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ITU Council 2007
Opening session
ITU Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
4 September 2007 at 9:30 hours

Speech of ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Distinguished Councilors
Ladies and Gentlemen


I would like to welcome you to the 62nd session of the ITU Council.


To being, let me thank all the Ministers present here today and express my deepest appreciation for their support of this new initiative to hold a High Level Segment.

Ten months ago, I accepted your challenge to lead the ITU.


I was deeply touched by the warm support I received in Antalya. The memories of the Plenipotentiary Conference are still strong in my heart and my mind. I join with my colleagues, the elected officials, in thanking you for the trust you have placed in us to work together to lead this great organization.


Taking on the responsibility as the new Secretary-General of the ITU came at an important period in the long history of the Union. It is a time of both great challenges and great opportunities.


Each of our sectors faces critical issues

  • The R sector is focused on the upcoming WRC, which will be a pivotal moment for the sector to accommodate the explosive growth in wireless services and ensure smooth global management of spectrum. WRC-07 will be a landmark in the history of radiocommunications
  • The T sector has the great challenge of coordinating standards work for Next Generation Networks. NGN will provide seamless connection between anyone, anytime, anywhere and by anything. Only global standards from ITU can ensure end-to-end security, interoperability and deliver value to all stakeholders.
  • As part of the new Global Cybersecurity Agenda ITU-T has initiated a project to track standards initiatives for cybersecurity around the world.
  • Extending the benefits of the NGN, cybersecurity and standardization in general to the developing world is a key focus for ITU-T.
  • To assist in bridging this standardization gap TSB in partnership with BDT will hold a number of regional events aiming to encourage greater participation in the standardisation process.
  • This theme will be the main focus of a global standards symposium which will precede next year’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly.
  • The Development Sector is committed to playing a vital role in promoting the use of information and communication technologies worldwide to bridge the digital divide.
  • The advantages of fast reliable communication networks have snowballed, providing a new conduit for economic growth and social development. The D Sector is committed to working closely with governments, regulators and the entire ICT/telecom industry to create an environment that stimulates human, technical and financial investments and multi-stakeholder partnerships. This will ensure that the benefits of ICTs are available to all, in particular in the 150 or so developing and least developed countries and those with economies in transition.


As you can see, the organization as a whole is facing new challenges as the ICT industry transforms itself.


ICT has become the largest sector in the world economy. Convergence and new technologies have introduced a large number of new services, new applications and new players and competitors in all areas of our work. The pace of change in the ICT field is ever accelerating. As the world of ICT is increasingly privatized, some ask what role a UN agency can play in shaping the future of this industry.


Our challenges are internal as well. The PP did not reach agreement on the Financial Plan for the coming period. The new management team has had to prepare a balanced budget based on the guidelines annexed to Decision 5 of the Plenipotentiary Conference.


I am pleased to tell you that I have taken rapid and decisive action, along with the other elected officials, since taking office to address these challenges.


Starting from within, a cohesive environment has been established at the headquarters. The elected officials are now working as a united team to meet the objectives of the membership and we meet regularly. I want to thank them all for helping to restore a new, positive spirit to senior management at ITU.


There is a saying from my continent that ‘smooth seas do not make skillful sailors’.


Here in Geneva, inspired by the winning spirit of Alinghi, the Swiss sailing boat that won the past 2 America’s Cup races, I can tell you that the new management team is quickly becoming very skilled sailors, as we chart a new course for ITU.


A new spirit of cohesion has also been instilled in the secretariat. Many areas of duplication have been eliminated by transferring some staff along with their activities to the Bureaux and concentrating operational activities in the sectors.


Cohesion is also being achieved through efficiency. A significant restructuring has been introduced to the general secretariat, following consultation of the Council. This restructuring will provide more cost-effective services to the membership and produce savings in the draft budget. The BDT and TSB have also been restructured, providing further savings.


In this first year in office, I also have worked hard to improve communications with the membership. I have met with many representatives from Member States, including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and Ambassadors, as well as leading CEOs from our Sector Members. 


For the first time in the history of ITU, the Secretary-General of the United Nations visited the headquarters and spoke to the staff. He spoke of access to information as a basic human right. He emphasized the need for the UN to take action to address climate change and requested that ITU take this into account. Finally, the UN Secretary-General gave his full support to the main objectives of the ITU, stressing the importance of Bridging the Digital Divide, establishing peace and security in cyber space and meeting the needs for emergency communications and disaster prevention.


I have also been busy changing the image of ITU to the outside world.


Cooperation has replaced confrontation as our guiding principle.


