Consultation 2006 - Child Helpline International
Stockholm, Sweden - 2 October 2006
| Roberto BLOIS
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
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
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
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.