six years, as ITU Secretary-General, I have had the privilege to travel widely across the globe.
I have visited countries large and small, and I have visited countries rich and poor.
And everywhere – everywhere I have travelled – I have discovered that we all share the same hopes, the same dreams, and the same aspirations.
We are united – wherever we were born, and wherever we came from – by a desire for progress.
We want to grow. We want to develop. We want to innovate.
We aspire to a better life – for ourselves, certainly, but even more so for our children, and for our children’s children. And as a grandfather myself, there is nothing I want to see more than for my grandchildren to have opportunities.
- We lay the foundation stones of our existence, and build the bridges to our future.
- We plant the tiny seeds that will grow into mighty trees.
- We walk on the earth, but we look up to the stars.
These are the laws of progress, and it is part of what makes us human.
We are here in Dubai to chart the course towards a better future.
We are incredibly fortunate at ITU to have such a great membership – bringing together great minds, to a great meeting.
We are also incredibly fortunate to be working in a sector – the ICT sector – that does so much to improve the lives of people across the world, and which drives sustainable social and economic development.
In the 21st century, access to communications and information is essential and invaluable.
This is true in the developed world, and it is true in the developing world.
I have travelled to some of the world’s most under-served countries, and I have seen what ICTs really mean for the lives of those who have so little – and the opportunities it can create for their children and for future generations.
ICTs give people the power to totally transform their lives – through education, health care, and everything else the online world can deliver.
This is why we have linked broadband with the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable growth.
ICTs also deliver clear macro- and micro-economic benefits.
At the macro-economic level, we know that increasing mobile teledensity leads to additional GDP growth.
This is even more true for increases in broadband penetration, which deliver a multiplier effect.
At the micro-economic level, we have seen the extraordinary difference that can be made by mobile banking in Africa, for example, or to the lives of people in Southern India, where fishermen’s profits rose by 8% on average – and consumer prices fell by 4% on average – once the fishermen had mobile phones.
When you transform individuals, you also transform whole societies and whole economies.
Seventy five years ago, during his second inaugural address, President Franklin D Roosevelt put it very wisely, when he said:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
I look forward to the successful outcomes of this conference in twelve days’ time.
I look forward to knowing that we have done the right thing, and created an enduring framework to ensure that all of the world’s people have access to ICTs.
And I look forward to sharing with you in the knowledge that we can hold our heads up high, for future generations.
Last month I made a stand and spoke out against communications being cut off in Syria, and demanded that access be restored to fixed and mobile networks, and to the Internet.
I did the same thing last year when Egypt denied access to its citizens to communications and the same thing in Myanmar four years ago.
I firmly believe that there are three keys to the success of this conference.
- Consensus; and
Just last month, I was reminded that while elections are (by definition) win-lose, successful negotiations are always win-win.
I look forward to seeing how the spirit of consensus, the spirit of compromise, and the spirit of multi-stakeholderism will come together to deliver that win-win solution – in the true ITU tradition.
I am confident that each and every one of us will do our best to ensure security for our society; peace for all nations; and prosperity for our children and future generations.
Let me close with a quotation from Nelson Mandela:
- “The time for the healing of wounds has come.”
- “The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us, has come.”
- “The time to build is upon us.”
Indeed: the time to build is upon us.
We shall succeed.