Since January, ITU has forged new partnerships with other international organizations in the ICT field.


This new approach has enabled ITU to reassert its preeminence in the ICT field. We are now acting in a cooperative manner with other partners to meet the expectations and hopes that world leaders at the World Summit on the Information Society placed on the Union to connect the world.


WSIS recognized that ITU must play a central role in building the Information Society.


The Summit set ambitious connectivity targets for 2015. That is only 8 years from now. Meeting those targets is vital to achieving the Millennium Development Goals to reduce hunger, poverty and disease.


As part of the ITU effort to build the Information Society, I have set 3 priorities which were launched on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day last May.


First, broadband connectivity.


ITU is leading a coalition to accelerate affordable broadband connectivity in Africa that will be launched at the Connect Africa Summit in October in Rwanda. The meeting in Kigali is being hosted by President Kagame and will gather representatives at the highest level from government, private sector and the civil society. The aim is to match projects with financing to ensure a Digital Future for the African continent. We hope to initiate similar actions for other parts of the developing world.


Second, establishing a foundation for cybersecurity.


Attacks on networks have become almost a daily event. Cyber crime causes billions of dollars in damage every year. According to the latest surveys, 1 of every 4 persons in this room will become a cyber-victim.


To address this issue, I announced a cybersecurity agenda. One major action will be the convening of a High Level Experts Group early next year. ITU will not attempt to reach solutions by itself, but will engage other partners to act swiftly to address this critical issue at the global level.


Third, emergency communications.


It can take years to build ICT infrastructure and reliable networks. However, the devastating force of nature can destroy that effort in a matter of minutes. Pictures of hurricanes, floods and earthquakes fill our TV screens.


ITU was the driving force behind the Tampere Convention on Emergency Telecommunications. We have established an internal task force, which includes staff from the 3 Bureaux as well as the general secretariat, to guide and strengthen ITU actions in emergency telecommunications.


A major meeting on emergency telecommunications will take place in December of this year.

Dear Councilors,


The modern ITU is about access to information and knowledge leading to new opportunities and creation of wealth.


The establishment of an affordable and reliable communication network is a matter of life and death for every country and its citizens. Communication networks bring information that can save lives. Telemedicine can help the sick in the most remote villages, if they are connected. Distance learning is a vital tool for the future of our young people, if they are connected. Affordable access to the Internet creates job opportunities, which can stimulate economic growth.


To highlight the vital role of ICTs in the global agenda, we have organized this first High Level Segment of the ITU Council. We in the ICT field know the importance of our work, but we must spread the message to get the attention of decision-makers at the highest level more often than once every 4 years at the Plenipotentiary.


I am pleased that so many Ministers have joined with us today and I look forward to a productive exchange of views.


The HLS this year is short due to time constraints. Starting next year, I hope we can devote more time to these issues by making good use of the Management and Budget Group, created by PP-06. MBG can function to facilitate many routine matters for the Council, saving more time for the HLS in the future. Let me also take this opportunity to thank Jose Mendes of Portugal, who has devoted his time and effort to the ITU in leading the establishment of the MBG as its provisional chairman and as chairman of the COG and NCOG.

Distinguished guests,


In the field of ICTs, we are only limited by our capacity to dream. What is ordinary today was unthinkable 25 years ago.


We have already accomplished a lot this year. Since the ITU has not undergone major reform since 1992, there is still much to be done to adapt the Union to the challenges of the 21st century.


In my first year in office, I have come to recognize some of the obstacle to change at the ITU. There is a need to reinvent the Union to meet these challenges and I would like to start raising these matters with our membership from the outset.

To start, we need to strengthen and solidify the financial base of the Union.


There is a saying in Africa that the strength of the baobab tree lies in its roots.


The system in place for setting the contributory unit and for the membership to announce its choice of class of contribution is unique to ITU and it is time-consuming.


It makes it difficult for the Plenipotentiary Conference to set financial priorities. That is one reason why 2 of the last 3 Conferences failed to adopt a Financial Plan. Despite this complicated mechanism, very few member States actually change their class of contribution,


We need to work together and find a solution to improve and streamline this mechanism and develop ways to make better use of alternative revenue sources, such as cost-recovery, voluntary contributions and targeted fund-raising. A stable financial foundation provides the Secretary-General with the necessary resources to deliver products and services to the membership of the highest quality.


A major item on the agenda for this Council is the adoption of the budget for the 2008-09 biennium. In preparing the budget, I have worked with the senior management team to make every effort to find further efficiencies, while maintaining the present level of programs and activities. At the same time, new sources of revenue need to be explored. I am optimistic that some Member States will come forward and increase their contribution.


