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International Consultation 2006 - Child Helpline International
International Consultation 2006 - Child Helpline International
Opening Remarks
International Telecommunication Union
Stockholm, Sweden - 2 October 2006
     Roberto BLOIS
Deputy Secretary-General
International Telecommunication Union

Your Majesty, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to join you today during this important consultation of Child Helpline International. Thank you for this special invitation to address a group of such committed individuals working for such a compelling cause.

With a global network of 82 child helplines from 72 countries and over 11 million calls a year, Child Helpline International has demonstrated to the world in an inspiring and concrete way, how information and communications technologies can be put to the service of development. Let me offer my congratulations for your hard work and the impact that you have had on so many children and their families around the world.

Like many of us, I first became acquainted with Child Helpline International through Ms. Jeroo Bilimoria. It was some 4 years ago that Jeroo came to Geneva to pitch ITU on a number of potential areas of collaboration. I was immediately taken with the vision and passion that Jeroo expressed for her cause.

Since that first meeting in Geneva in 2002, together we have built an ever-expanding Child Helpline International-ITU relationship of friendship and collaboration. This does not mean that it is always easy to do what we would like to do. When I first met Jeroo, ITU had neither a mandate nor any programmes to deal with children’s issues. But now, we are working together in a number of areas.

As we all know, it takes commitment and determination over a long period of time to deliver major results. Still, we can feel good about the progress that we have made and will continue to make together. There are a number of examples where we are moving in the right direction.

World leaders took a first step during the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in 2003 when they included children in the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. This small but important bit of wording laid the ground work for future activities.

At its 2005 meeting, the ITU Council agreed, with some gentle encouragement from Child Helpline International, to make “Connecting the Young: the Opportunities of ICT” the theme of World Telecommunication Day 2007, which set the stage for an awareness and mobilization campaign involving CHI, ITU and UNICEF next year. This will be an excellent opportunity for our organizations to continue to work together and to advance the cause of children and ICTs for development.

In June 2005, Child Helpline International was one of 22 founding partners to join ITU in launching “Connect the World”, a multi-stakeholder initiative established to mobilize the global community behind the connectivity goals of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) agreed to by leaders at the first Summit in Geneva in 2003.

Child Helpline International was particularly active in the second phase of WSIS. At the Summit held in Tunis in December 2005, I had the special privilege of joining Jeroo and a representative of the Dutch Government to launch Child Helpline International’s “Global Portal for Children and Youth” on ITU’s Partnership Pavilion. ITU is proud to help support this portal which will serve as a multilingual gateway for children and youth worldwide. This is the first concrete project to come out of a broader Memorandum of Understanding that ITU signed with Child Helpline International in 2005 where we agreed to work together on a range of children’s issues.

Intense lobbying by the Child Helpline International team in the corridors of the Tunis Summit led world leaders to agree to wording in their final documents to encourage governments to establish child help lines and mobilize the necessary resources. The Tunis documents specifically cite the need for easy-to-remember numbers which are accessible from all phones and free of charge. Leaders also recognized “the role of ICTs in protecting and enhancing the development of children” and called for Member States to “strengthen action to protect children from abuse and defend their rights in the context of ICTs.” This recognition by the international community now provides a framework to pursue additional progress.

This work has since started. An ITU Study Group is now considering CHI’s request that ITU Member States endorse a toll free, easy to remember, 3-4 digit number for children. My colleague Richard Hill, the ITU focal point on this subject, will be providing an update for you on this issue tomorrow.

ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference held in March this year also followed up by amending its youth programme and operational plans to include children’s issues. This paves the way for more concrete collaboration between ITU and Child Helpline International at the project level.

ITU is also working with Child Helpline International on the issue of cyber-security and the risks to which children are exposed through the Internet. CHI is providing valuable input to help policy makers and regulators from ITU’s membership develop effective responses to these challenges, which are increasingly international in their scope. CHI will participate on a panel during the upcoming TELECOM WORLD 06 Forum on this subject, to be held in Hong Kong this December. TELECOM WORLD 06 will be attended by tens of thousands of people from across the ICT sector, including senior policy makers and industry representatives, so it is an excellent opportunity for Child Helpline International to reach out to new potential partners and to bring its unique expertise and perspective to the debate.

To conclude, I wish to leave you with this message: over the past few years, Child Helpline International and ITU have become good friends and partners, bound by a shared mission – to lever the power of ICTs to help the most vulnerable in our society. I hope that my remarks today have given you not only a sense of the significant progress we have made so far, but also, of how much more we can and will accomplish together in the future.

I wish you the very best in your consultations over the coming days.

Thank you.


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