ITU needs to grow and expand.


The growth in new Sector Members has leveled-off in recent years, partly due to the introduction of the new category of “Associates” and to the wave of mergers in our sector. However, some of the most innovative firms in the ICT field have not joined the Union, often due to misconceptions of who we are and what we do.


We need a targeted effort to attract new membership. I have decided together with the other elected officials to use our missions as an opportunity to attract new sector members and to make better use of TELECOM Events to attract new membership. At the same time, I call upon all Member States to intensify their efforts to encourage their private companies to join ITU.


Several Member States have recently offered suggestions on rebranding the ITU. These proposals will be studied carefully, so that we can work together to shape a more dynamic image of the ITU.


Increasing the involvement of all our Member States also needs to be considered. Despite the success of the Global Symposium for Regulators, we still have not found an appropriate place for regulators at the ITU.


Regulators are a dynamic and essential part of the ICT sector and we must find a way to make ITU their home.


ITU also should find a way to be a forum where both the industry and the user perspective can be considered. The work underway in the Council Working Group on Res. 141 is of vital importance to the future of the Union and its outputs should be carefully examined by Council.


I am convinced that improved preparation mechanisms will lead to streamlined decision- making and shorter meetings.


Each major meeting of the ITU is prepared in a different matter. While the WRC has its CPM process, the WTDC and WTSA are preceded by a series of regional meetings. But there is no formal process to prepare the Plenipotentiary Conference.


Shorter meetings mean lower costs and less time away from their offices and families for delegates. While we reduced PP 2006 to 3 weeks, there was a lack of time to fully consider some of the issues.


We can only keep our meetings short if we do our homework in advance.


We need to find a way to strengthen the process of preparing the PP.


The consolidated proposals from regional meetings have helped to speed the work and that is also true for the reports from the various Council Working Groups. But we must be creative and find new approaches.


The same is true for the Council. In the past decade, through careful time management, we have reduced the average duration of Council sessions by one day. But I am convinced that we can do more.


This year, Council will consider a number of inputs on the schedule and cycle of the major conferences and meetings, including a model host country agreement. I am confident that we can take the right actions now to ensure the future success of those events.


We are already gearing up for the WRC that will take place here in Geneva next month. This will be a key Conference in demonstrating the preeminence of ITU as the global manager of spectrum. Among the key issues are [text from BR].


This is the first Council in which we have only one standing committee. The budget is the key item on the agenda of the Committee and I wish every success to the Chairman on this important task.

Finally, ITU must adapt its corporate culture so that management can act in a rapid and flexible manner that reflects the constantly changing nature of the ICT sector.


Restructuring was a first step.


We will continue to incorporate new, modern tools to assist the management in running the organization and to provide the membership with transparent and useful information about the work of the secretariat.


The Results-Based Budget and the Time Tracking System are important steps. Council will consider in the next few days measures to bring Result-Based Management to the ITU and to adopt a clear and useable set of performance indicators.


Senior management meetings now take place in a paperless environment and this approach will increasingly be applied to all ITU meetings.


But even in this modern world of technology, the fact remains that our most precious assets continue to be our staff and that is even more so in the Information Society.


We must continue to foster good relations between management and the staff.


We must be able to quickly match and adjust the skills of the staff with the needs and requirements of the membership.


In a sector marked by rapid change, management needs flexibility to engage staff that can meet new and emerging needs.


Council will be considering changes to the contract policy designed to improve flexibility in the staff. Consideration should also be given to other measures that can enable management to marshal its resources to best meet the needs of the membership, including improved training programs.

Dear Councilors,


This Council will take important actions to implement the decisions of the Antalya Conference and shape the future of the Union over the next 4 years. I have shared some of my ideas with you today on how we can improve the ITU.


Alinghi showed the world the value of teamwork and cooperation.


The seas in the ICT sector can be rough. As Team ITU, we can all become skilled sailors. Your actions at Council can enable the Union to become the centerpiece for building an Information Society that guarantees Digital Opportunities for all our citizens.


Let us work hard and work together to have a successful Council.

Before concluding, I wish to add my own condolences on the recent passing of our dear friend and colleague, Antonio Cristiani, who represented Argentina so ably in the Council for many years.


A book of condolences has been placed outside Council Room for those of you who would wish to express a few words for his family. I present on behalf of ITU our deepest condolences to the family and to the Argentinean Administration. I had the opportunity last month to be in Argentina and met with his family to pay my respect to him. The contribution of Mr. Cristiani in the work of ITU will be appreciated forever.




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